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!

 

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!




Why I’ll (now) always get the flu shot

jessica-ripley-flu-shotI’m not particularly sure why, but I’ve never gotten a flu shot. I think it’s left over thinking of an American who would have to PAY for the flu shot, or perhaps from years past when there’s been a shortage and the shot was said to be for pregnant women or elderly. There’s also the old thinking that getting a Flu shot gives you the flu (that might have been true in the past, but it’s definitely not now)

Ironically, I started working in a place that promoted the flu shot, and even had posters up that talked about how you have a responsibility to get a flu shot to protect those most at-risk, such as pregnant women and the elderly. I’d started to give it some thought, but not soon enough. So now I want to go on record with the 10 reasons of why I’ll be getting a flu shot from now on:

  1. Severe flu symptoms are THE WORST
  2. I don’t deserve to have my annual Disney trip cut short due to severe flu symptoms
  3. Once you have the flu, you’re more likely to get it again the next year
  4. Missing work and a paycheck because you are at home on bed rest isn’t fun
  5. Six days of foggy and uncomfortable bed rest is a waste of precious time
  6. It’s really embarrassing to be a grown-up and admit that I was taken down by the flu because I didn’t get my flu shot
  7. The shot is free & easily available
  8. Herd immunity is a good thing
  9. I’m an altruistic person, so why not get my vaccination for all those those who can’t get the shot themselves?
  10. I have asthma and am at higher risk for pneumonia

Yup. If for nothing else, this is going to sit here as a reminder for myself to get my flu shot this month when I’m able to (when all symptoms are gone in a few weeks), and again every November until the end of time.

Word count: On the first day that I felt alive, I managed to knock out 5000 words! I attribute that to the hours I’d spent in bed tossing and turning and throwing ideas around in my head that I couldn’t type out of it!




2016 Changes

A photo of my "girls" - my current tribe is a bit furry.
A photo of my “girls” – my current tribe is a bit furry.

I love the “New Year” idea, and I love making lists of resolutions, or things I want to try to focus on.

This year I’m proceeding with something that has been a long time coming. I’m moving away from the “business” and entrepreneurship world, and I’m going forward as a freelance writer. That means there will be more activity on this blog, and less elsewhere.

This blog is going to function as something that resembles what I like to read. Which is, the “life and style of a writer”, or something thereabouts. I’ll share my favorite places to write and gather, fun stuff that I do, word counts, what I’m reading, that sort of thing. Maybe. I’ll try.

Hopefully I’ll find more people to connect with through this sort of blogging. 2016, the year I find a Tribe? Perhaps!

Word count: sporadic. I’ve had a few ideas floating around in my head since the summer, and I think I may be pulling the yarns together into something. I’ve written a few scenes, each a few k each, including some character introductions.




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.

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.

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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.

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!




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!