The Mother of Adventure

Shop with a conscience this season

If you’ve ever wondered about the ethics behind big-name clothing and jewelry manufacturers and wanted to help make a difference, this is your chance.

This Friday, fair trade retailers Ten Thousand Villages and Adorit Boutique will be joining forces for their third-annual Fair Trade Fashion Show in Ottawa – and admission is FREE!

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 27, 2015 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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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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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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Dino dud

Reindeer sweaterIt just wouldn’t be Christmas if at least one gift didn’t turn out to be a dud.

Pre-kids, the dud gift would inevitably land squarely on either my husband or myself. Maybe it was a pilot project resulting from your great aunt’s knitting efforts – the classic, itchy reindeer sweater. Or perhaps it’s a carefully-wrapped fruitcake from mom, shipped clear across the country at a premium rate despite the fact that you’ve told her – every single year since birth – just how much you hate it.

Since adding kids to our family equation, however, the stakes have been raised in terms of dud gifts. The itchy sweater can be tossed into the back of the closet without a second thought and the fruitcake can always double as a door-stop, but a dud toy can have wide-reaching, negative ramifications.

A bad toy could mean hours of assembly – supervised by you the parent, of course – which may or may not result in the toy pictured on the box. Or it could be something that’s just annoying – pure and simple – but yet you’re stuck with listening to it from Christmas morning until an undetermined date in the future. DinosaurLast year, my husband blogged for Today’s Parent about the Furby frenzy our two girls went through – desperately begging for the incessantly-noisy, over-priced little monsters until we finally caved – only to have the kids toss them aside a couple of short weeks later.

This Christmas, however, I’ve have to say that the dud toy was a robotic dinosaur we gave to our daughter, Lily. The dud factor on this item was actually two-fold. First and foremost, this was a build-it-yourself toy (as depicted by the large “U-Build” icon on the upper, left-hand corner of the box). Back in November – when Christmas was a glimmering light on the horizon, and I was perusing the toys at Canadian Tire with endless energy and wide-eyed wonder – the DIY factor didn’t phase me. Sure, it said “8+” but my six-year-old is smart. It can’t be that hard…right?

It really wasn’t that hard, but now let’s factor in the timing of gifting said present. Since we spent Christmas in Toronto with family, Santa actually came while we were away and left one last, special gift for each of our daughters to open upon their return (the rest of their gifts were opened before we left). It was brilliant planning on my part – with the exception of the fact that the toy for Lily required extensive assembly – something that was not overly appealing on the heels of a four-and-a-half-hour car ride home.

Yet there I was…with my teeny, tiny screwdriver…trying to decipher which screws to use where according to the tiny diagram. Lily – diligently standing by and helping wherever she could – could hardly wait for her ferocious-looking T-rex to start roaring and roaming the halls. Of course, I managed to assemble the entire thing only to realize that the input plug for the wire and remote was not properly situated…requiring a disassembly and subsequent reassembly in order for it to work.

Dino toyA full 90 minutes later (hey, let’s remember that I did choose journalism over engineering!), bleary-eyed and irritated, I finished assembling the dinosaur correctly. Now for the moment of truth; time to press the buttons to hear him roar and make him move. Well, here is the second element of dud-ism; the terrifying creature makes but a small sound. And when it comes to movement, let’s just say that a glacier must have run dinosaurs to extinction with the pace that this guy can walk.

Nevertheless, Lily was thrilled. As she played with her new toy – wearing her favourite green dinosaur t-shirt, of course – her smile melted away my irritation at the whole assembly process. If she doesn’t mind waiting for 20 minutes for T-rex to walk across the coffee table, then I suppose neither do I.

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Party favours (Ottawa Citizen)

11536207.JPGAs the food editor for Ottawa at Home magazine, Paula Roy clearly knows her way around the kitchen. Her blog site, Constantly Cooking, is one of my go-to spots for cooking and baking ideas. So when it came to writing about edible gifts for the holidays, it was just common sense to talk to the Kitchen Queen herself…and she didn’t disappoint!

If you need a quick and tasty treat to take to that holiday dinner, check out her great ideas in this Ottawa Citizen feature article, Party favours, printed in the Dec. 19, 2013 issue.

Sworn off sweets after over-indulging this Christmas? Be sure to bookmark these recipes for next year – the chocolate-covered pretzels are not to be missed!

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Sweet construction (Ottawa Citizen)

11539201.JPGSince gingerbread is such a quintessential part of Christmas, this December was the perfect time to talk to Catherine Beddall of Catherine’s Cakery in Ottawa. I can’t say whether the smell of fresh gingerbread makes your mouth water, but I will guarantee that her award-winning gingerbread creations – entirely edible and handcrafted – will make your jaw drop.

Check out my feature article, Sweet Construction, printed in the Dec. 19th issue of the Ottawa Citizen.

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Movie memories

GrinchThere are just a ton of Christmas movies on TV this month.

Last night, Ian told the girls and I that he had recorded ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and announced that it was family movie night. The great thing about the original Grinch (I’m talking about the circa 1966 version) is that it’s only about half an hour, so it’s a nice, quick one to watch before bedtime on a school night (or to hold the attention of little ones!).

I have long loved Dr. Seuss and his crazy, quirky, rhyming stories; they just never get old for me. One year – at the dollar store, of all places – I stumbled upon the full, original text of the Grinch in the form of a colouring book. I think I bought them out – all the kids on our list got one! It’s just such a classic.

We started playing the original Grinch movie for Elissa when she was pretty young, and it has clearly stuck with her because, as the movie came to its heart-warming conclusion last night, she actually started quoting along with the narrator:

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes or bags!

And he puzzled three hours, ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Still an awesome movie nearly 50 years later! Next up, we’ll need to re-watch the Jim Carrey version – he’s great in that, and the movie has such brilliant costuming and props. What is your favourite family Christmas flick?

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