The Mother of Adventure

An old-fashioned carnival & picnic at Lansdowne Park

Amusement park rideIf you’re looking for some fun with the kids tomorrow, head over to Lansdowne Park for the official “urban park” opening!

While the Ottawa REDBLACKS have already settled into their new digs, August 16th will mark the unveiling of the newest green space in downtown Ottawa.

What: There will be a number of family-friendly activities taking place, including:

  • An old-fashioned fair featuring amusement park rides
  • Face painting, arts & crafts – like kite building, button-making and balloon animals
  • Free cotton candy & popcorn
  • A picnic in the park – everyone is encouraged to pack a picnic basket and spread out a blanket on the ‘Great Lawn’
  • A Farmer’s Market & food trucks
  • An exhibit on Ottawa’s football history
  • The Grey Cup on display – get your photo taken with the Cup!
  • Local musicians, acrobats & jugglers
  • At Aberdeen Pavilion, visitors can step back in time and learn about the history of Lansdowne and Ottawa through interactive displays

When: Saturday, August 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Lansdowne Park, 1015 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON

*NOTE: There is no parking at Lansdowne, so to avoid parking frustrations, consider planning your trip via public transit, walking or cycling. For more information and an event map, visit the City of Ottawa website.



Summer fun at Calypso


Summer is a season that’s nearly synonymous with water fun. I’m pretty sure my girls would actually *live* in their bathing suits all summer, if I gave them the chance.

My best friend Cathy is in the same boat with her two girls. So where do you go when you have four little sea nymphs on your hands? The Calypso Waterpark turned out to be the perfect spot for us to spend a splash-filled day last week.

Canada’s largest theme waterpark, Calypso is located between Ottawa and Montreal. It was a good 45-minute drive from our place in Ottawa’s south end – with quite a number of “Are we there yet??” moments to contend with – but the kids definitely found it to be worth the wait.

Wave poolAfter stashing our stuff in lockers (be prepared to make a $10 deposit per locker – you’ll get $5 at the end of the day when you return the key), we set up camp next to ‘Calypso Palace’ – the park’s massive wave pool. This area is nicely set up with oodles of white lounge chairs, behind which is a grassy area with dozens of picnic tables (every table has an umbrella – bonus!). We left our towels, sunscreen and sandals at a picnic table; I noticed that many other families had brought in full-sized coolers, too.

The kids voted to kick off our water fun at ‘Zoo Lagoon’ - and it took us moms a few minutes to realize that this area is actually meant for toddlers. Our kids – who range from six to 10 years, collectively – could not have seemed to care less. After about half an hour, however, we coaxed them next door to ‘Pirate’s Aquaplay,’ which was a bit more age appropriate for our crew. My six-year-old daughter, Lily, couldn’t get enough of the massive bucket that slowly fills and then dumps a tidal wave of water on your head – I’m actually a bit surprised the surge didn’t knock her right off her feet, but she just kept going back for more!

SashaThe rest of the day passed by in a happy blur of slides and wave pool fun. Our kids especially liked the ‘Jungle Challenge’ and ‘Family Twisters’ – a series of four coiled waterslides that seemed to be sized just right for them. The three oldest girls also loved ‘Kongo Expedition,’ but Lily was too small to ride without a life jacket (we found out late in the day that life jackets can be borrowed free at the entrance – just leave your ID).

When it was time to break for lunch, Calypso’s ‘Main Street Restaurant’ had all the kid-friendly fare we could ask for – the cafeteria-style cheeseburgers, hot dogs and fries totally hit the spot. Cathy’s youngest daughter Sasha, however, needed a gluten-free meal as she’s celiac. The ‘Ulysses Bar & Grill’ had a number of options – we hit a home run with a personal-sized, gluten-free pizza for Sash.

Lunch time!Our last ride of the day was ‘Jungle Run’ - which was a fun, floaty ride through a simulated jungle river – complete with insect and animal noises all around you.

On the way out, we capped off our fun-filled day at the ‘Penguins’ Stop’ for an ice-cream cone. Cathy treated all of us using the park’s ‘Money at my fingertip’ payment method, which allows you to pre-load money for park services and do a finger swipe to pay – rather than carrying cash. Having never seen this biometric technology in action, I was rather fascinated watching Cathy do her “finger swipe” at the ice-cream shop!

We stayed at the park till it was nearly closing time – and Cathy and I basically had to drag the kids out. On the way home, Lily fell asleep in the car – a sure sign of a very happy, exhausted customer.





Sound of Light

Family shotThere’s something about bright, beautiful colours in the dark that just never gets old.

Last night, our family headed down to the grounds of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly called the Canadian Museum of Civilization – I’m still trying to get used to that name change!) to take in the Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light show, which runs through August 16.

Now, some people say that “fireworks are fireworks,” but there were a few factors that made this show pretty cool:

The music: Last night’s show was the first of five “pyromusical” presentations – which means fireworks synchronized to an original soundtrack. Our show – which was presented by a group from Hong Kong – was based on popular show tunes – think Greased Lightning and Dancing Queen. Fun!

Museum of History groundsThe location: If you’ve never been behind the Canadian Museum of History, it’s worth a trip. Located right on the edge of the Ottawa River (on the Quebec side), you can look back at downtown Ottawa and see the back of Parliament Hill and the Peace Tower sitting on a high cliff.

The weather: Let’s face it, fireworks are just not any fun in the rain. We almost didn’t go to last night’s show – despite the fact that we had free passes – because there were thunderstorms in the forecast. We watched the radar, and finally grabbed a couple of umbrellas and decided to risk it. It turned out to be the *perfect* night – no rain, no humidity, no bugs – just calm and comfortable.

The drinks: You have to hand it to Quebec – they have alcohol available in situations where Ontario likely would not! After a hot day of landscaping our backyard, a fruit cooler and a lawn chair seemed like a lovely reward. If you’re heading to any of the upcoming shows, be sure to have a few dollars on hand as drinks and food are cash only.

Toy lightThe toys: Normally, I roll my eyes at having to dish out money for little plastic toys, but the light-up wands the girls wanted yesterday ($5 each) turned out to be really cool in the dark – I even captured our mini light show in a few photos (right).

If you decide to check out one of the upcoming shows – featuring presentations by Canada, Portugal and Switzerland (see schedule) – be sure to bring your lawn chairs, as you’ll be a lot more comfortable.

And if you don’t have a lawn chair, please don’t be the moron who stands (yes, STANDS) awkwardly in front of the people sitting in the lawn chairs – like the guy who partially blocked our view, despite my request that he sit down. You can see dummy’s silhouette on one of the fireworks shots below.

Idiots aside, I’d recommend you take a couple of hours to enjoy the Sound of Light fireworks show – it’s a lovely excuse for a relaxed evening outside with your family.


An ode to summer (Parenting Times)

ode-to-summerI’ll never forget that feeling of pure exhilaration — a moment of absolute, uninhibited joy — right before I plunged into the cool, crisp water.

It all came rushing back to me as I looked at that old photo, captured back in the summer of 1991. Read more…


Nursing pioneer Isobel MacLeod turns 101 (Ottawa Citizen)

0621 life isobel-34.JPGI recently had the privilege to meet with a centenarian – and an amazing one at that.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Isobel MacLeod – an Ottawa resident who spent much of her life blazing a new trail in the world of nursing. This upbeat woman – who turned 101 years old today – was incredibly lucid and witty during our hour-long interview. It was truly a pleasure to get to know her – and hear about life over the span of more than a century.

My full article, “Nursing pioneer Isobel MacLeod turns 101“, was published in the Ottawa Citizen. Happy birthday, Isobel!


Home-run snacks for little athletes

Lily's first gameOur six-year-old daughter is in Little League again this spring, and I can’t decide what’s cuter: The proud look on Lily’s face when she gets a run or the over-the-moon proud look on her dad’s face (he is arguably the world’s biggest baseball fan).

Well, I think Lily wins the cute contest; it’s pretty hard to beat that face…but I digress.

A couple of weeks ago, it was our family’s turn to bring post-game snacks for the little athletes. Since the coach’s wife had brought these adorable fruit skewers – with a chocolate-dipped marshmallow at the end – as the snack after the first game, the bar had been set pretty high. A careless bag of ‘Chips Ahoy’ were just not going to cut it – I had to come up with something a bit funkier.

A bit of messing around on Google images turned up a bunch of baseball-themed snack ideas, including these Rice Krispie snacks. Clearly I didn’t re-invent the wheel here, but it was fun to put a new twist on an old classic – and it turned out to be a total hit (get it? Hit? Ahh…the puns just keep coming!).

Here’s how I made them – the basic recipe is from the back of a box of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies:


  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 5 cups miniature or 40 regular marshmallows
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 cups Kellogg’s Rice Krispies


1. In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Using a buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Allow to cool.


So here’s where the fun part begins – turning a regular old pan of Rice Krispies into a plateful of little baseballs!

1. Use a round cookie cutter to cut your Rice Krispies into ‘baseballs.’ If you’re preparing them for a team, make sure you cut them small enough that everyone gets one (with a couple to spare for little siblings at the game!).

2. Spread a layer of white icing over the top of each circle (I used a store-bought jar of icing).

3. Allow the icing to cool and dry; I put my tray into the fridge for about half an hour.

4. Using a tube of red decorator’s icing, pipe semi-circles on top of each ‘baseball’ to make the main lines for the stitching.

5. On either side of your two red lines, carefully pipe a few smaller red lines for the side stitches.

Did the kids like the treats, you ask? Well, let’s just say I hardly got the lid off my Tupperware before they disappeared in about 2.7 seconds…I felt a bit like a piece of meat being attacked by a team of hungry piranhas.

Now that’s what I call hitting it out of the park.




‘Our little miracle baby’ (Parenting Times magazine)

Sonia and ElissaSeeing as it’s Mother’s Day today, I thought it was fitting that I share the story of our difficult entrance into parenthood.

Our first-born daughter, Elissa, was born with a large cyst in her brain – which made for a lot of uncertainty in the latter stages of my pregnancy and through the major surgeries she underwent in her first year of life. We have been infinitely blessed with a very happy ending – and I wrote about how it feels to look back 10 years later in ‘Our little miracle baby’, published in the latest issue of Parenting Times magazine.

Wishing all the moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day – take a moment today to savour the blessing of a happy, healthy family.


Sweet addiction

Smiley coffeeIt sat in the corner for a full week. Cold and empty…forlorn.

My poor coffee pot didn’t know what hit it…relegated to the sidelines with no love at all. If you had told me a month ago, I wouldn’t have thought it possible – but it’s true: I went without coffee for a WEEK!

Those close to me are well aware of my java habit…my day just *cannot* truly begin without my cup o’ joe (my family may well argue that you don’t want to be around me until it does!). It warms me from the inside out, it simultaneously soothes and stimulates.

Of course, I’ve tried it all…drip coffee, pressed coffee, BOILED coffee (my parents, bless them, still have the stove-top coffee maker they received as a wedding gift 50 years ago!), expresso, cappuccino, latte. I’ve frequented Tim Horton’s, Second Cup, Starbucks, Timothy’s…I’ve choked down gas station coffee out of desperation. I’ve been served instant coffee by non-coffee-drinking friends.

Coffee has also seen me through some memorable moments over the years. Late-night study sessions in Grade 12 and through university, the 3 p.m. energy slump in my grey office cubicle. I relied on it on all those mornings when I had two very small children, very little sleep and a husband who travelled for weeks on end. I’ve sipped my morning beverage while nibbling a fresh croissant in Paris, and I’ve crawled out of my tent in many an Ontario provincial park to gather kindling, build a fire, boil water and kick-start my camping bodum.

Yes, coffee and I are pretty tight…we go back. So whatever could come between us, you ask? Nothing but a truly nasty gastro bug…one that gave me a “cleanse” like I’d never imagined (I’ll spare you the details). Five days later, I woke up and realized I had been without my “addiction” for nearly a week.

I have to admit, it gave me pause. After all, I’ve contemplated giving it up. I’ve wondered if it’s bad for me; I’ve obsessed over the amount of sugar I add to it. I’ve shuddered at the thought of going through days of withdrawal headaches to get it out of my system, but I’d never gone through with it…until now. Inadvertently, I’d given up coffee – as well as every other food and liquid on the planet – for the better part of a week.

Life is shortSo this morning, as I stood in my kitchen at 6:30 a.m., I found myself at a caffeinated crossroad. Should I continue down this new, coffee-free path in pursuit of renewed health? Or should I return to the closest thing I’ve ever had to an addiction – my caffeine crutch?

In the end, I went with my gut (no pun intended). I realized that I couldn’t imagine “coffee dates” with girlfriends where I was drinking anything other than coffee. Nor could I fathom working on my next writing project without my favourite mug in hand.

Yes, on this cold, grey morning, I pulled my tried and true pal out of the corner, and smiled as I heard the quirky hiss and sputter of the drip cycle finishing up. Welcome back, old friend – life is simply better having you around.






Ottawa event: Parents, Children and Technology workshop

Book coverAs a parent to two young girls, I sometimes struggle to determine what boundaries to set on technology. My husband and I try to put reasonable limits on TV and Internet use, and we talk to our kids about what’s appropriate to look at in terms of both TV shows and web sites. But I do wonder – are we doing enough?

That’s exactly why I’m looking forward to hearing Natalia McPhedran’s advice on the topic – she’s an author and parent/child coach and she’s putting on a workshop this Sunday evening in Ottawa. McPhedran promises to share the coaching secrets all parents need to know, and she’ll talk about easy techniques to improve communication with your children at home.

McPhedran is the author of a new parenting book called Life with Kids: Empowering Our Children to be Ready for the Real World. On Sunday, she’ll be offering up signed copies for the discounted price of $10.

For more information on the event and to purchase your ticket, click here.


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Earth Day: Initiatives make it easier to be green

CompostingAs a salute to Earth Day this year, I wrote a feature for the Ottawa Citizen about composting. When our family visited a nearby St-Hubert franchise recently, I was impressed that the restaurant is keenly committed to composting absolutely all waste – they even have compostable cutlery. I spoke to the restaurant manager about these green initiatives, and also talked with Councillor Maria McRaie – who implemented our residential green bin program four years ago – about how we can improve habits in our own homes.

You can link to the full article, ‘Earth Day: Initiatives make it easier to be green’ here.

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