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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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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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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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.

 

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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.

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