The Mother of Adventure

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.


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.).



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.


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!


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.




I’ve been BOOed!


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!


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!


  • 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


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.




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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The Turkey Coma


My post-turkey-coma salad, which – if you look very carefully – actually has some tiny bits of turkey in it (the addict must withdraw slowly).

It’s almost noon, and I just awoke from what can only be described as a profound turkey coma.

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? Turkey coma can be contracted by innocently participating in a traditional, family meal, such as that held over Thanksgiving weekend. Those affected – like me – may have a deep passion for roasted turkey dinners (and mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing…), to the point that their perspective on what constitutes “a healthy serving” may become a tad distorted.

Your chances of contracting turkey coma can be raised by returning to the aforementioned turkey and trimmings only hours later…to take yet another portion and re-heat it in the microwave. The consumption of alcohol alongside said meal can also be indicative of the onset of turkey coma.

Then…WHAM-O, turkey coma hits, and it hits hard. Symptoms include profound sleepiness, severe lethargy and a general sense of well being. Be warned, however, that turkey coma is not always resolved after a good night’s sleep. This morning – after waking up and even having a cup of coffee – my turkey coma resumed – along with a slight, nagging headache – and I was overwhelmed with the urge to go back to bed.

At first, I couldn’t figure out why. Thankfully, I have a very wise husband, with extensive experience with turkey. Slowly and seriously, he offered up his simple diagnosis, “You have a case of turkey coma.”

His remedy was to unplug the phone, then leave me curled up on the couch with a fleecy blanket while he took the kids out to a Disney movie (Isn’t he great? He happens to be pretty easy on the eyes, too…but I digress).

To be honest, I had to resist the urge to get up and be productive, and shut out the laundry list of things the logical side of my brain was telling me I should be doing…go for a run! Clean up after your guests! Respond to those emails!

When I was able to (mostly) shut out that irritatingly chipper voice of productivity, what followed was something highly unusual…there were a couple of hours that I really can’t account for because I was in somewhat of a vegetative state. I finally arose feeling an overwhelming sense of relaxation, with my headache and turkey coma seemingly gone.

But most of all, I just feel thankful…thankful to live in such a blessed part of the world that overindulgent dinners are possible, and thankful that I have a family who will gracefully step aside while my turkey coma runs its course.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Taking the ‘alternative family’ mainstream (Parenting Times magazine)

fall-2014-feature-1When my two daughters were very young, I recall several situations where a complete stranger would blatantly look at the kids, then look at me, then look back at the kids. More than once, I was asked, “Are they yours??

When I answered that yes, indeed they were my children, another awkwardly inappropriate comment would usually follow. One woman abruptly said, “Oh!! Your husband must be very dark.” In exasperation, I replied, “Yes, he’s Indian and Portuguese, if you must know.” (Inwardly thinking, “Are you happy now? And are you *seriously* so socially inept that you’re asking a complete stranger these questions??).

These memories came back to me last summer, when I was interviewing Ottawa author Stephanie Kain about Emlyn and the Gremlin, her brand-new children’s book about a little girl who has two moms. As a new mother with a same-sex spouse, Kain is no stranger to awkward questions from strangers (I’m sure she has endured many more of them than I have!).

It is Kain’s hope that her book will increase awareness and understanding of alternative families, including those with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered parents. Click here to read the full Parenting Times article about Kain and her book, Emlyn and the Gremlin.

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