Poppies

sunset-poppies

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?

Ottawa-Beavertails

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?

Ottawa-Beavertails-Byward-Market

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!




Ottawa Street Eats 2015

Ottawa Food Trucks and Craft Beer

Hosted by TW Events at the Aviation Museum

Ottawa-Street-Eats-Jessica-Ripley-1

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.

Ottawa-Street-Eats-Jessica-Ripley-3

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.

Ottawa-Street-Eats-Jessica-Ripley-4

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!

Ottawa-Street-Eats-Jessica-Ripley-2

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.

Ottawa-Street-Eats-Jessica-Ripley-5

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.

Jessica-Ripley-Ottawa-Varekai

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




Opinions on OPL Main?

Libraries are Great Work Spaces

I’m a big fan of Libraries, and since moving to Ottawa I’ve seen how amazing they can really be. The Ottawa Public Library is the largest bilingual public library system in North America, with 24 branches, two bookmobiles, and even a book vending-machine service. I’m also a big supporter of their used bookstore, run by the Friends of the OPL.

As a writer, I love getting out of the house to work, and I love that no matter where I am in the city I can open up the OPL app and find the nearest location where I can find a work station that suits my needs. Granted, I can always go to a coffee shop, but there is something special about working at a library (and not needing to buy an expensive drink or avoid the stink-eye of people waiting for a seat).

The latest OPL expansion happened over at the Beaverbrook branch, and it did not disappoint. The location closed in February 2013 and reopened in August 2014 as a new amazing workspace. It is equipped with two public meeting rooms (each with 45 person capacity), numerous small rooms for group work, an abundance of electrical outlets, and plenty of open seating by large windows to give you wonderful natural lighting while you work. Prior to the Beverbrook Branch reopening in August, my favorite work place was the Stittsville branch, which has one little closed-off room which always had space available for you to work in peace and quiet.

What Will Happen to the Central Branch?

Now on the forefront of OPL news is the central branch location.

Located downtown, at Laurier and Metcalfe, this 44-year-old branch was opened in 1971 and is currently badly outdated and it has outgrown its 81,000 square feet of space. It is often criticized for being much less user-friendly and accommodating than the neighboring coffee shops, especially when you consider that it is very difficult to get cell reception or reliable Wi-Fi.

Last summer a consulting firm was brought in and reported that it would be an estimated $70 million to renovate the current location. This renovation would strip the building down to its shell and rebuild with new glass facades, upgraded heating and electrical systems, better internal accessibility (including fixing the current one-way escalators) and increased room for meeting rooms and work areas. There is a lot being said about looking into a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to make these enhancements a reality.

OPL just announced that discussions concerning the Central Library are open to the public and set to start soon. If you would like to be a part of it, join in one of these three ways:

  1. Participate in the open public session on March 31 at 7pm at City Hal. Register at OttawaCentralLibrary.ca
  2. View the public session live webcast on OttawaCentralLibrary.ca and then submit your input online through April 6
  3. Visit the Main Branch from March 21-27 to write comments on the “idea board”

The results of this input will be made available to all in June 2015 through a report to the Ottawa Public Library Board.

Take a bit to think about what you would like to see in the central library upgrades, and make sure you chime in with your thoughts!




Ottawa Flowers

Today’s post is a bit different than my usual posts – today I’m sharing some beauty that can be found in Ottawa here in the spring! I regretted last year when I missed the Ottawa Tulip Festival, and I almost missed it this year too! Today was the last day of the festival (although the flowers can still be enjoyed after the festival ends), and I was so happy that I allowed myself the break from work to go out and enjoy the beauty of nature. Make sure you make time to do the same – don’t let life pass you by while you are chained to your computer!

jessicar-ripley-ottawa-tulip-festival

In addition to the tulips, the cherry blossoms are also blooming around Ottawa right now. These beautiful pink or white trees only bloom for about a week (although they may start to bloom at different times, so we will see them come and go for a few weeks). These flowers are well-loved and representative of both the beauty and shortness of life. Their meaning is not lost on the small business owner – if you miss out on the chance to enjoy them this month then you may end up with your whole life passing you by while you slave away.

These flowers are related to the rose, so just as the saying goes – make sure you stop and smell the cherry blossoms!

jessica-ripley-ottawa-cherry-blossoms