Sunday, March 31, 2013

Recipe Sunday - Kale Edition: Using kale to make salad, pizza and pureé

Photo by Connoisseur 4 the Cure courtesy of Flickr
(Kale salad - Creative Commons)

I scheduled this post a few days ago as I am currently out of town for the Easter long weekend.  As such, I was only able to gather a few recipes from the local blogosphere.

A peek inside the fishbowl explains how to make a kale and apple salad, which to this kale lover sounds very interesting.

Eaten Up continues the kale theme with a kale pizza.

Valerie Ward joins the kale party with her tips on how to prepare a winter kale stir-fry and celery root pureé.

Turning away from the kale fest, La cuisine d'Hélène has a great suggestion for an Easter weekend menu with her recipe for sun-maid raisin pecan sticky toast.

Food Gypsy gives the lowdown on how to make a fast frittata.

TBBs, a blog that I just discovered, offers tips on how to make vegan gluten free brownies.

Meaghan to the Max, another blog that I recently came across, describes how to make a tortilla soup.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

On the road ... blog reviews return April 2

Photo by Filter Forge courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

I am currently out of town and will not have much access to a computer.  For the next couple of days, I will be publishing posts that I have already scheduled, i.e. the history-related post from earlier this morning; Recipe Sunday tomorrow; and Music Monday on, you guessed it, Monday.  However, I will be putting off publishing blog reviews until Tuesday.  Until then, I wish everyone a happy Easter long weekend.

Some history from Vanier, the ByWard Market and the Glebe

Photy by Jamie McCaffrey courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

If you are interested in the history of Ottawa, then several recent blog posts may interest you.

Vanier Now has a short history about the first sugar shack in Richelieu Park, which was constructed around 1940 by the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known as the White Fathers.  In 1998, volunteers constructed today's sugar shack on the same site.  In another post, Vanier Now tells the story of 159 Montreal Road, currently the home of the Vanier Grill, but which opened originally in the 1880s as only the second general store in Janeville, known as the Durocher Grocery Store (Épicerie Durocher).

Urbsite has a post on the Nepean Point Footbridge, which furnished an elevated walkway between Nepean Point and Majors Hill Park, but which was dismantled by the National Capital Commission in 1958-59.  The story contains numerous captivating photos of what Ottawa used to look like more than half-a-century ago.  A separate post on Urbsite recounts the story of the Union du Canada building in the Byward Market that is slated to undergo major changes.

Finally, GlebeSite has posted pictures of a wedding of a Miss Gwen Clemow that took place at 193 Clemow in the Glebe in September 1910.  You can see a current image of the same house on Google Maps.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Blog Review: Down Goes Brown

Photy by Vancouver 125
courtesy of Flickr (Creative commons)

Sean McIndoe is an Ottawa-based writer whose articles have appeared in the National Post, and who has written a book based on his hockey humour blog Down Goes Brown.  While the site is focused on getting laughs, it also contains insightful analysis, such as this recent post on how professional hockey is using computer technology to gain a winning edge.  However, the series insights soon turn to comedy, as McIndoe quickly begins to imagine the computer technology that some teams use:
Calgary Flames - Are still in excellent shape to contend for the playoffs yet again according to the high-end software they've relied on for all front office decisions over the past few years, a used PlayStation 2 copy of NHL 2005....
Toronto Maple Leafs - Prefer to determine ice time with old-fashioned methods like this handy ranking chart on Randy Carlyle's clipboard which, in related news, we recently discovered he had been holding upside down.
Ottawa Senators - Can simulate the outcomes of various strategic decisions using their specially developed cyborg version of coach Paul MacLean, which will be great as long as it doesn't achieve self-awareness and start going to games and sitting right behind the bench and oh god we're all doomed.
Vancouver Canucks - Tried to prepare for a recent game against the Coyotes by using a simulation of goaltender Mike Smith, but every time they ran it the computer immediately went down.
Other recent posts include a funny look the Toronto Maple Leafs, a brief history of Chris Pronger's career, and a tongue in cheek analysis of how NHL teams sign players.  In addition, McIndoe provides periodic updates about his book on his blog, as well as linking to his articles on The Triangle Blog that can be found on the Grantland, a sports web site affiliated with ESPN.

Book Review Friday: Beautiful Ruins; poems; 17 & Gone; Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Photo by Mario Mancuso courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

There are a lot of book reviews to share this week.  Below are some of the literary suggestions that have appeared in the local blogosphere.


Maria from I Believe in Story reviews Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, which is set in Italy in the early 1960s and Hollywood in the present day. "The book takes place throughout a span of fifty years, introducing new settings and characters with each turn of the page," writes Maria. "I'm still not sure how I feel about this book.  I absolutely loved the sections set in 1962, but the contemporary plot lines bored me at times."  In two other posts, Maria recommends eight Canadian novels, and then offers her list of the top eight forgotten classics.

Donald Ermen of the blog The Bookworm mentions The Lab by J. Saint James, a novel about the search for extraterrestrials, human existence and the end of the world.

Poetry reviews by Rob Mclennan

Rob Mclennan is a local literary gem.  If you are not familiar with his work, he is an Ottawa-based poet and blogging superstar.  His blog is a cornucopia of literary news, including a large collection of seemingly never-ending reviews of new poetry books. Below are some of the reviews that he has recently posted on his blog and other literary web sites:

Young adult novels

Ciara of Lost At Midnight Reviewes raves about 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, which tells the story of seventeen-year-old Lauren who has visions of missing girls who have just one thing in common: they are 17 and have disappeared without a trace.  These visions lead Lauren to see how she can help the missing girls.

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf writes about The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, a story about a teenager named Macy Queen who is coping with her father's death. "After hearing so many good things about Sarah Dessen’s writing I finally picked one of her books up, and I have to say she has me hooked now," writes Kelsey.  "Not only is it the romance and the addictive characters, but every bit of development in this story kept me reading."

Children's books

Firestar Books reviews Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  This book tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a 5th grader who has not been able to go to regular school due to a facial deformity.  Now that he will attend regular classes, however, he needs to convince his classmates that he is a normal kid with an unusual face.  "If there was one book I wish I had with me when I was in grade 5, this book would be it," says the Firestar review.  "[M]ost of us don't have it as bad as August but we've all had our own insecurities.... R. J. Palacio was able to put words to emotions we've all felt into words simple enough for middle graders."

Read My Breath Away reviews The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis, which follows Jack McKinley a normal boy who is going to die in a few moths.  "Overall this was a fun, exciting novel for my first foray into middle grade fiction," says the review.  "I will absolutely be keeping my eye out for the next novel in the series."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blog Review: TwoShot

Photo by Kym Shumsky (Sossusvlei, Namibia)

The following article first appeared on Apartment 613 on March 27.

Local photographer Kym Shumsky has a talent for making strangers feel comfortable. In her photo-blog Le Mien, she photographed 100 strangers over a 21-month period, culminating in an exhibit and book that raised $2,000 for Operation Rainbow Canada.

She is now working on a new artistic endeavour called TwoShot, a photo-blog that showcases one-off collaborations between her and a guest photographer. While Shumsky will ultimately select the final photos for each shoot, the images will be split roughly 50-50 between her work and those of her collaborating partner.

“A little while ago, I photographed 100 strangers because I wanted to get better at taking photos,” she writes on TwoShot. “That first project was about gaining perspective. This one is about sharing it.”

In a phone interview with Apartment 613, Shumsky says that her work on Le Mien taught her a lot about taking pictures. However, because she was the only one behind the camera lens, each photo contained only her perspective. ”We have a presence even if we are not in the frame,” she says. Enter TwoShot, which is a conscious attempt to expand her artistic horizons.

So far the project has resulted in three collaborations. The first contains photos that she took with her husband Darcy Cornu, during a trip around the world a few years back. “I had to give examples to get other photographers,” says Shumsky, while describing the series of gorgeous images, such as the photo from Namibia above and Kashmir, India below.

Photo by Kym Shumsky (Kashmir, India - Kingdom of Leh) 
The second collaboration is comprised of photographs from rural Saskatchewan that she jointly took with her friend Winter Fedyk while on holiday. The images are beautiful shots of horses and prairie landscapes, which capture the feeling of big sky country.
Photo by Winter Fedyk - Horses, La Reata
(Kyle, Saskatchewan) (copyright)

Observing these impressive photographs, like the one on the right, the observer can feel as if they are underneath a massive sky, running through pristine fields. Behind the camera lens, however, it is always necessary to remember the collaborative aspect of the project.

“When you start dealing with people’s passion, you have to have a lot of respect, a lot of patience,” says Shumsky, a native of Winnipeg but now long-term resident of Ottawa. “What I ask from the photographers is that they give me their best work.”

This push for excellent work, combined with being exposed to a multitude of styles, is forcing Shumsky to experiment with new techniques.  “I have one (photographer) in the queue who only shoots black and white, and I never shoot black and white,” she tells me. “I am not sure how to present it.”

Photo by Debra Cowie
(Art Is In Bakery) (copyright)
She is also playing with the opportunity to work in a wide range of locations. For instance, the third collaboration consists of photos of Art Is In Bakery at 250 City Centre Avenue #112. These images, taken alongside Ottawa-based photographer Debra Cowie, are completely different from the first two.

Looking forward, Shumsky says that her future shoots will be constrained by the following parameters: “The lighting is the same, the location is the same, the people are the same.”

While the project is still evolving, she can envision eventually putting on another exhibit for charity, which combines her work and those of all the collaborating photographers.

If you are a photographer who would like to participate in this project you can email Kym Shumsky at

Painting on the Mackenzie King Bridge and other art-related stories

Photo by Joanna Rees (copyright)

Since starting this site, I have highlighted several creative blogs that focus on such topics as music, poetry, photography and fiction.  One area that I have not written much about, however, is visual arts that is not related to photography.  I aim to change this with this post.

Let's begin with a wonderful piece in Images of Centretown about Patrick Mills, a painter who is painting outside on the Mackenzie King Bridge for the entire month of March.  (Readers of the Ottawa Citizen blog The Big Beat would have read about Mills earlier this month). The IOC piece contains a great vignette in which blogger Charles Akben-Marchand speaks to Mills while he was painting, and then a few days later comes across some of Mills' work that had just recently been installed on the second floor of City Hall.

If you haven't been following Mills' project, or you have and would like to know more, you can visit his blog where he is keeping track of his month-long adventure of painting outside in the cold.

Another interesting post comes from the Domicile blog, which provides an update and pictures on the work of public artist Adrian Göllner, who is currently working on Swift, an eight metre high public art installation that will be installed at the entrance of Domicile's One3One condo project currently being built at 131 Holland Avenue.  According to the blog post:
Göllner was approached by Domicile and our architect for this project, Christopher Simmonds, to commission a sculpture for the north façade of the building....  The piece itself is made from stainless steel.  The metal is cut, heated and rolled to form the sculpture.  It is then painted with a polyurethane paint, which protects the piece from rust and corrosion from the elements.  In order to make transportation of the easier, Swift is built in three separate pieces, which will be welded together on-site at One3One during installation day.  This all day process is set to take place the 4th week of April.
In other art-related news, The Big Beat blog reports on the restoration work currently taking place on an untitled tapestry by Nunavut artist Jessie Oonark, who died in 1985.  The 3.73 metres high and six metres wide tapestry first went up at the National Arts Centre in 1974, where it stayed for roughly 20 years on and off, before going to Winnipeg for a show on Oonark's work.  It then returned to the NAC where it stayed in the archives.  It is now being restored with the aim of once again hanging it on an NAC wall.

Finally, the fun art-blog BLARG! has posted some new illustrations.  This is an interesting site that I hope to review in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blog Review: Correr Es Mi Destino

Photo courtesy of Juliette Giannesini
(Creative Commons)
Juliette Giannesini is a blogger, translator, editor, photographer and all around fab person who has been living in Ottawa since 2004, after emigrating from her native France.  She started her eclectic blog Correr Es Mi Destino in 2006 after becoming a permanent Canadian resident, and named the site after a line in the Manu Chao song Clan­des­tino, which is sung in Spanish.

Juliette, who became a Canadian citizen in 2009, started blogging to share her experience of immigrating to an English-speaking province, given that most immigrants from France go straight to Montreal.  Originally she wrote in French, but soon switched to English, a language that she was not yet fluent in.

(As an aside, Juliette is one fascinating person.  She speaks English, French and Mandarin - her Chinese name is Zhu - and she tells me via email that she has visited every country in Central and South America, except for Venezuela, Colombia and the Guyanas).

Her blog has evolved over the years, although her main focus remains with life in Canada, immigration-related news, photography and travel.  She divides Correr Es Mi Destino (i.e. To Run Is My Destiny) into nine categories:
  1. Cana­dian Life: Life in Canada as an immi­grant, with stories about cul­tural dif­fer­ences and occa­sional bitch­ing about the weather.
  2. Immi­gra­tion: The immi­gra­tion and the cit­i­zen­ship processes, tips and advice for newcomers.
  3. Trends: Pol­i­tics, news and events in Canada or around the world.
  4. Snap­shots: Pic­tures of Canada and travel pho­tog­ra­phy, includ­ing from France, China, Finland, Latin America, Australia, Asia and the United States.
  5. On The Road: Posts about her various trips, includ­ing to France, Beijing, the London 2012 Olympic Games, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, and Asia.
  6. Baby Mark Floyd: Shots of her very cute son Mark, her Canadian-Chinese-French baby, who was born in Ottawa on Octo­ber 12, 2012.
  7. Work­ing Girl: Her experience work­ing in Canada, from small jobs to being a teacher, and then a translator/editor/copywriter.
  8. Food­ies Cor­ner: Restau­rant reviews in Ottawa and elsewhere.
  9. Just Blog­ging: Blog fun, memes and interviews.
Photo courtesy of Juliette Giannesini
(Creative Commons)
One part of her blog that I found quite interesting is her "Ten Immi­grants, Ten Inter­views!” series that she has been doing since 2010.  The 2013 version looks at the motivations of 10 prospective immigrants and newcomers to Canada.  In a recent post, Juliette talks to Isabelle, a woman from Lyon, France, who is thinking about moving to Canada.  An earlier post contained an interview with Cecille, a woman from the Philippines who arrived in Canada with her family in 2011.

Other recent posts include thoughts about turning 30, (happy belated!), as well as a interesting piece on how her French has changed since arriving in Canada almost a decade ago.  As someone who speaks Spanish but who occasionally breaks out in Spanglish due to my strong English Canadian influences, I can see where she's coming from.

Overall, this is a very impressive blog.  It has the feel of a magazine whose audience is made up of people with wanderlust, a love for new experiences, appreciation of photography, and interest in hearing interesting anecdotes about daily life in Canada.

Restaurant Reviews: Hintonburg, ByWard Market, Manotick, Nepean and Aylmer

Photo by kiwanja courtesy of Flickr (Creative Commons)
Sidedoor, 18b York Street Byward Market

Perhaps it's the anticipation of patio season, or maybe the entire city just got an urge to eat out, but whatever the reason, the Ottawa blogosphere is filled with recent restaurant reviews.  Below is a round-up of what local bloggers are saying about various eateries in town.

New Food Establishments

The City Bites blog from Ottawa Magazine covers the recent opening of Richard’s Hintonburg Kitchen, by Chef Richard Nigro, one of the founding chefs of Juniper. The new take-out/home catering shop at 1202 Wellington St. West did not disappoint.  "I walked in to see the bearded chef looking intense but at home in his white apron and black T-shirt," writes City Bites. "I sampled a few things from the opening the menu, which was as eclectic and enticing as promised — and made decision-making difficult. On display in every dish is Nigro’s passion for cooking, his love of spice and new flavour combinations."

Update (March 27): Apartment 613 published a review today of Richard's Hintonburg Kitchen.

Reviews by Sybaritica

The foodie blog Sybaritica has been mentioned a few times on this site, but primarily for its recipes, some of which I have included on Recipe Sunday posts. Strictly speaking, this is not an Ottawa-based blog, nor is the founder C. John Thompson a professional Chef or restaurant owner.  Rather, he is a lawyer who loves food and lives in Iqaluit.  So why am I including someone who lives in Nunavut in a site dedicated to Ottawa blogs?  Well, because John writes a fair bit about local restaurant's, which he visits whenever he is in town.

Here are some of his recent posts: In a generally positive review of Must wine bar at 41 William Street in the Byward Market, John gave the establishment a solid rating of 4 out of 5 stars, and said that he would definitely visit again.  His review of Play Food and Wine at 1 York Street, also in the Byward Market, was even better, as he gave the restaurant a rating of 5 out of 5.

During a repeat visit to Ken's Japanese Restaurant at 217 Rideau Street, John tried an appetizer of Grilled Sanma, which he was not able to taste during his December visit to the restaurant.  Similar to his previous trip, his most recent review gave the Japanese eatery 4 out of 5 stars.

Finally, John wrote a review of Brothers, a beer bistro at 366 Dalhousie. His conclusion: "Even though the two dishes I ordered were less than well-executed, I enjoyed excellent service, some really good beers and a pleasant atmosphere.  I would be happy to give the menu another chance sometime and I rate the overall experience at a decent 4 out of 5."

Other Reviews

Capital Dining raves about two six {ate} at 268 Preston Street in Little Italy, calling the sausages exceptional,  the atmosphere warm and service caring.  The review, however, does offer this caveat: "A juvenile dessert (deep-fried PB&J) worries me a bit.  Here’s hoping the cutesy dishes (like this one, like the chicken wings, the shrimp pogos, the chicken poutine), yummy as they are, don’t take over what is otherwise an intelligent cuisine of flavourful, thoughtful, sophisticated dishes."

The blog Where the Locals Eat, formerly known as 365 days of Ottawa Food, has only good things to say about Gezellig at 337 Richmod Road.  Tea for Two Sisters, meanwhile, publishes a positive review of the Authentic Vietnamese Pho House in Nepean at 250 Greenbank Road, unit 2A.

If you are a parent of young children and looking for an afternoon outing near the Manotick area, Kids in the Capital recently published a post about Play Time Café. According to the review: "I’m glad to have Play Time Café so close by and I hope I’ve convinced you to go check it out.  It’s bright and cheerful and clean, with a friendly staff, and focused on healthy eating and community: a winning combination.  We will definitely be back."

Finally, for people who live in Aylmer, or those who are from Ottawa and want to drive across the river, Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen has a review on his blog of Le Bostaurus at 61 Rue Principale, Gatineau (Aylmer sector).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blog Review: Artful Blogger

Digitally manipulated photo by Peter George Gordon
(Creative Commons)

Ottawa Magazine is a wonderful source of local news.  Whether it's their picks for best restaurants in town, recommendations on where to grab a glass of wine, profiles of area residents, discussions on art, gardens or politics, or the numerous other topics that they cover, they are a must read for anyone interested in knowing more about our nation's capital.

From a blogging perspective, the magazine's online site publishes several blogs that specialise in different topics.  My aim is to eventually review all of these blogs.  For today, however, I want to start with the Artful Blogger by Paul Gessell, which contains intelligent and well-written pieces on various local artists and exhibits in the city.  Recent posts include:
Ottawa is sometimes mocked as a conservative and unimaginative city.  Readers of the Artful Blogger, however, know better, as this blog reports on the numerous artists and interesting exhibits in the city.

Local News: Stars Wars, FIFA Women's World Cup, greenhouse gas roundtable

Photo by David Scrimshaw
(Creative Commons)

There has been a lot of local news recently in the Ottawa blogosphere.  Below are some of the posts that have appeared on local blogs.

Ottawa Rickshaw notes that Star Wars Identities, a popular museum exhibit that showcases the characters from the popular Star Wars films, is scheduled to take place at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum from May 10 to September 2.

A press release on Coun. Tim Tierney's blog announces that Ottawa will be hosting nine games, including a Quarterfinal match, for the FIFA Women's World Cup that Canada is hosting in the summer of 2015. In a second press release, details are given for an Easter egg hunt that is taking place at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum and Billings Estate National Historic Site on Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 pm.

Spacing Ottawa has a round-up of local news stories on development-related issues, as well as providing an update on the recent collapse of the Ogilvy building next to the Rideau Centre.

I missed this post when it first went up on the Westboro Community Association blog, which announced a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, which is occurring at the Orange Gallery at 233 Armstrong on April 11.  Tickets for the cocktail night / silent auction cost $30.

Climate Ottawa provides details on the the City's greenhouse gas roundtable, in which Mayor Jim Watson expressed a commitment to setting, meeting and exceeding greenhouse gas emissions targets.

If you live in the Hintonburg / Wellington West area, Childfree has a great post on the latest news from the neighbourhood, along with photographs.

Finally, Maria from I Believe in Story reviews the exhibit Eleven Women Facing War that is currently taking place at the Canadian War Museum.  After reading her review I was motivated to go and see the exhibit for myself.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blog Review: Science and Story

Photo by Arlene Somerton Smith

One of the great pleasures in exploring the Ottawa blogosphere is finding so many interesting people.  Arlene Somerton Smith, a former producer for Rogers Television in Ottawa and now a freelance writer and certified copy editor, is one such person.

As someone who previously did not believe in God, Smith came to the conclusion that science does not tell the full story about the human experience, and that faith can provide an important aspect for understanding who we are.

"I'm a former atheist, so I know all the doubts about faith," she tells me in an email. "But science isn't fully satisfying either.  We need both.  As a former atheist, I know how people bristle in response to words like God or spirit.  I wanted to find a word that demonstrates there's something more going on but that doesn't raise people's hackles.  I like the word story.  If I ask atheists if they have a spirit, they say no. If I ask them if they have a story, they say yes.  We have a body, and something more.  We have science and story."

This thought is the basis of Smith's blog Science and Story, a site that provides an intelligent perspective on faith.  With a new post each Tuesday and Friday, Smith treats the blog as a newspaper column, in which she aims to provide meaningful commentary twice a week.  Recent posts include a discussion on how engaging in physical work for a worthy cause can result in positive feelings, praying in the present tense, and reflections on the true meaning of the worth "Sabbath",

Many of her posts, however, do not touch on faith-related themes. For instance, she has written on:
The study on empathy particularly intrigued me, given that one of its recommendations is to talk to strangers. "Curiosity leads us to meet people from different walks of life and expands our world view," writes Smith, who is married with two teenage children. "When we understand people and relate to them, we’re more empathetic. Curious people enjoy greater life satisfaction."

Smith's attraction to curiosity explains in large part why I like this blog. At no point does she come across as someone trying to convert others to her viewpoint. Rather, she sounds like a kind and intelligent person who is curious about the world, and who wants to engage in dialogue with those around her.

"I started my blog because I got tired of people getting a look of fear or disdain on their faces when I tell them I go to church," says Smith.  "Some people actually back away.  They assume that I am a crazed zealot who checks my brain at the door.  It's very discouraging."

Despite this negative reaction, Smith noticed that many people referred to themselves as spiritual, while being wary of organized religion.  "I want those people to know that there is a place for them," says Smith.  "There are faith communities out there that don't tell people what to think and that encourage doubts and questions."

Besides blogging Smith is a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association.  She also writes fiction and has been published in DESCANT magazine.  In addition, she won the Canadian Authors Association National Capital Writing Contest and was shortlisted for the Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition.

¡Mil gracias David!

Photo by David Scrimshaw
(Creative Commons)

David Scrimshaw is a great guy and all around cool lawyer.  In case you missed it, I recently reviewed his blog, which is a fun read and is worth checking out.  David is also a good photographer, and has kindly offered to share his images on this site. In the coming weeks, I hope to create a slideshow of photos of Ottawa and the surrounding areas that have been taken by different photographers, and I plan to include some of David's images in this collection.  In the meantime, look out for some of his photos in future posts.

Music Monday: Fire and Neon, Loon Choir, Concerts in Old Ottawa South, La Traviata

Photo by Frederic Sune (copyright)

New Releases

Spotlight Ottawa reports that Kemptville's Fire and Neon has released Good Intentions, the first single off their upcoming album.  You can purchase the single for $1 (or more if you wish) from their group's bandcamp page.

Band Reviews

Couch Assassin profiles Ottawa's Loon Choir , a 7 piece indie-rock/art-pop band. According to the review, "2012 featured plenty of highlights for the band, including the release of their second record Fire Poems.  Many great things stemmed from their album release, including a release party at the Rainbow Bistro, two Ontario tours, an East Coast tour and a performance in Ottawa's biggest music festival."

The review goes on to say that the band has received a lot of support from CBC Radio 3, and was in the running for CBC Music's Searchlight contest for Canada's Best New Artist.  Click to the Couch Assassin story for more details.

Upcoming Shows / Concert Reviews

The Old Ottawa South Community Association posts information on the Lenten noon hour concert series for April and May at the Southminster United Church at 15 Aylmer Avenue.  Several exceptional young musicians are scheduled to play, including piano prodigy Suren Barry, star operatic tenor Dustin Hiles, harpist Caroline Leonardelli, and soprano Maghan McPhee.  Concerts will take place at noon on Wednesdays, are free of charge, and will start on April 10.

Spirit of Rasputin says that Ottawa folk trio Finest Kind is playing at the Westboro Masonic Hall at 430 Churchill Avenue on April 20 at 8 pm.  Tickets are $25.

Ottawa Showbox notes that Wednesday is one of the best nights to catch a live music show in town.  The blog goes on to offer up reviews of Wednesday night performances at the Château Lafayette in the Byward Market and Mugshots, the city's only bar located in a former jail.

Finally, Apartment 613 previews and reviews the opera La Traviata at the National Arts Centre.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blog Review: Peggy Blair - Getting Published

Photo courtesy of Peggy Blair
Peggy Blair is an Ottawa-based lawyer, real estate agent and published author of mystery novels.  A former Crown prosecutor and criminal defence lawyer, she is the creator of the Inspector Ramirez series that is set in Cuba.

"Havana is colourful mimes on stilts, elderly cigar ladies, child beggars, feral cats and homeless dogs," Blair writes on her blog bio, as she describes a trip she made to Cuba in 2006.  "It is quite possibly the most interesting place I've ever been.  How could I resist writing about it?"

Her debut novel The Beggar’s Opera was shortlisted in 2010 for the Debut Dagger Award of the (UK) Crime Writers Association.  In 2012, the novel won the Giller Prize Reader’s Choice in Canada, as well as the CBC Bookie Award for Best Mystery/Thriller.

The second book in the series The Poisoned Pawn was released this past February.

Blair's blog contains updates on her writing career, including references to reviews of her novels, as well as advice for budding authors, such as resisting the urge to use a thesaurus when writing dialogue.  She also has guest bloggers who have explained how to build background in a novel, and how to (NOT) submit a work of fiction for publication.  A post from early-February, meanwhile, contains reflections from Blair on how she manages her work as a real estate agent with all of her writing commitments. 

As a fan of mystery novels I am definitely going to read her two books.  I also look forwarding to following Blair's career, who is a proud member of Crime Writers of Canada.

Recipe Sunday: Lamb Meatballs, Stuffed Frittata, Wonton Noodle Soup and more

Photo by ebifry courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

The purpose of this site is to highlight blogs in the Ottawa region.  When it comes to foodie blogs, however, this can be challenging, as the sheer volume of posts is so large one can quickly become overwhelmed with all of the recipes that are posted online.  For this reason, I will only link to one recipe from each blog that has posted a recipe in the previous week.  This way readers can be exposed to all the great blogging chefs in the National Capital Region, without being inundated by the large volume of cooking suggestions.


Barrhaven Bites' last post was in mid-February.  One month later the blog is back, this time with two different recipes for lamb meatballs, and instructions on how to make one large focaccia bread or 12 focaccia buns.

Simply Fresh provides instructions on how to make gingerbread cookies, after telling a funny story about a mix-up with a friend who missed-out on a special cookie prize.

The Gouda Life explores her inner MacGyver, when the fridge is almost bare save some basic pantry items, and comes up with the MacGyvering lunch, i.e. anchovy butter toast with spicy tomato jam and Broccoli Rabe.

Culinarilyinclined celebrated St. Patrick's Day with avocado toast.

Double Trouble Kitchen Edition offers the bold suggestion of egg within a coconut nest.

Eaten Up snaps a photo-recipe of vegetable and fruit salad, accompanied by bread.

Food Gypsy explains how to make lentil sausage bacon casserole.

Mon Food Blog shares his secret for preparing the delicious sounding plate of stuffed frittata with aubergine and goat cheese.

Tea for Two Sisters had a craving for Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup, so following a quick Google search for ingredients and a trip to the T&T grocery store, here are their instructions on how to make this Asian dish.

Ottawa Valley Moms recommends ham and cheese brunch square for Easter morning brunch.

Sybaritica describes how to make the delicious sounding chili cumin jumbo shrimp.

Foodie Prints rounds things out with their recipe for curried spam-fried rice noodles.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blog Review: Pearl Pirie, Ottawa’s blogger extraordinaire

From time to time I will be featuring some of Ottawa's leading bloggers. Today we will look at local poet Pearl Pirie, who is also a foodie and photographer. This article first appeared earlier today on Apartment 613.

Photo courtesy of Pearl Pirie

Ottawa’s blogging community is full of fascinating and thoughtful people. One of the most prolific members of this interesting group is Pearl Pirie, who can be found in more than a dozen local online sites.

Curious to know more about this creative blogger, I spoke to Pearl about her diverse projects, which encompass poetry, photography, cooking and, with one particular blog, observations of the world as seen through the eyes of a cat.

“(Blogging is) a way to organise yourself,” she tells me in a phone interview. “I am going to be writing these things anyways, whether I make them public or not.”

Judging from her large body of work, it is no wonder that she is a full-time writer. For those who are acquainted with her poetry, the blog pesbo is likely a familiar place. This poetry journal contains, among other things, posts about local poetry readings, literary events, festivals and workshops.

Humanyms is another well-known blog, in which Pirie looks at general life in Ottawa and the bright side of things. “Humanyms is a portmanteau of homonym (homo = same, nyma = name) and human,” she writes on the blog’s bio. “To be human is to be many things and when we say we are human we mean many things.”

For most people managing two blogs would be enough, but for Pirie this is only the beginning. Her blog 40-Word Years is an ingenious collection of poem-posts, each 40-words long, that celebrate people who have impacted her life. They include this poignant memory of a farmer, praise for the writer Betsy Lerner, a funny anecdote about store owners, and thoughts about a waiter.

“40-word years is a project by itself,” Pirie tells me. “Usually the first draft is 1 ½ times longer, 60 words long, and then I have to cut it (down to 40-words).” Another poetry-influenced blog isecholoquacious, while Oh Heck and Dream-Nation is a collection of dream logs, although the latter site was last updated in November 2012.
Photo by Pearl Pirie

Her blogging skills, however, are not limited to the written word. Looking on the Bri Side is a photo-blog of pictures of her husband, while Eaten Up is a foodie/photo-blog that specialises in vegetarian and vegan recipes.

For some, Eaten Up offers great suggestions for a non-meat diet. From a visual perspective, however, the site’s appeal stems from the fact that the recipes rely heavily on photographic images as opposed to text.

Photographing food allows Pirie to practice composition skills with her camera. “People move, people shift, people have facial expressions,” she says. “A sandwich not so much.”
Her passion for photography can also be seen in picture i, a photo-blog project that she did in 2010-11 in which she took a different self-portrait each day for a year. Monkeying Around, a photo-blog that followed the adventures of a sock monkey, is another of Pirie’s creations, although this site was last updated in June 2012.

In addition to writing, photography and cooking, Pirie has decided to start blogging about music with her new blog earworm curation that she started earlier this month.
Self-portrait photo by Pearl Pirie

“A lot of people put links to these 80′s bands and I have never heard of them,” she notes with a laugh. “I have never been a music person but there is music in my head.” The posts to date have described different songs that she thinks about.

Finally, there is Catnip and Catnaps, a blog that was written from the perspective of her cat, who has since passed away. While describing this blog, Pirie recounts a tragicomic anecdote of another cat blogger who wrote about a cat who was thinking about death, only to have shocked readers telling the author that they were going to call the humane society. In response, the blogger replied that their cat had passed away and the post was not to be taken literally. ”It’s a weird world in the cat blogging world,” says Pirie with a chuckle.

For those who are keeping count, Pirie also posts at the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, Local Tourist Ottawa, and 4 Seasons Haiku, as well as maintaining her own author site.

Ottawa Photographers: Take Three

Photo by courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

In two previous posts I have highlighted some of the great photographic talent in Ottawa (see here and here).  In this post, I will add to the growing blogroll of photographers in the National Capital Region.

David Forcier's photo-blog contains many raw images, mostly in black and white, and often related to music.   Candis Sabean, in contrast, offers up a completely different camera palette, with colourful images of wildlife, landscapes and works of art.

If you are interested in looking at photographs of world leaders, athletes, politicians and other people in the news, Brair Gable's photo-blog contains photos of, among other people, Prime Minister Harper, Queen Elizabeth II, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Ottawa Senators players in action.

For those looking to hire a photographer for new born, baby, children and/or family pictures, there is Kim Richard. The photo-blog Photo cafe has some gorgeous shots of the Ottawa area, while Metro Perspectives has images from various cities in Canada and the United States, including Canada's capital.

Jeremy Shane Reid writes on his blog that he works at Irene’s Pub and studied photography and graphic design at  Algonquin College.  His online portfolio One Creative Source contains some beautiful images that are at times poignant, intriguing, thoughtful and haunting.

Photographer Mario Cerroni likes to discuss and write about what he sees in his photographs. "I update this blog with a new photo and some writing - usually a poem - as often as I can," he says on his site PhotoDiction.  The images here are truly remarkable, and I look forward to viewing more of his work.

While updated sporadically, Photography by Ramin is worth a look, as is Dan Neutel's site, which contains a breathtaking 360 panoramic view of Ottawa.

Finally, photographer Kimusan manages Relishing, and interesting site that builds on her work with and Le Mien.  Regarding the last photo-blog, followers of Ottawa's photographic scene will recall this project undertaken in 2010-11 when Kimusan photographed 100 strangers.

In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to delving deeper into these and previously mentioned sites, as I highlight the truly impressive photographic talent in the city.

Update (March 26): Today I came across Manifeisty, a great photo-blog by Debra Cowie.

Update (March 30): Found another local photo-blog; click on Dwayne Brown.

Update (April 4):  I have found some other photos-blogs, this time by Mike Steinhauer, Capital Oh and Carmelephant.  At the rate that I am coming across new photographers, I may have to do a fourth-post on photo-blogs.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blog Review: La Cuisine d'Hélène

Photo by Hélène Péloquin
Cooking has always been a part of Hélène Péloquin's life.  "My passion for cooking, especially baking, started at a very young age," she writes on her blog La Cuisine d'Hélène.  "When my mom was helping my dad on the farm I was baking and preparing lunch for them.  I spent countless hours reading the few cookbooks that could be found in the house.  Pictures of the finish dish fascinated me.  I was dreaming of the next dish I was going to prepare."

Growing up on a farm, Hélène spent long hours helping in the large vegetable garden in her home.  This passion for cooking carried over to her adult life when she started her own collection of cookbooks, as well as making sure that her three children had lasting memories of what she cooked and baked at home.

Born in St-Hyacinthe, QC, but now a resident of Ottawa, she created the blog La Cuisine d'Hélène in 2006, which is a goldmine of culinary tips.  If fact, if you are looking to beef up your gastronomic library, this blog is a perfect place to look for new recommendations.  Her posts regularly include reviews of cookbooks, such as this collection of vegan recipes, this work of cooking and gardening tips, a list of the 150 best Ebelskiver recipes, which are traditional Danish pancakes, and a cookbook of gluten-free whole grains recipes.

Photo by Hélène Péloquin
In addition to reviewing cookbooks, Hélène also reviews different products, has the occasional giveaway (see here and here for examples), as well as providing interesting food-related news, such as the new CarrotLines app that is free and which is aimed at helping consumers make healthier choices at the grocery story.

Hélène's also showcases her love of photography on her blog. "When I had my first real job I bought myself a Nikon with couple lenses," she writes on her site's bio. "I now shoot with a Canon Rebel T4i with a macro lens for my food photos.  I much prefer to shoot digital.  I still have my old camera but I don’t use it anymore. Eventually I will take a photography course. I would love to improve my skills and food styling."

Book Review Friday: Stories that you can share with the little ones in your life

Photo by FnJBnN courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

The Ottawa blogosphere contains numerous book review sites that are dedicated to young adult novels and, to a lesser extent, poetry.  What is less common, however, is to find online reviews by Ottawa bloggers for children's books.  That is why this edition of Book Review Friday will focus on some titles that you can share with your little ones.

Children's Books

Kids in the Capital blog recently published a post that contains several recommendations for children's books that are available from the Ottawa Public Library.  While I recommend that you link to the original post in order to see all of the titles, here are some books that caught my attention.

The Inside Tree by Linda Smith tells the story of Mr. Potter, a kind man who decides to bring his dog and a tree inside his cozy home, only to discover that this decision has unexpected consequences.

"Brimming with vocabulary, this humourous story will have little ones guessing what will happen next," writes Kids in the Capital.  "The illustrations capture the craziness of the situation, with Mr. Potter singled out in a bright orange and red striped pattern on every page."

Scooter in the Outside by Anne Bowen is about a dog named Scooter who is walked each day by his owner Lucy.  During his walks, the curious Scooter wants to peak around the corner to see what is there.  However, when he finally gets his chance, he realizes that he is not quite ready yet to be in the world all on his own.

"This is a fantastic read-aloud book, as the text is full of super-fun things to say!" says Kids in the Capital. "Children will like Scooters curious nature and will learn about making careful decisions. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and the story has a happy ending to an outdoor adventure!"

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is about an imaginative little rabbit who knows that a box is not just a box.  With this story children can learn to let their creativity roam free.

"The minimalism of the line drawn illustrations will appeal to even very young children, while the text will inspire readers to stretch their own imagination," says Kids in the Capital. "I love that the cover is brown and rough like a piece of cardboard!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog Review: First Gate Dreamer

Photo by Ron St. Louis (Creative Commons)

I first came across the photo-blog First Gate Dreamer while working on a round-up of local photographers.  From the moment I looked at these beautiful images, I knew this was one blog that I wanted to promote.

"The photos on this site are not always posted for their aesthetic appeal but for the stories and the feelings behind them and what they mean to me," writes photographer Ron St. Louis on his site. "I chose this name to honour the lost art of DREAMING.  More specifically, Lucid Dreaming as practiced by the ancient Toltecs."

Photo by Ron St. Louis (Creative Commons)
There are several steps to master lucid dreaming, explains St. Louis.  "The first step or 'gate' to lucid dreaming is to bridge your everyday consciousness into your dreams by attempting to orient yourself in your dream and to become aware that you are in fact dreaming.  One technique is to try to look at your hands while dreaming."

The photos on this blog cover a wide range of themes.  Some of the images have a spiritual feel to them, such as this one and this one, both of which were taken in India.  Then there is this fabulous photo of a boat, which I originally wanted to use for this review, but decided against it after determining that it is much better to view the original on St. Louis' photo-blog.

Photo by Ron St. Louis
(Creative Commons)
Some of my favourite photos are a series of poignant black-and-white images taken in Ottawa during a snowstorm, such as the shot of the statute of Terry Fox on the right (see the original here).  There is an expression in Portuguese called bella tristeza, or beautiful sadness, that came to mind as I saw these photographs of downtown Ottawa in the middle of winter. There is this wonderful image of a stairwell with icicles, an intriguing shot of a chip wagon covered in snow, and a postcard perfect photograph of a lamppost.

St. Louis' skill extends to landscapes shots, creative photos like this distorted image of a board game, and surreal images like this of what looks like a huge flame of fire.  While the photo-blogs' archives go back to 2006, postings have been sporadic lately.  "I have been far too busy to post much this last year let alone pick up my camera," Ron tells me in an email. "Hoping that changes soon."  I second that motion, as I really enjoy his work.

Development updates from Westboro, Carlington, Kitchissippi and soutwest Ottawa

Photo from Hobolens courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Several posts in the Ottawa blogosphere contain urban development news.  The Westboro Community Association has updated the list on their blog of current projects in the community, while the Carlington Community Association board has decided to oppose a proposal to rezone 1110 Fisher Avenue.  A meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 3, at 7 pm. at the Alexander Community Centre to allow CCA members to discuss the Fisher Avenue proposal.

If you live in Kitchissippi, Councilor Katherine Hobbs has announced on her blog that Fisher Park will undergo major renovations in May.  Bulldog Ottawa, meanwhile, provides an update on the proposed megaproject in southwest Ottawa.

David Reevely of the Ottawa Citizen has posted on his blog figures that show how much it costs the city to provide services inside and outside of the Greenbelt (see chart below, which it taken from Reevely's post).

Finally, Citizens for Safe Cycling have details on a talk on Complete Streets that will take place on March 26 at 5:30 p.m, at 90U Residence Lounge, University of Ottawa, 90 University Private.  The following speakers will be present:

  • Ryan Whitney, of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, will discuss how a Complete Streets policy can direct Ottawa's planners and engineers to create streets that work for all users;
  • Dr. Rosamund Lewis, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Policy and Partnerships, Ottawa Public Health, will discuss the public health benefits of complete streets; and
  • Keith Egli, City Councillor and Chair of Ottawa's Transportation Committee, will welcome guests and voice his support for Complete Streets in Ottawa.

You can RSVP at this link.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blog Review: Gordon Dewis

Photo by Trailmix.Net courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

I have been following Gordon Dewis' personal blog for awhile now.  A self-described geocacher who lives in Ottawa, his blog contains personal musings on a wide range of subjects, weather information (including space weather) and a good blogroll of interesting local sites.

Recent posts include a happy birthday salute to the late science fiction great Douglas Adams, interesting thoughts on moving our clocks forward, (apparently there is no reliable evidence to prove that daylight saving time results in any energy savings, although there is evidence that accidents increase right after the switch), and reflections on a recent trip to New York City.  My favourite post by him this year, however, is this video of boiling water turning into vapour during a particularly freezing day this winter.  In fact, I liked this video so much I included it in my first ever column on Ottawa bloggers for Apartment 613.