The Mother of Adventure

The Wild Life – Movie ticket give-away!

The Wild LifeIf you’re like me, the first hint of cooler weather has you cringing that summer is starting to come to an end. It has been a fantastic summer and I’ll be sorry to see it go. But while the new school year might be right around the corner, there’s still time for some kid-friendly fun at the movies!

I’m happy to offer a movie ticket give-away for an advanced screening of The Wild Life – courtesy of eOne Films. Based on the world-renowned story of Robinson Crusoe, The Wild Life follows a shipwrecked and lost Crusoe as he fights to build a treehouse. Hilarity ensues for Crusoe and a cast of zany, wild animals as they all fight for survival. The Wild Life is fun for children of all ages and will be a great way to spend time with the family this September.

If you’d like to be entered in a random draw for four passes, just leave a comment on this post telling me why you love watching movies with your kids (or share the name of your fave family flicks)! Please include your email address – or send it to me privately at: soniam@bell.net. I will make the draw on Monday, August 29th and will announce the winners here at TheMotherofAdventure.com! Good luck!

The Wild Life

Advance Screening: Saturday, September 3, 10 a.m. – Cineplex Ottawa, 3090 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K2B 7K2

Starring: Ron Allen, George Babbit, Laila Berzins, Ilka Bessin, Joey Camen, Jeff Doucette, Sandy Fox

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83JCockD1-I

Synopsis: From the over-exuberant parrot Mak to the snack-obsessed tapir Rosie, from the persnickety echidna Epi to the acrobatic pangolin Pango, from the ditzy goat Scrubby to the commonsensical kingfisher Kiki and the always-cool chameleon Carmello, things are larger-than-life on a tropical isle that is pure wild animal paradise. Then Robinson Crusoe, a marooned human, arrives in the midst of a furious storm, and their lives are forever changed by this bewildering new “creature.” No matter their differences, castaway human and quirky animals embark on an hilarious new adventure, building the island’s first tree-house and surviving together. But when two conniving members of the animal kingdom — the savage cats Mal & May – pounce into a battle for control of the island, Crusoe and his animal posse must uncover the true power of friendship against all odds (even savage cats).

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Opa with a twist

image1If you’ve ever partied with the Greeks, you probably know that “Opa!” is a word used to express a feeling of joy, high spirits and happiness. It’s often shouted out during celebrations or dancing in Greece.

Growing up in a German-Mennonite household, however, “Opa” is the traditional word for “grandpa.” So every August, I have a pleasant mixture of childhood memories with my Opa as I head to Greekfest in Ottawa.

We went to GreekFest on August 11 – opening night. But the good news is this is a long festival – if you haven’t been there yet, you have another week to take in the festivities.

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My plate of beef gyros…you can see my moussaka peeking out in the background.

I’m going to be really honest – we’re there for the food. There’s a lot of other cool things going on, but when I arrive, I’ve got a one track mind for the delicious Greek cuisine I’m about to enjoy.

The beef gyros are a perennial favourite for our family. But this year, I also tried the traditional moussaka and it did not disappoint! If you’ve never had moussaka, it’s the Greek version of lasagna; it consists of sliced eggplant, ground beef, spices, tomatoes, potatoes topped with Béchamel sauce.

Another one of my faves is the spanakopita…these are delicious little triangles of phyllo pastry, stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Our girls really seemed to enjoy the dolmades – grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices. And of course, you can’t forget the Greek salad…yum!

image3Once you’ve eaten your fill, it’s fun to watch the traditional Greek dancing. When we were there, a few kids’ groups were performing, which was fun to watch. I think we left a bit too early and missed the famous Zorba show – which is actually really impressive.

The festival also has a small area dedicated to kids’ activities. Our daughters got a real kick out of climbing the rope ladders – and trying to get to the end before falling onto the air mattress below. There was a bouncy castle for the wee littles, too. It cost $1 or $2 per child to participate in this area. There was also a table set up offering free face painting.

image2So if you want to take a break from cooking one night this week, think about checking out GreekFest! You can’t go wrong with the food – and we could all use a little more “Opa” in our lives.

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A heat wave, a road trip and a cabin in the woods

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Cheryl and I exploring the banks of the Potomac River.

Hello and happy August!!

Geez – I can hardly believe it’s August already – I haven’t posted in ages, but being busy with family vacation is a good excuse, right?!?

Our little family recently got back from a 10-day road trip to Virginia – to visit my husband’s parents, who live just outside of Washington, DC. We had a fantastic trip – but man, it was HOT!

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It’s tough to get into a car with black leather interior when it’s above 45C.

Now, Ottawa can get pretty toasty in the summer, and the humidex can make things pretty intense at times (it took this Alberta girl a while to get used to it here). But Washington – and really all of the eastern seaboard in the US – just takes it to a whole new level. We’re talking 28 C before 8 a.m…and then a steady climb to the mid-40s from there. Of course, in the US everyone talks in Fahrenheit which is confusing for us Canadians. Take a look at the pic on the left to see what our dashboard thermometer read most days we got in the car; 114F = 45.5C (and hey – stop judging me for my satellite radio choice; the 90s had some great tunes, OK??).

Despite the high heat and humidity, we had a ton of fun catching up with family. My husband’s aunt, uncle and their two kids – along with their spouses and little ones – came down from Toronto, and my sister-in-law and my niece flew all the way from Vancouver. So we rented a big ol’ cabin in the woods – on the banks of the Potomac River. It was the perfect blend of nature right outside our door, with civilization just a short drive away.

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The fish were too smart – or too hot and sleepy – to show themselves to us.

On our second day at the cabin, my husband’s uncle took all of the kids fishing. It was the first time for most of them, which meant Uncle Conrad spent the morning running back and forth – giving lessons and trouble-shooting. I think the man has the patience of a saint, because we were a very large and unskilled group – and it was suuuuper hot and sticky that morning! I guess the old adage of the early bird getting the worm must be true, because we didn’t get so much as a nibble! We should have gotten up at dawn instead of sauntering to the river around 10 a.m., I suppose.

The rest of the trip was a pleasant blur of outdoor pool time, mini golf and outlet shopping (back-to-school shopping is DONE – hooray!). Oh – and there *might* have been one decadent trip to the Cheesecake Factory; unfortunately, no photographic evidence as the dessert was devoured too quickly.

Every evening, we listened to the prominent “singing” of the cicadas in the trees as we hung out on the deck by the river. A little research taught me that this high-pitched song is actually a mating call belted out by males; each species has its own distinctive song that only attracts females of its own kind. Cicadas are the only insects capable of producing such a unique and loud sound. Some larger species can produce a call in excess of 120 decibels at close range – which is approaching the pain threshold of the human ear.

So there’s your science lesson for the day…and I hope you’re having a most fabulous summer, too! Let me know how you’re keeping busy – and what cool vacation spots you’ve discovered.

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Just “kitten” around…

Just for CatsMy name is Sonia and sometimes, when I’m hanging out with my kids, I watch cat videos.

There; I’ve put it out there! After all, they say that acknowledging the problem is the first step to finding a solution, right??

Then again – cat videos can have a positive effect on the world. How on earth is that, you might ask? Well, the Just for Cats Video Festival is coming to Ottawa tomorrow – and it supports a national initiative to increase the welfare of cats across the country.

Yeah, a cat video festival! It’s a real thing – and it’s actually pretty big! It’s happening across the country – so if you don’t live in Ottawa, be sure to check their web site for a festival taking place near you.

Just for Cats 2The event showcases a reel of the best internet cat videos on the planet. Ottawa’s festival takes place at Dundonald Park on Saturday, June 25, in partnership with Centretown Movies – so the screening will be outdoors under the stars.

They’ll be kicking everything off with family-friendly activities – such as cat-inspired yoga, face-painting, dance and story time at 6:30 p.m. Don’t forget your lawn chairs or a picnic blanket – you’ll want them to get comfy for the screening of the Just for Cats reel at dusk (approximately 9 p.m.).

There will also be a silent auction with some great items – including a family photo session with Jerome – Photographer; nine holes of golf for four people from Thunderbird Sports Centre; four tickets to an Ottawa Fury FC home game; a Yogatown gift basket and introductory pass; a three-month subscription to Meow Box; a pet basket worth $150 from Dayna’s Pet Sitting Incorporated; and a gift basket from the Lil Bub Store with a tee, stickers, a plushie that purrs and meows just like Lil BUB and a Bub tote bag.

Lil BUBWhile the event is free, please consider giving a $5 to $10 donation per person. All funds go to the Ottawa Humane Society and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

Hope to see you tomorrow for a celebration of all things feline!

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Nurturing our young Rembrandts

2016-04-30 11.54.18I love gaining new insight into how my kids see the world.

As parents, we’re constantly learning more about our children’s growing, changing personalities and looking for ways to help them express themselves. Drawing is a great way to do just that – and my two daughters have thoroughly enjoyed classes with the Young Rembrandts in Ottawa.

I’ll never forget when my youngest daughter, then six years old, came home with her own rendition of American Gothic. She was so keen to tell me the story behind the painting – interesting tidbits that she had gleaned from her instructor, who obviously knew the artist well. Her older sister, on the other hand, absolutely loved the cartooning classes – and came home with a series of clever sketches after each class. It’s a great way to get kids interested in the arts scene – and even generate interest in a trip to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa.

2016-04-09 12.01.33I noticed that while taking drawing lessons, my girls were frequently inspired to pick up pencil and paper at home – creating new versions of what they had learned at class that week, or simply following their instinct to create something new and off the wall. As a parent who battles the magnetism of kids to TV and computer games, I find it so refreshing to see them entertaining themselves with paper and pencils.

In fact, drawing has been well documented in its positive effect on child development. It aids in the development of fine motor skills, helps with concentration and boosts creativity. It’s even recommended for kids on the autism spectrum – as those children tend to be more receptive to information that is experienced visually, instead of relying on words to communicate feelings and thoughts. I wrote about the positive effects of artistic expression for kids with autism in a Parenting Times article, “Colouring outside the lines.” 

IMG_2521If you’re looking for a fun, new activity to keep your child busy this summer, check out the Young Rembrandts course offerings. There’s literally something suited for every child – from preschool (age 3) to Grade 6.

This year, there are a number of new workshops – including “Anime Cartoon” and “Kings and Queens of Castles” – as well as weekly sessions available. Classes are held at elementary schools around the city. The Young Rembrandts will even arrange for drop-in visits to other summer camps or daycare.

After all, some of the most famous artists in history most admired the creativity inherent in children.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

~ Pablo Picasso

 

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Under the Tyranny of Vegetables (Edible Ottawa)

TomatoesSpring came late to the party in Ottawa this year – which makes it all the sweeter. This past weekend, I started scratching around in my backyard for the first time. I pulled a few weeds and dragged out the patio furniture, but mostly stood with my face turned to the sun, reveling in the warmth I’ve been missing all winter. I have a modest little veggie patch, and I’m already dreaming about the fresh herbs and juicy tomatoes I’ll be enjoying in a few months. Mmmm…Caprese salad, anyone??

Ottawa’s spring thaw must surely have Madeleine Maltby breathing a sigh of relief. Maltby and her partner, Matthew Mason-Phillips, are the urban farmers behind a great little business called Britannia Backyard Edibles. The ambitious pair will be cultivating “borrowed” garden plots around the city, generating high yields in small areas.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maltby and Mason-Phillips last winter, when they told me all about their business model and vision for organic community gardening. Read the full article, ‘Under the Tyranny of Vegetables‘ in Edible Ottawa magazine. Their love for fresh produce is the perfect inspiration for breaking some new ground this season.

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Spread the curd: It’s poutine mania in Ottawa

It seems spring is synonymous with poutine in Ottawa, and I for one am not complaining.

Last Saturday, my family headed downtown to check out the ‘Great Canadian Fork Off’ on Sparks Street. Poutine affectionados were out in full force – and didn’t seem to mind waiting in long lines to taste traditional and exotic variations of one of Canada’s most iconic foods.

I decided to try ‘Beef Souvlaki’ poutine, which was your classic poutine topped with some slices of Greek-style beef. It was pretty yummy – though I found the beef portion to be a bit skimpy!

Our kids, ages 11 and eight, opted for the tried-and-true classic poutine. You really can’t go wrong with freshly-cut fries topped with cheese curds and gooey, gravy goodness…it definitely got the thumbs up.

If you’re moaning that you inadvertently missed the Sparks Street festivities, fear not – more gravy-drenched deliciousness will hit Ottawa this coming weekend with the second-annual Ottawa PoutineFest, taking place May 5 to 8 at Ottawa City Hall. Our family took this one in last year – with my husband, Ian, acting as a judge, and it was a ton of fun.

This year, the festival is advertising 30 Poutiners and food vendors. One of the festival highlights is sure to be a world record attempt for the biggest poutine. And if you pride yourself on being a big eater, here’s a challenge for you – Ottawa PoutineFest is accepting names via Facebook and Twitter for a poutine-eating contest!

So this may not be the weekend for healthy eating, but it does promise to be a whole lot of tasty fun. And remember – Ottawa Race Weekend is right around the corner, so just consider this a pre-race carb-loading session.

 

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Ticket giveaway – Ottawa Parent & Child Expo

Dora the Explorer“Maybe watch one Dora?”

Many moons ago, this was one of my daughter Elissa’s first phrases. Now that she’s 11 (going on 15!), it seems a lifetime away; but from time to time, my husband and I jokingly bring up that phrase; gently teasing her about her early obsession with Dora the Explorer. As a toddler, she actually bore a striking resemblance to Dora – she had the same bobbed hair and chubby cheeks. In retrospect, we totally should have dressed her up as Dora for Halloween while we had the chance!

These days, the mass appeal of Dora rages on, and if you have a little fan (or two) at your house, you won’t want to miss the chance to say “Hola!” next weekend at the Ottawa Parent and Child Expo. In fact, I have some free passes to give away for admission this Saturday, April 16.

RobotSponsored by Parenting Times – Ottawa’s most read parenting magazine – the expo promises to have something to appeal to kids (and parents!) of all ages. If your children have long outgrown the Dora stage, they might be enticed by hearing a performance from the Mini Pops, watching a magic show performed by Ottawa magician Ian Quick, or even test-driving a VEX IQ robot from ProBots (heck, even I would like to try that…out of the way, kids!).

For parents, the expo features about 100 different exhibitors, offering all sorts of parenting information from toddlers through to the teenage years. Talk with area experts about education, French immersion and tutoring options. Find out about summer camps and child care choices for the upcoming summer – or consider sport and music registration options. Find tips on family health and wellness, and shop new products and gifts.

Want to snag a free pass – valid for one parent and one child this Saturday, April 16? Just comment on this post – and let me know your favourite thing about Parenting Times magazine. You’ll be entered in a random draw (winners to be announced Tuesday, April 12). Good luck!

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Mermaid 101

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Lily gives her best mermaid smile.

It was a scene that would have made Ariel proud – a pool full of little girls, learning how to swim like a mermaid. Think of it as “Mermaid 101.”

My eight-year-old daughter, Lily, was over the moon (or would it be “over the corral” in this case??) when I told her about the introductory class with AquaMermaid, which took place at the University of Ottawa pool last weekend.

While mermaids have always captured the imagination of young kids, I’ve watched them climb in popularity over the past few years as “mermaid tails” have hit the market. These water toys allow you to learn how to swim like a fish – using both legs as a fish tail and your core muscles to propel forward.

Lily was very excited for her hour-long, introductory session – which included a tail rental. Right away, I could tell she was thrilled to pick out a mermaid tail in her (current) favourite colour – teal. The tails are made of a stretchy, Spandex-type material and go up to the swimmer’s waist.

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The girls receive instructions for putting on their mermaid tails.

The first step was learning to put the tail on. A plastic compartment inside the tail – called a monfin – holds both of the swimmer’s feet in place with an adjustable strap. Lily’s feet are tiny, which meant that they slipped out a couple of times – but the instructors were very patient with helping her get them adjusted properly.

With tails on, the girls were ready to get into the water and try swimming (basic swimming skills are a prerequisite for the class). The kids started out gliding on their sides, with one arm extended, and then added the dolphin kick.

Although Lily is a solid swimmer, there was a lot to learn. The class put a unique spin on regular swimming – teaching the kids how to swim like a fish. The instructors demonstrated how, with multiples arms placement variations, you can perform a variety of swimming activities, including swimming through hoops underwater.

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An instructor gives Lily some tips on her technique.

A new Canadian mermaid school, AquaMermaid operates out of Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Founder Marielle Chartier Hénault fused her own mermaid dream with a passion for swimming to create the school, which brings a high-energy alternative to traditional swimming clubs. And it’s not just for little girls – AquaMermaid draws a diverse group of members of all ages and swimming levels.

The atmosphere was fun and incorporated games for the kids; Lily loved diving for different-coloured pool toys from the bottom of the pool. Her one complaint was the the water was colder than she’s used to – as the University of Ottawa pool is a competitive facility. But once she got moving around in the water she was having too much fun to complain.

If you have a young mermaid fan at home, keep AquaMermaid in mind for lessons – or even a kid’s birthday party. Letting your little one spend the day as a mermaid is sure to make a splash – and some great memories.

 

 

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Keeping warm with Norm

Warm Norm

Ian gets cozy with northern New Brunswick’s “Warm Norm.”

It seems the people of northern New Brunswick really know how to have fun – and stay warm – on a cold winter’s night in Ottawa.

Actually, a lot of it involves thinking ahead to warmer weather – and dreaming of all the fun things it will bring with it. Throw in some tasty drinks and traditional New Brunswick cuisine, and you’ve got yourself a party…Warm Norm style!

“Warm Norm” is northern New Brunswick’s tourism ambassador. A friendly lumberjack who sports a Paul Bunyan-style beard, Warm Norm (otherwise known as Beresford-born actor Nathan Dimitroff), recreated a little bit of northern New Brunswick at Union Local 613 – an Ottawa restaurant and pub – last month.

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French Acadian flatbread, known as “ploye”, comes hot off the griddle.

My husband and I kicked off the evening by tasting some foods from the region, including beef tortiere and “ploye” – a French Acadian flatbread served warm, often with butter and sugar or maple syrup.

Warm Norm’s down-to-earth, friendly entourage gave us some great travel ideas for New Brunswick destinations like Edmundston, Bathurst, Campbellton and the Acadian Peninsula. I learned that the area is truly a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts – boasting 400 acres of some of the best fresh-air trails in Atlantic Canada. Tourists who are avid cyclists love exploring the 45 kilometers of International Mountain Bike Association approved trails.

The City of Bathurst grabbed my attention, too. It’s situated on Chaleur Bay, and looks absolutely breathtaking. The area is known for its natural saltwater beach, and the nearby Daly Point Nature Reserve.

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Ian and I dreaming of the saltwater beaches of northern New Brunswick.

I grew up in Alberta, and didn’t get the opportunity to go “out east” until 2010. That was when our young family took one of our best-ever road trips – to PEI. While we did drive through New Brunswick en route from Ottawa, we didn’t take the time to stop and explore.

The northern New Brunswick tourism evening left me feeling inspired to explore a new part of the country. And if everyone there is as laid back and warm as Norm and his friends, I’m sure it would be a trip to remember.

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