Winterlude 2017

Winter is always a challenge for me. The cold weather depletes my energy and motivation. It’s different than in November and December, when you get to look forward to all the cozy holidays. January and February just feel like an endurance test.

What’s more, there have been many Februarys for me that have presented the extra challenge of a new job. This year was one of those. I moved from my position in Tunney’s pasture over to one downtown. It’s offered me new challenges, new writing topics, and a great bunch of people, all of which have made me sure that I made the right move, but that doesn’t mean the adjustment period was less difficult.

My commute is now longer, and I’m riding the bus instead of commuting. I’ve managed to deal with that by using my commute time wisely. Often in the mornings (hello early days) I sleep, but every afternoon I write for an hour on the Scrivener app on my phone. I’m also getting to get a nice walk in every day, walking the 15mins from my work toward Alex’s.

Another benefit of working downtown was getting down to Winterlude this year. It was way too cold for me to want to stay long or go ice skating, but the sculptures were cool!

I’ve also started to be more involved with the Ottawa Romance Writer’s Association (ORWA). It’s exciting to be more involved with the writing community and to start to make real contacts (perhaps even friends). I’ve even started to help with the website, because I think this powerful group of women shouldn’t be hidden from the rest of the local romance writing community. I hope I’m able to help more writers to join, and to strengthen their career as a result.

Another big first for me came in February – my first rejection letter! I’m way more happy about it than I should be, I suppose, but to me it’s just proof that I’m actually doing it (writing). Plus, they gave me great notes that I 100% agree on that will help me fix it, and maybe I’ll resubmit.

I’m working on the next short story collection. It was postponed (which was a good thing, after all the stuff in Jan/Feb that was going on) but now we have our editor on board and all of the writers, and we will announce it soon!

Poppies

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The red poppy is the Canadian national symbol of remembrance for the men and woman who gave their lives during military service around the world.

When I moved to Canada I learned about the poppy tradition as a military spouse. It always warms my heart to see others (outside of just the Military Community) showing their support for the troops and veterans while wearing the poppies. It’s something I deeply respect about the Canadian people.

Remembrance Day is November 11 (the 11th day of the 11th month) and on the 11th hour the country holds two minutes of silence to remember all who have fought for the country. This tradition holds roots from when armies stopped fighting in WWI in 1918 (Armistice Day).

However, Canadians wear poppies and recognize their veterans and troops for more than just the one day. Poppies pop up on jackets and shirts during the “Remembrance Day period”, from the last Friday in October until November 11, when the poppies are then left at gravesides, memorials and cenotaphs.

As an outsider, it’s hard to jump in and join a tradition, but wearing the poppy is something that anyone who wants to thank veterans and troops can do. There is really no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. As long as you want to honor veterans and troops, then wearing one is all that really matters. Just place it on the left-side of your jacket or shirt (closest to your heart).

There are different sizes and styles of poppies and none are wrong. This year, an estimated 20 million poppies will be distributed by the Royal Canadian Legion from the boxes left by cash registers at retail locations, or the tables manned by volunteers outside stores.

These small plastic flowers are held on your clothing by a straight pin, which could lead to either sticking yourself throughout the day or to losing the poppy. The Legions prefer for you to not alter the style of the poppy by subbing out the pin (although it is allowed), so consider using an earring back or getting a poppy keeper from the branch if you have issues with the pin.

The Legion poppies are given out for free, but donations are accepted. The donations go to the Poppy Fund, to help veterans and their families.

CanCon 2016 Storify Recap

This weekend I volunteered at Can Con (The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature). I’d been to it the past few years and I LOVE it. It’s definitely one of the best Cons around. I guess since I’ve not been volunteering much lately (a full-time job and writing on the side steals all my time) I decided to offer myself on Saturday at the last-minute. They found a spot for me, guiding people between the Con Suite (Tavern) and the Guild Hall (where there were author readings). This post allowed me the chance to do my favorite thing – live tweet! As much as I wish I could have been to some of the panels, I’m super happy to have the chance to be a volunteer again. I think that’s really been missing from my life, and I’ll have to do better to incorporate it back in. I used to volunteer in Winnipeg for C4 Comic Con, and when we first moved here I volunteered for the Western Ottawa Community Resource Center (and, of course, roller derby).

As a follow-up to my live tweeting and overall support of the event, I’m doing another of my favorite things – a Storify recap!

 

RTC Ottawa 2016

This weekend I was able to participate in some of the fun at Romancing the Capital, here in Ottawa.

This was the second RTC, hosted by the lovely and talented Eve Langlais. It is targeted to both writers and readers all over the romance genre spectrum.

There is lots of fun on the RTC Facebook page, where we are begging Eve to run it for a third year 😉 Eve, if you’re reading this: The city needs more romance, we need RTC, and we need you to run it! Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Because I loved the event so much, I wanted to capture the fun in a Storify collection. I’ve also made a Twitter list of the authors that attended, so I could easily find them again and pick up more of their books when I have time!

 

Ottawa BeaverTails

When traveling to Ottawa, or hosting tourists, one thing always gets mentioned: “Make sure to get a BeaverTail!”

Their history goes back to the late 70’s, and with current fans including Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, it’s no wonder they have a reputation. The BeaverTail is a Canadian dessert icon, so it makes sense that the Capital is most associated with it!

President Obama in Ontario, Canada on Feb. 19, 2009. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

What is a BeaverTail?

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A BeaverTail is a fresh deep-fried dough treat, made to order and brushed with butter and topped with the sweets of your choice. These topping choices include classic cinnamon and sugar, or other options like maple, apples and cinnamon, Nutella and bananas, Skor, Reece’s Pieces and Peanut Butter, Oreos, etc. They are large enough to share, depending on how big your sweet tooth is!

Where can I get a BeaverTail?

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There are a few locations for BeaverTails around the city, but I usually take visitors to where it all started in the Byward market (69 George Street). This was the first permanent location, which opened in 1980. You could also swing by the one at the Tanger Outlets in Kanata (8555 Campeau Drive) if you want a treat after shopping, or if the Rideau Canal Skateway is open you can get one there!

Remember, these locations are cash only and there is not any seating available (street eating at it’s best).

BeaverTails aren’t only found in Ottawa. There are over 100 locations across Canada, and even some in the US and overseas! So if you find one, indulge, and enjoy the taste of Ottawa!




Parliament Hill

One of the biggest tourist attractions (with about 3 million visitors a year) in Ottawa is the Nation’s capital – Parliament Hill.

That being said, in the almost four years that we have lived here, we haven’t done the tour! Thankfully, we had friends in from Winnipeg and that gave us a good excuse to go check it out (finally). We got our (FREE!) tickets across the street from Parliament Hill, at 90 Wellington Street, before heading over.

Centennial Flame

At the entrance to Parliament Hill, this flame burns on top of a fountain that is decorated with the shields of Canadian provences and territories to represent the unity of Canada. I didn’t realize when we were there that it is a wishing fountain, and that all of the money tossed in goes into the Centennial Flame Research Award. This award is granted to “a person with a disability to allow him or her to conduct research and prepare a report on one or more Canadians with disabilities who have made a contribution to the public life of Canada or to the activities of Parliament.” Next time I’m there I will make sure to make a wish!

Peace Tower Tour

We were able to go right to the Peace Tower, as we had about two hours for our Parliament tour. To get in, you have to wait to have your turn through the TSA-like security and metal detectors. Then you climb the stairs and hop in an elevator that takes you right below the iconic clock and gives you a spectacular view around the city.

Once down the elevator, you visit the Memorial Chamber, which honors the Canadians who have died in combat during the wars and conflicts throughout history. The Books of Remembrance that are on display have one page turned at 11am each day (if you have a family member listed, you can call to find out when their name will be visible). It is a very humbling experience.

Center Block Tour

This February marked 100 years since the Parliament Hill fire of 1916. That fire caused the destruction of all of the center block, except for the Library. The tours this month were themed around the fire, complete with photos of what the halls and rooms looked like prior to the fire (and being rebuilt). The guide promised a look into the cause of the fire, but that ended up being the in-person form of click-bait. They only mentioned what we already knew, that the fire may have been caused by an abandoned lit cigarette or cigar, or WWII German sabotage (a cigar pipe bomb, specifically).

The tour included viewings of the Hall of Honour, House of Commons foyer, House of Commons Chamber, Senate foyer, and Senate Chamber (we did not get to see the House of Commons Chamber, as I believe they may have been sitting). It was very neat to see all of the amazing architecture and appreciate the history of the building.

The Library of Parliament

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The Library was untouched by the fire, due to the fact that it was only connected to the rest of the building by a corridor, and the librarian on duty was able to seal it off by its iron doors.

It is 140 years old and holds 600,000 items! The library is in a circle with high vaulted ceilings, and was designed in the Victorian High Gothic style. The white marble statue in the middle is Queen Victoria.

It was the most spectacularly beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I would live there if I could!

National War Memorial

We also walked over to the National War Memorial and paid our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was my first trip there, and I can only imagine how crowded it must be on Remembrance Day.

Overally, it was a great day of touring the Capital City. Each time I hope to see a bit more, and continue to gain an appreciation for this city that I am lucky enough to live and work in!

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Ottawa-Aviation-Space-Museum

This weekend we went to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum (we got a free ticket from Street Eats). It was a fantastic museum! Ottawa has a great many museums, and this one convinced me that I really do have to get out and see more of them. There were full-sized models and actual planes, and a lot of other fun things to see. I especially liked that they had a section that talked about steampunk (early flight dreams), a section for the Military, and a section for space!

Of course, the early adventurers area has me dreaming up a new feisty heroine who happens to be a pilot… we’ll see!

Ottawa Street Eats 2015

Ottawa Food Trucks and Craft Beer

Hosted by TW Events at the Aviation Museum

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August 1, 2015 was the date of the first ever Ottawa Street Eats event organized and hosted by TW Events.

I was excited to experience so many food trucks in one place, since I usually avoid downtown and don’t get to try many of these mobile eateries. This event got me thinking though, was it just me, or were food trucks more popular in recent years than in previous generations?

We have TV shows like Eat St. on Food Network which started in 2011, and movies like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (2012) featuring a young couple with duelling food trucks, “The Five-Year Engagement” (2012) with Jason Segel’s character opening his own taco truck after being a restaurant chef, and Jean Favreau’s “Chef” (2014) also featured a man losing his restaurant job and starting a food truck. Even Walt Disney World has gotten on board with this trend when they opened their Food Truck Park in Downtown Disney in 2014.

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Turns out, food trucks aren’t a new thing, but their popularity has been on the rise since 2008 due in part from the recession (and people not wanting or being able to invest in full traditional restaurants) and also in part from social media and the ability for food trucks to post daily where they will be serving up their food around town. There are also factors such as health inspections, online reviewers, and people eating on the go that have lead to the increased popularity

Mobile food trucks/carts/stands do have a long history. Some say that every food truck can be traced back to Walter Scott, who sold sandwiches, pies, and coffee to journalists in Rhode Island out of a wagon with windows cut into it in 1872. Others argue that it was in 1866 when Charles Goodnight set out in the Old West with his chuckwagon that started it all.  He used a US Army surplus wagon with a mounted wooden box as a mobile kitchen and served beans, coffee, cornbread, cabbage meat, and biscuits to cowboys on cattle drives.

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No matter which camp you are in, the truth is that both Scott and Goodnight started something awesome, and now we have food trucks that allow chefs to take their food to where the crowds are. From busy urban street corners with hungry office workers, to construction sites, fairs, or even being rented out for weddings, the real winners are the people who are no longer limited to the permanent restaurants in a location.

That brings us back to the Street Eats Festival in Ottawa this weekend, because what is better than one food truck but MULTIPLE food trucks? Founder and Organizer, Tanya Whelan, decided to make Street Eats an event that not only celebrated local food trucks, but also local craft brewery while providing entertainment for the whole family. She booked local DJ DSound, and the winners of the 2014 Live 88.5 Big Money Shot, The Lionyls for great live music. The event also had games and contests, and plenty of seating for people to hang out. Food and Beverages were purchased with tickets, so you only had to exchange money with the ticket sellers and not each vendor. Everything was DELICIOUS!

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It was a great day to remember, sitting there and enjoying good food (my favorite was the Nacho Libre poutine from Big D’s Dog House) and good music and watching planes take off regularly behind the Canadian Aviation Museum. I also loved the compost sorting center, and the free water refills provided by Aquahaulics.

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Not only would I make sure to attend this event again, but I also recommend others do as well! Food trucks serve up good food by people who truly love what they do, and Ottawa Street Eats gives us access to 15 local vendors that give us a taste of the city!

 




Varekai (Cirque du Soleil)

Varekai-logo    I’ve been wanting to go to Cirque du Soleil again, since we saw Ka in Las Vegas several years ago. When I saw the Bus Ads for Varekai at the Canadian Tire Centre here in Ottawa I made sure to get tickets so we wouldn’t miss out! The show has been touring worldwide since 2006 and had done an impressive 4500 (plus) shows to date, so I was sure it would be worth the price of admission.

I wanted to know what was going on during the show, at least as much as you can at a Cirque du Soleil performance, so I did some reading before attending. My research explained that the show was about the forest that Icarus lands after his fall from the sky. Varekai means “wherever” and the show features upbeat music in the Romani spirit. Each act would pretty much be the creatures playing around, and Icarus experiencing the wonder of it all.

Jessica-Ripley-Canadian-Tire-CentreWe pre-paid for parking, and were able to easily park and enter. We went the afternoon show, and got there at doors open. We quickly found our seats, and settled in. The show started with some clowns warming up the crowd by interacting with the front row audience members.

All of the acts were fun to watch. Normally in shows like this my favorite acts are the aerial ones, but this one had a beautiful “Slippery Surface” act that I couldn’t get enough of. Icarus got to play in a “pond” with lots of colorful water creatures, who seemed to glide across stage while they do partner and group acrobatics. The Russian Swing act in the finale was also spectacular and full of action. Either one of the acts could have lasted 10 times longer and I would have been a happy camper.

I adored the music, and I did not realize during the show that it was performed live, even though I saw the musicians on stage! They have the soundtrack available for purchase, which I intend to buy. I also enjoyed the bright, colorful, and practically gender neutral costumes.

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I personally could have done without the clown acts. The forest creature acts were so immersive, and it was jolting to go back to the “here and now” with a magician and his assistant. I also didn’t particularly find their acts funny.

I love Cirque du Soleil. The world-class entertainers give a performance that strikes awe and amazement in us. It reminds me of when I was young and we’d go to the Ringling Brothers Circus… but Cirque du Soleil does not have the animal rights issues, which makes it much easier to enjoy. It is always hard for me to justify ticket prices, but I did not regret the purchase, as it gave a few wonderful hours of getting lost in amazement, in a way that simple movies just can’t do. I’d go again, and I look forward to the next show I get to attend!




Ottawa Geek Market March 2015

Ottawa-Geek-Market-Doctor-Who-2015This weekend I pried myself from the computer and made my way to the fifth installment of the bi-annual Ottawa Geek Market. I figured that in all of the years that I’d been in Ottawa I’d yet to attend, so now was as good a time as ever.

In Winnipeg we had the Comic & Toy Expo, and I figured the Geek Market would be similar. Although, that is hard to determine what my expectations should be because of the extreme growth that C4-Lite experienced while I lived there. The first year I attended the Winnipeg Comic & Toy Expo it had almost a craft show / flea market feel. It was fun, and unique, because it was a place where you knew you would connect with local vendors and crafters (unlike the bigger Con, where international vendors set up shop). By the last year I was in Winnipeg though, the Comic & Toy Expo was pretty much a mini Comic Con, complete with celebrity guests and everything.

Ottawa Geek Market is interesting, and presents a weekend of fun for people of all ages. There were vendors, artists and crafters with booths and tables full of fun collectibles. There was also a great showing of local social and fan clubs. There were not celebrity guests, but there was plenty of attractions and entertainment, including game areas (tabletop and video games), stage activities, and a geeky scavenger hunt. There was also a gaming tournament and costume contest.

I would highly recommend this event for families. I saw plenty of kids dressed up and as excited as though they were at Disneyland. They got to play in a bouncy castle and a craft area, and the video game area was chock full of kids when I walked by. Even the swag bags seemed to communicate that the event was targeted for families based on the “goodies” and coupons inside, including a free child’s meal at Boston Pizza and a Child’s movie ticket for Ottawa family cinema. There was also an Ottawa Family Living Magazine and a Parenting Times magazine.

The cover charge was very high, in my opinion, considering the lack of activities for adults. I paid $20 at the door. They do offer free entry to “Real Life Superheros” (police/RCMP, 911 dispatchers, fire fighters, paramedics, military personnel and veterans, parole officers, probation officers and correctional services staff). They also offer free entry to kids 12 and under (with the purchase of an adult ticket). Advance tickets are about $5 off, if you happen to be around one of the advanced sales locations. They also advertise that $2 off of each ticket goes to local charities (this year, Heroes are Human). They also offer special admission for the last hour of each day (just $2).

The next Geek Market is scheduled for October 3-4, 2015 at the Nepean Sportsplex. Geekmarket.ca

Ottawa Comic Con will be May 8-10, 2015