Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blog Review: Brian Brooks

Calvert, Texas, 2013
Photo by Brian Brooks (Copyright)

For the next couple of weeks, I plan to highlight some of the great photographers that I have found on the local blogosphere.  Today we continue this series by looking at Brian Brooks.  

It is normal human behaviour to categorize things.  Sometimes, however, it is better not to use labels, and to simply allow a person or object to speak for themselves.

The above thought crossed my mind as I scanned through the tumbler site of Ottawa-based photographer Brian Brooks.  His work cannot be pigeonholed in a single category, as his photos cover numerous subjects: e.g. haunting urban landscapes; thoughtful profile pictures; intriguing rock formations; beautiful artistic shots.  The location of his pictures also vary with such places as Texas, Montreal, Ottawa, Mexico and Australia.

Photo by Brian Brooks

"The goal of my blog and my photography in general is pretty straightforward," Brooks tells me in an email.  "I love making images, share how I see the world with others and experience how other artists view their world.

"I use photography as a way to slow down and take notice of things that usually go unseen or if they are seen, are easily dismissed as we are busy rushing from one place or another, worried about making that meeting or taking care of our daily needs. The idea for me is to stop, reflect and find quality in the everyday objects that surround us or to move in closer and take an object out of its context which leads to abstractions that the viewer can then interpret for themselves what it means to them."

Photo by Brian Brooks
Brooks' description of his work as slowing down time is something I agree with.  For instance, in his profile pictures, such as of the woman above (click here for original) or the young boy on the right (click here for original), the viewer is left with the feeling of being suspended in time.

This feeling of timeliness is also echoed in many of his artistic shots, such as the photograph at the top of this post (original here).  Is this a front porch?  An interesting storefront?  An image from a museum exhibit?  The vagueness of the picture allows the mind to roam for meaning.

Photo by Brian Brooks
Another aspect of Brook's work that I enjoy is his ability to take normal objects and transform them into abstract images.  As a case in point, consider the photograph on the left (original here), which is a close up of a pole covered in the remains of old flyers that have been stapled.  What would normally be a boring, perhaps even grimy object, is suddenly transformed into a beautiful and interesting image.

"In general the subjects I photograph may seem odd and I certainly get a lot of stares from passers-by when I am photographing dumpsters, sides of walls or rocks but there is a inherent beauty in these objects that we otherwise would dismiss," says Brooks, who studied photography at East Texas State University.

Photo by Brian Brooks
Picking up on Brooks' reference to rock walls, I really enjoy his frequent shots of rock patterns, such as the photograph on the right (original here).  For many people boulders and rocks are uninteresting objects. Through Brook's camera lens, however, they are transformed into intriguing and colourful abstract images.

Thanks to the Internet, these excellent photographs can be easily accessed in a way that was not possible 20 or 30 years ago. This is a good thing, for this photo-blog is definitely worth checking out.

"Through social media and specifically tumblr I have been inspired by others photographer's work and have found it satisfying that others appreciate my images as well," says Brooks. "It is a very special age we live in where we can instantly share our images with people the world over and develop relationships where we can discuss our images and art in general."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog Review: Street Photography and Other Snaps

Photograph by Chris Vanderwees

Over the next couple of weeks I will highlight some of the brilliant photographic talent in the city.  To start things off, today I will look at the fantastic photo-blog Street Photography and Other Snaps.

Chris Vanderwees is a graduate student who specialises in street photography. When I came across his tumblr account my jaw dropped; his captivating images capture the full palette of Ottawa street life in a way that I have never seen before. His photos range from the humourous (see above) to the disturbing (see below) to the tender (see the two men embracing a bit further below) and everything in between.

Photo by Chris Vanderwees
"A couple of years ago, I began to walk down Bank Street from the Glebe, through the Centretown area to Rideau Street, looping back down either Elgin or Bank Street," Vanderwees tells me an email.

"This has been my main walking route for a couple of years as a way to unwind from writing a dissertation through the English Department at Carleton University."

Working on his thesis into the late afternoon or early evening he began going on long walks until sundown.

"As I started doing this, I would talk to people on the street, running into interesting, intelligent, and eccentric people, over and over," he says.  "At some point, I decided that I'd carry a camera with me on my walks as a way to keep track of the people I met and the general happenings I saw on the street. And now I bring a camera with me everywhere I go."

Photo by Chris Vanderwees
It is a good thing that he decided to chronicle the people he met on the street, as his photographs provide a wonderful window into our city.  For me, his work left me with the feeling of having become better acquainted with my fellow Ottawa residents.  Whether it's drug users, someone getting a tattoo, regular people going for a stroll downtown, dogs on leashes, friends hanging out, smokers puffing away or a person in a wheelchair, his images paint a full picture of all of the city's inhabitants.

What I particularly like about his photos is their non-judgmental tone.  Everyone is given a chance to display who they air through his lens, even if they are completely different from each other.

"At first, I was using a digital camera, but I couldn't afford a very good one," writes Vanderwees in his email.  "It was compact, but had a long zoom lens. It felt very impersonal to take a photograph of someone with it. At some point, I realized what I was doing was street photography, a kind of documentary photography mostly involving candid situations. I figured that this digital camera would never work for my purposes.... So, I sold the digital camera and switched to a 35mm rangefinder, a camera that produces much nicer images by comparison."

Initially, he uploaded scans of his negatives to his blog so family and friends could see his photos.  He then began carrying a book, where he could write down email and address so he could send scans or prints of his copies if the people being photographed wanted copies.

Photo by Chris Vanderwees
While Vanderwees accepts donations through his site, and also occasionally receives money for developing his photos, his blog is purely a labour of love.

"I don't make any money from what I do with a camera," he says.  "To be honest, I don't really have a goal for this project except to accumulate as many good pictures as possible. I simply enjoy walking, talking to people, and taking photographs on the street. I didn't really expect the blog to gain much of an audience."

Despite his humble approach, his site has been earning a well-deserved reputation, as he now has a little over 1,000 followers.  He also has been contacted by dozens of people about his photos, had web sites asked if they could talk about his work or promote it, and also has sent a few photographs to some magazines.

"I suppose if I collect enough images, I'd be happy to produce a book of photographs with a small publisher," he says.  "Otherwise, my goal is simply to continue walking and taking pictures of people. Now that I've started doing this, it's just something I can't imagine not doing anymore. It's a bit of a compulsion, I guess."

Music Monday: New disk by Fire and Neon; Little Stella video; Her Harbour's new album

Photo by Jacob Earl courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

The local blogosphere is abuzz with several upcoming shows and new releases from area musicians.

Upcoming Shows

Spotlight Ottawa has a post on Fire and Neon's release of their their new disk Intentions on Friday, May 3, at Ritual.  Also playing will be The Love Machine, Zoo Legacy and DJ JFun.  Doors open at 9 pm and tickets are $12 in advance

Birdman Sound notes that Ottawa groups Eat Crow and the band whose name is a symbol will be performing on Saturday, May 4, at Pressed at 750 Gladstone.  Doors open at 9 pm and admission is $4.

Jazz vocalist Renée Yoxon writes on her blog that she will be performing with Mark Ferguson and Joel Kerr on Friday, May 10, at GIGSPACE at 953 Gladstone.  Tickets are $20.

In a separate post, Birdman Sound notes that Deniz Tek & the Golden Breed, with guests Voice Mail, will be playing at the Dominion Tavern at 33 York Street on Saturday May 18.  Tickets are $12 now and $15 at the door.

New Releases and Reviews

PhotogMusic gives a positive reviews of Winter’s Ghosts, the debut album by Her Harbour, the moniker for indie-folk songwriter and musician Gabrielle Giguere.  "Winter’s Ghost is a mix of indie acoustic and orchestral sound folk pop album," reads the review.  "The ways she sings is like slow moving poetry.  She pours her soul and emotion on this 9 track album.  It’s like stepping into a mystical land where it’s magical and mysterious.'

Ottawa Showbox, PhotogMusic and Apartment613 all have posts on the new video by Little Stella for their song "Bluff."

Finally, Ottawa Showbox has a post on the 4/20 show by four songwriters at Avant-Garde at 135 1/2 Besserer.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recipe Sunday: Awesome pancakes, seafood risotto, lamb, red velvet cupcakes and more

Photo by atmtx courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

There are a lot of recipes to share this week.  However, before listing the latest cooking tips to come across my NewsBlur feed, I should note that my Tour de blogosphere column this week for Apartment613 focussed on cooking blogs.  With that in mind, here are some recipes from the local blogosphere.

Recipes - Breakfast

Simply Fresh teaches you how to make the best pancakes in the world.

Recipes - Soups

Eaten Up has a photographic recipe (click on the link to see what I mean) for beet soup.

Recipes - Main Plates

beFoodled suggests the delicious sounding Mediterranean seafood risotto.

Double Trouble Kitchen Edition explains how to prepare orecchiette with feta, peas and pine nuts.

Sheltered Girl Meets World publishes a recipe for grain stuffed pasta shells in the Centretown Buzz.

Sybaritica describes how to cook Easter lamb with gremolata.

The blog wine out loud, which normally focusses on all things wine, expands its blogging repertoire by posting a recipe for easy whole wheat pizza.

In her first post since February, Zahlicous outlines how to cook Brussels sprouts with lemon and pistachios.

Recipes - Desserts

Food Gypsy shares tips for making red velvet cupcakes.

Ottawa Valley Moms can help you indulge your sweet tooth by teaching you how to bake nut caramel fudge.

culinarilyinclined has some intriguing baking ideas for jam-filled doughnut muffins.

Finally, a peek inside the fishbowl links to a few chocolate-related recipes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cocktail recipes, beer reviews and wine recommendations

Photo by Lori SR courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons) 

I am not sure if it's the feeling of spring in the air, and/or if it's me who is delighted about being reacquainted with the sun, but a lot of drinking-related, patio-friendly posts seem to be coming across my NewsBlur feed recently.  (Since Google Reader will soon be kaput, I have moved over to NewsBlur).  Anyhow, below are some beer, wine and cocktail-related posts from the local blogosphere.


Martinis for Breaksfast has posted a couple of cocktail recipes online.  The first is for a Manhattan, while the second is for a Cuba Libre, both of which you can drink while watching Mad Men.

Beer Reviews and wine recommendations

Beer O'Clock has posted recent reviews on the following beers:

Closing things off, Second Ferment recommends some California wines.

Friday, April 26, 2013

ChiSeries Ottawa, new Ian Rankin novel and book recommendations

Photo by henkrup courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

It was a long day at work today so I am only getting around to posting this now. Given that it's late in the evening this is going to be a short post.

Local Writers and Events

Mandy DeGeit participates in a blog hop, while the blog Ottawa Horror has a review of ChiSeries where authors performed fantasy and dark science fiction stories at the Royal Oak on Laurier East.

Upcoming Books

The Bookworm notes that Ian Rankin is publishing a new novel with detective John Rebus this fall.  Saints of the Shadow Bible is scheduled to be published in hard cover on November 7.

Book Recommendations

Maria Vicente of I Believe In Story gives her top eight list of books that are better than movies, while Pearl Pirie describes some of the books on her "to read" list. For its part, Literary Tourist recommends five different children's books, and Only Connect outlines some recent reads that you can add to your reading list.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blog Review: Pictures from the bus, and other tales

Eastern Townships I by Lia Hiltz

Lia Hiltz is an Ottawa-based artist who also happens to work as a foreign service officer.  It is tempting to call her a Canadian diplomat who paints and draws on the side, but this description would downplay her strong artistic talent, as well as her accomplishments in art-related blogging.  While Canadians can be proud that our diplomatic corps is filled with creative people like her, Ottawa residents should be equally pleased that there are such passionate artists living in our midst.

Hiltz is known in the local blogosphere through her wonderful blog Pictures from the bus, and other tales.  The original premise behind her site was to draw pictures of people she saw on the bus, and then post them online, such as the picture on the left.  Over time, however, the blog has evolved.

"We are buying a second car so I can drive my daughter to her new school starting this fall," Hiltz tells me in an email.  "This means that while I will continue blogging, I won't have the bus blog niche anymore.  This hasn't really sunk in yet."

While in the past her blog has focused on her drawings, recent posts feature her paintings, like the one at the top of this page, as well as reviews of local artists, such as this post from last month. "Originally the blog had a heavy artist review element that I am returning to," she says in her email.  "My loose goal is to know who all the area painters are.  How that will look, I don't know."

One of the things that I really enjoy about her blog is how she chronicles her evolution as an artist.  For instance, in this post Hiltz documents her experience experimenting with a scratchboard.  Overall, I found this to be a very original and appealing blog.  Whether it's trying out a new technique, sharing words of wisdom from an art teacher, or praising the work of a local artist, her blog will definitely appeal to artists and art-lovers alike.  If you want to know more about Hiltz you can read this interview from Local Tourist Ottawa.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ottawa Photographers: Take Four

Photo by San Diego Shooter courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Ottawa is filled with  wonderful photographers who showcase their excellent work online.  As of today, I have more than 90 photo-blogs on the blogroll to the right, and thanks to the re-blogging work of Ottawhatwhat?! am discovering several more on a regular basis.  My aim is to highlight as many of these sites as possible, either by mentioning them in round-up posts like this one, or by exploring them in greater detail in separate blog reviews.

I have already published three round-up posts on photo-blogs from the National Capital Region (see one, two and three), as well as writing blog reviews on four different photo-blogs (see here, here, here and here).  My aim is to continue highlighting local photographers in the coming weeks and months, in order to showcase the fantastic photographic talent in our city.  So without further ado, here are some additional photographers that you should check out.


One local artist that I am really excited about is Chris Vanderwees, a street photographer and graduate student living in Ottawa.  "Most of my photographs are impromptu portraits or candid scenes," he writes on his photo-blog bio.  "I primarily work with antique twin lens reflex cameras, shooting medium format, black and white film.  I also carry a rangefinder with me wherever I go."  For me, his primarily black-and-white photos of the street do a fantastic job in capturing the wide range of people who live in our city.

For her part, architect and photographer Eva Russell takes beautiful pictures of Ottawa that showcase the city's natural surroundings and urban landscapes.  In her tumblr photo-blog, she displays overlooked spaces in her Vanier neighbourhood, which range from maple syrup farms to music shows to interesting urban shots, as well as images of Ottawa.  If you want to see more of her work go to her web site or follow her on Twitter.

Another photographer who highlights Ottawa urban-greenspace mix is Lizabeth Bennett.  Her impressive tumblr photo-blog bangbang contains images of such places as Sparks Street, the Rideau River and peaceful urban winter scenes.

If you want to see more photos of Ottawa's East end, then Vanier in the Springtime is worth checking out. Another interesting site is It's a Celebration Bitches!, which contains thought-provoking images of the city, profile shots of people and "artsy" photographs.

Ottawa-based Brian Brooks, meanwhile, has taken some very interesting photographs from such places as Texas, Montreal and Ottawa.  His images include urban landscapes, profile pictures and shots of intriguing rock formations.  His tumblr account showcases most of his work, although some images can be found in a WordPress account, although the latter seems to be dormant at the moment.

Scott H Wilson is another photographer with a great tumblr photo-blog (see here for his Twitter account).  His brilliant photos showcase the natural splendour in Ottawa, such as these great shots, as well as interesting images from the city and daily life.

Other photo-blogs that I have come across and found interesting include Conundrum, tedhed, Hungering Eye and Miao Design.

There are many other photographers that I would like to showcase in the near future, but for now I will stop here, as making this list any longer could become a bit overwhelming.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blog Review: I Believe In Story

Photo courtesy of http://www.ibelieveinstory.com/

Regular readers of this site will recognize the excellent blog I Believe In Story by Maria Vicente, which I frequently link to in my Book Review Friday posts.  Currently a literary agent intern with Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary Agency, Vicente also provides freelance copy editing and book designing services, in addition to her blogging.

I first came across I Believe In Story while researching an article for Apartment613 on blogging bookworms.  Since publishing that Apartment613 story, I have discovered many other writers and bibliophiles in the local blogosphere. Some of these sites, however, have particularly caught my attention – chief among them Vicente's blog, which covers many literary related topics and is one of my favourite book-related online sites in the city.

Like other literary bloggers in town, Vicente pens many books reviews.  However, she also offers other interesting tidbits, such as her Sunday News features that contain a weekly round-up of literary links (click here for an example), her regular series "The 8 List", in which she names eight books that are connected to a specific topic (see here, here and here for examples), as well as giveaway contests, book chats and fun posts like her Literary Fashion series.

"For IBIS, 'literature' means a lot more than books," Vicente writes on her site bio.  "On the blog, all forms of storytelling are celebrated.  Posts about books, movies, television, music, fashion, and the stories of every day life will be published on the blog."

True to her word, her blogging covers a lot of facets of the literary world, and is definitely worth reading.  Thanks to her blogging, my "to read" list has added some interesting books that I would not have heard about otherwise.

Restaurant Reviews: Earl of Sussex, eating in Almonte, The 3 Brewers, Art Is In

Photo of Oregano's in the ByWard Market
by Shek's Aperture courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Now that the weather is getting warmer, here are some recent restaurant reviews that contain some possible suggestions for eating out.

Sybaritica offers a good review of the Earl of Sussex at 431 Sussex.  "Someday, I would love to visit this place in the evening when there is a bit of a crowd but, for a Saturday afternoon, it is a very nice and comfortable place to while away a few hours," reads the review. "I don’t see myself rushing back there for the food, especially, but I still enjoyed my meal and received excellent service.

Turning to the Ottawa Valley, the blog If Music Be the Food of Love, Play on, reviews the Heirloom Café Bistro in Almonte (see also Facebook page and Twitter account).  "Prices are quite reasonable for the setting and food quality," reads the review.  "Service was attentive and helpful. The food exquisitely prepared."

In a separate post, If Music Be the Food ... writes about the clam chowder at Art Is In Bakery (see here for Facebook and Twitter accounts).  For its part, In a Nutshell reviews Supply and Demand.

Finally, Ottawa Citizen food critic Peter Hum gives a lukewarm review of The 3 Brewers at 240 Sparks. "Beef Bourguignon ($14.99) was a disappointing rendition of the great stew, with dry chunks of meat supported by very ordinary sauce and noodles," writes Hum.  "Similarly, a friend who ordered the 3 Brewers burger ($12.99) found it overcooked and tasteless, while the sweet potato fries that came with it were not much better."

As for the beer?  "I’ll share the assessments of the Citizen’s beer columnist Vito Pilieci," reads the review.  "He thinks highly of the white and blond brews, appreciating a glass of the latter that was particularly fresh. But he found samples of the amber thin and the brown roasty but under-carbonated."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Ottawa history, (a bit of food, art and music news), and movies by area filmmakers

Photo by Mikey G Ottawa courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Now that things have calmed down a bit I can get back to semi-regular blogging. Below are some interesting posts that I have recently come across.

Culinary News

The City Bites blog from Ottawa Magazine has a post on the recent opening of Slice & Co at 399 Elgin Street, Centretown's new pizzeria.  In a Nutshell has a review on the new eatery.

Art and Music News

Peter Simpson of The Big Beat reports that Elaina Martin, who created the great summer music festival Westfest, has won the City of Ottawa's top arts award.

Ottawa Showbox recommends some more local bands who are playing Bluesfest this year.  The post looks at FEVERS, Her Harbour, Iconoclast and Mehdi Cayenne Club.

Coach Assasin notes that FILM NATION will be screening at the ByTowne Cinema at 325 Rideau this coming Thursday, April 25, at 7:00 pm.  Tickets are $12.  The screening will showcase 21 years of the work of The Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa Inc., which support Ottawa-based filmmakers.


GlebeSite has some great photographs from the 1920s of the Driveway, which shows what it was like to take a drive by the Rideau Canal almost 100 years ago.

Urbsite looks at the history of the Central Post Office on the corner of Sparks and Elign.

Finally, Ottawa Start blog notes that the old schoolhouse on Slack Road in Nepean is for sale for $950,000. (Here's the listing).  According to the post:
A faded stone above the door has a name "S.S. No 13" and a date "1897". It was better known as Merivale Public School, and operated as a one-room schoolhouse until the newer elementary school was built next door in 1955. After that it had a few uses including an Orange Hall and a Bhuddist centre.  There's a bit more about the history of the building here. 
... According to this page it's now owned by Public Works and is used for training by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recipe Sunday: Baked artichokes, perfect pizza, spent grain recipes, eggplant

Photo by Gonmi courtesy of Flickr

I have been pretty busy the past few days so blogging on this site has been a bit slow.  However, now that I have some free time, here are some recipes from local boggers.

Culinarilyinclined explains how to make baked artichokes.

Sheltered Girl Meets World gives her recipe for spent grain granola.

Eaten Up outlines the perfect pizza.

Double Trouble Kitchen Edition offers up tips for making eggplant with buttermilk sauce.

La Cuisine d'Hélène posts instructions on making granola peanut butter cookies.

Otownmommy suggests a few dishes that contain spent grain, and gives detailed instructions for spent grain banana bread.

Finally, Sybaritica describes how to make snow peas and black fungus.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sporadic blogging over the next few days

Work, family and Apartment613 commitments are keeping me pretty busy at the moment.  So blogging at this site will be a bit sporadic over the next few days.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blog Review: Ottawa Showbox

Photo of Souljazz Orchestra by Alexandre Mattar
courtesy of http://blog.ottawashowbox.com

One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows regular citizens to become journalists.  In fact, I would argue that the blogosphere often contains better information and analysis than many mainstream news sites.  As a case in point, 15 years ago if I wanted to know what was going on in Ottawa I would read a daily newspaper or one of the then existing alternative weeklies.  Today, if I want to be informed about a new condo project, hear about the latest art exhibit, read a review with a local band,  or get a restaurant recommendation, I usually turn to the blogosphere first and the news media afterwards.

The above thoughts often come to mind whenever I read Ottawa Showbox, one of the city's top blogs for local music-related news.  Many moons ago, I used to work for an arts and entertainment weekly called Capital City that was based in Ottawa. At this newspaper, which has long been defunct, we extensively covered local music.  Fast forward more than a decade later, and Ottawa Showbox is doing work that is comparable to what me and my Capital City colleagues were doing years ago, or what the Ottawa (x)press wrote until it folded last year.

Founded in 2012 by Matías Muñoz, Ottawa Showbox focuses on the local music indie scene.  Eric Scharf  subsequently joined the blog to help with its coverage. Together, they produce a pretty impressive amount of work.  The site includes numerous concert reviews (see hereherehere and here for recent examples), as well as stories on new releases (see example posts here and here).  They also publish interviews with people in the music industry, such as this conversation with Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of PledgeMusic, as well as other articles, such as this review of local bands playing at this year's Ottawa Bluesfest.

In short, Ottawa Showbox is a great reminder of the power of blogging, and how people with good ideas and talent can harness the Internet to share their work.  If you are interested in knowing about indie musicians from the National Capital Region, then this is a site that you do not want to miss.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Upcoming beer events, wine suggestions and a breakfast cocktail recipe

Photo by Speaking Latino courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Upcoming Events

Barley's Angels has announced two events that they are planning.  The first is a taste of Cassel Brewery's new Maple Rye, scheduled for April 27 from 5 pm to 7 pm. Tickets are $25 and can be bought via Eventbrite.  The second is a tasting of Quebec beers at Bières du Monde in Gatineau on May 4.  Tickets are $10, include samples and snacks, and can also be bought at Eventbrite.


Ron Eade of the Ottawa Citizen has a story about the historic Cheshire Cat pub in Carp, which burned down due to a fire and which is scheduled to reopen this fall.

Reviews / Recommendations

Beer O'Clock reviews Sorachi Ace (7.6% ABV) from Brooklyn Brewery in New York State, and gives it a score of 3.5 out of 5.

TBBs recommends two bottles of wine.  The first is Ménage à Trois from California, while the second is Kingston Estate Petit Verdot from South Australia.  For its part, wine out loud suggests the Chenin Blanc 2012 from KWV.


The blog wine out loud describes how to make a breakfast cocktail, albeit a "late" breakfast from 11 am onwards.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blog Review: Ottawhatwhat?!

Image by David Berkowitz courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

The blog Ottawhatwhat?! is arguably the Re-post king of the local blogosphere. The site's motto is "Rebloggin' Ottawa stuffs", and true to its name it shares links to numerous local blogs, as well as some sites from beyond the National Capital Region.

If you are looking to expand your list of Ottawa bloggers this is an excellent place to go.  You can think of this site as equivalent to a news wire service for the local blogosphere, which reposts content from a wide range of blogs that many area residents would otherwise not hear of.

To my pleasant surprise, this blogging "wire service" allowed me to discover numerous photo-blogs, quirky sites off the beaten path, and other interesting blogs hidden in cyberspace.  As a result, I was able to add many new sites to the blogroll to the right.  In fact, thanks to the high-number of photo-blogs that are featured on Ottawawhatwhat?!, I now have enough material to write an additional post on local photographers that I plan to post in the near future, which will accompany the previous three summary posts that I have written on local photo-blogs (see here, here and here).

Music Monday: Miss Helvetica Bold, Ottawa Sucks Volume 1, changes at jazz festival

Photo by missionlessdays courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Couch Assassin has an interview with Miss Helvetica Bold, founder of the local burlesque group Rockalily Burlesque and one of the pioneers of Ottawa's burlesque scene.

Apartment 613 previewed and Ottawa Showbox reviewed Ottawa Sucks Volume 1 that took place this past Friday at the Montgomery Legion on Kent.  "This was much more than just a concert," says the OS review.  "It was a gathering, a party for the underground.  The music might be angry, loud and destructive, but the people attending Ottawa Sucks were all hugs and high-fives.  Don’t let the spikes, the leather or the combat boots distort your perspective, there are very nice loving people in the Ottawa punk and hardcore scene."

Ottawa Showbox highlights four local bands that will be playing at this year's Ottawa Bluesfest that you should see.  The groups are A Tribe Called Red, Roberta BondarLoon Choir and Jack Pine & The Fire.

The blog Ottawawhatwhat?! notes that The Book of Mormon, winner of nine Tony Awards, will be in Ottawa in July 2014.

Peter Hum, the Ottawa Citizen's food critic and jazz blogger, writes that the jam sessions at Ottawa jazz festival could be eliminated.  In a recent post, he discusses the pros and cons of ending of these sessions.

Finally, Ottawa Showbox reviewed the show from this past Saturday by Ottawa's The Yips and Kings Quest, as well as Toronto's F Hood.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Development news from around Ottawa

Photo by Mikey G Ottawa courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)
Several development-related posts have appeared in the local blogosphere.  Here are some of the blogs that have been discussing changes to our city.

Spacing Ottawa has a round-up of news articles about urban issues.

For its part, West Side Action has several new posts.  The first deals with Richcraft's proposed plan for the Dow Motors site near the corner of Preston and Carling.  The second is about the construction of the OTrain multi-use pathway from the Ottawa River to Young.  The third and final post is about a meeting between Mizrahi Developments and local residents on the proposed construction of condos on Richmond Road at Island Park Drive

Finally, on an urban but not development-related note, Vanier Now offers their list of 10 vibrant places in Vanier.

Recipe Sunday: spring salad, garlic confit, cheesecake, red velvet cupcakes, and more

Photo by zuki 12 courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Here is this week's round-up of recipes that have appeared on the local blogosphere.  As in previous posts, I will be including one recipe from each food blog that was active this past week.


Eaten Up gives her recipe for onion-apple tart.

In a nutshell describes how to prepare a simple spring salad.

The Gouda Life suggests a dish called a lack of thought, i.e. almond mint arugula falafel with lemony avocado buttermilk dressing.

Food Gypsy outlines how to make garlic confit.

Mon Food Blog offers up spaghetti with white meat ragù.

TBBS gives their recipe for non-mac'n'cheese made with cauliflower.

Desserts and Baking

Thrive offers her tips for making sweet spot and banana carrot muffins with no refined sugar.

La Cuisine d'Hélène recommends caramel crème cheesecakes from the cookbook Desserts in Jars by Shaina Olmanson.

Eat, Drink & be Murray makes the bold claim of baking the best ever red velvet cupcakes.

Double Trouble Kitchen Edition explains how to make maple cinnamon baked donuts.

culinarilyinclined writes about chocolate chip cookie bars.

Ottawa Valley Moms indulge your sweet tooth with peanut butter crispy squares.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Photos of Ottawa from 1895 to the 1950s

Photo by jessica courtesy of Flicrk
(Creative Commons)

Several history-related posts have appeared in the local blogosphere.  In a series of new posts, Ottawa Past and Présent compares different parts of the city from 1938 with how they look today (see here, here and here).  For its part, GlebeSite has a photograph of a roundabout at Elgin and Pretoria from August 1938.

Urbsite has also several posts that look back at local history.  There are pictures of the Aylmer Apartments and the Bate Building that are over 70 years old, as well as photographs from several buildings in the 1950s, including 111 Sussex, formerly Ottawa City Hall and now part of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Other posts contains photos of the Pretoria Bridge traffic circle, as well as a history of the Cecil Hotel, which includes a photo from 1895.

Restaurant Reviews: Japanese, Korean and Thai; best burgers; Peruvian and Indian food

Photo of Elgin Street Diner by Lori & Todd courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

A storm that mixed snow and ice pellets hit Ottawa today.  It's April 12.  This is beyond ridiculous.  While we dream of the elusive spring, here are some recent restaurant reviews that have appeared online.

New Restaurant

Eat, Drink & be Murray gives two big thumbs up to the Elmdale Oyster House & Tavern at 1084 Wellington Street West. "What really blew us away though, aside from the delicious food, was the service and attention to detail of the staff," writes blogger Samantha Murray.  "Even though the place was jammed, the 'Master Shucker' as we like to call him still took the time to come over to give us the run down on what oysters they were currently stocking, and came back to check on us to ensure we were enjoying them."

Restaurant Review - Asian

Sybaritica has three new reviews.  The first is for Hokkaido Sushi at 272 Dalhousie.  "This was certainly not the best experience I have had in a Japanese restaurant but the fault lay more with my misplaced expectations than anything done by the staff," says the review, which scored the restaurant 4 out of 5.

The second is for Alirang Korean Restaurant at 134 Nelson which received a perfect score of 5 out of 5.  "My meal at Alirang was probably the nicest I had during my whole week long visit to Ottawa and I would be tempted to keep the place a secret except that it already enjoys a popularity that keeps it very busy already," writes blogger C. John Thompson

The third is the Royal Thai Restaurant at 313 Dalhousie, which got a score of 4 out of 5. "I quite liked the Thai appetizers I was served and the ability to order from two quite different end extensive menus made this joint establishment an interesting place to dine," says the review.

Best off ...

Ottawa Richshaw gives its list of the top 5 places to get burgers  in the city, while Meaghan to the Max lists some of her favourite restaurants in town.


Peter Hum, the food critic for the Ottawa Citizen, enjoyed his experience at Amazonas Peruvian Restaurant at 19 chemin Eardley, Gatineau. "My dining companions said they would be returning to Amazonas for the hearty food and the trips down memory lane it inspired," writes Hum.  "But for those of us, who will never get closer to Peru than this kind and unassuming restaurant, Amazonas works just fine too, like a humble revelation."


Pickles writes about Anthony's, a pizza eatery at 1218 Wellington. "On every visit we’ve had friendly and attentive service and great food," says the post.  "The prices are reasonable and there is the usual small charge for the gf crust."


Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen gives a positive review of Chillies Tandoor & Grill Company at 2679 Alta Vista Drive.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blog Review: The $10 Life / Rose's Cantina

Photo of Ottawa as seen from the Museum of
Civilization by wvs courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

In 2009, Ottawa-based writer Rose Simpson wrote an essay for the Globe and Mail called We're Living the $10 Life, where she described how the once promising lives of her and her husband were turned upside down, (both went from being successful professionals to working $10 hour jobs).  The piece ended up being the most read article on the Globe's facts & arguments page for that year.

Following the publication of this story, Simpson started the blog The $10 Life: How I Lost Everything and Found Myself, to provide readers with more details of her family's daily struggles.  "Don’t get me wrong; we have a lot of fun," she wrote in her initial post on April 5, 2010.  "Our life is richer than ever as we discover life beyond the material.  I’d like to know your stories, too, because I have discovered in adversity there is community."

Fast forward three years and Simpson, whose is married and has three kids,  blogs regularly on current events with posts that combine her healthy dose of cynicism, funny observations and political / social insights.  Her blog is a recognised local site, (in February 2011, Ottawa Start named The $10 Life one of 26 essential blogs in Ottawa), while she also manages another blog called Rose's Cantina, which she started in the summer of 2011.  Both of her blogs share content, but from what I have gathered, The $10 Life currently provides thumbnails for her stories, while Rose's Cantina is where readers can find her full posts.  As such, I will refer to the latter when linking to stories for this review.

Having previously written for the now defunct Ottawa Journal, the Ottawa Citizen and the Regina Leader-Post, Simpson has a lot of journalism experience.  This background clearly shows in her writing which is brilliant.  Recent posts range from the hilarious, to an eye-opening analysis of her neighbourhood, to witty political commentary, to a fantastic post on why Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield should get the Order of Canada.

Both blogs provide everything that you could want from a columnist, namely, a good sense of humour, smart commentary, a strong sense of community, lots of curiosity, and perhaps most important of all, the ability to make her readers feel like they have a better sense of Ottawa and the world around them after reading her posts.  I must confess that I did not follow either of these two blogs closely until fairly recently, which is something that I will definitely change after discovering Simpson's great writing.

Book Review Friday: Kathy Buckworth, Tracy Beckerman, Mandy DeGeit and more

Photo by el rojos courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)


Julie Harrison of the blog coffee with Julie ... reviews I Am So The Boss of You, as well as talking with author Kathy Buckworth.  With tongue in cheek, the book imagines a world where corporate policies are implemented at home, and where Mom is the undisputed boss.

Domestique Manger, meanwhile, speaks with Tracy Beckerman, author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir: How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs.


The Bookworm writes about Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron. "That last word (darkness) certainly spells out the tone of the novel," says the post.  "It’s a traditional Southern tragedy involving the Loftis family.  It’s no (sic) much the story of a dysfunctional family as it is a broken family."  The book is being turned into a movie, the post adds.

Ottawa-based writer Mandy DeGeit has a guest post as one of the authors in the recently released anthology 50 Shades Of Decay that was put out by Angelic Knight Press.

If you are looking for other fiction recommendations, Maria from I Believe in Story lists eight novels that cheer her up, and eight other books that are set in Europe.

Young Adult Novels

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf highlights Arrow of the Mist by Christina Mercer, a fantasy novel that was released in March.  The story tells the story of Lia, 15, who along with three other travel to the forbidden land of Brume to find a cure for a barbed root that is poisoning woodsmen.

Pingwing's Bookshelf reviews Unremembered by Jessica Brody, which tells the story of a teenage girl who miraculously survives a plane crash, but who has no memories of her life before the accident.  Even stranger,  she is not on the passenger list, nor can her DNA or fingerprints be found in any database.

A Glass of Wine reviews Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, a debut novel about a single mother who reconstructs the last days of her teenage daughter's life.

Other reviews on the local blogosphere include Lost at Midnight Reviews look at Nameless by Lili St. Crow, and Glass of Wine's post on Jane Austen Goes To Hollywood by Abby McDonald.


April is poetry month, and to celebrate Kids in the Capital recommend a series of poetry books for children that are available at the Ottawa Public Library.  Amanda Earl has a series of recommendations for spring poetry, while the Ottawa poetry newsletter discusses the recent poetry collections Scientia by Jordan Abel and Other Brief Discourses by Abby Paige, both of which were published this year by above/ground press.

Short Stories

Finally, I Believe in Story recommends the shorty story collection The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which was published in 1979.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Upcoming Events: Museum of Nature; folk concerts; National Wildlife Week

Photo by xcode courtesy of Flickr
(Creative Commons)

Have no plans for this weekend?  Read Apartment613's round-up of upcoming activities.  Looking for other things to do beyond this weekend? See this list from Ottawa Start Blog, as well as the summary of events below.

Events in April

Green Living Ottawa notes in a post that the Canadian Museum of Nature has a series of events and exhibits this month on the Arctic.

Geek Girls Dinner Ottawa announce that their next event will take place on Tuesday, April 16, as award-winning author Shari Graydon shares how her organization, Informed Opinions, is building women’s leadership through media engagement and bridging the gender gap in public discourse.

In a recent post, the Spirit of Rasputin lists the following events:
  • The Great Canadian Song-a-Long in which songwriters compose a song to one of several predefined set of topics.  The shows are scheduled for Friday, April 12, and Saturday April 13.
  • Finest Kind, a folk trio from Ottawa, are also playing the Westboro Masonic Hall, 430 Churchill on Saturday, April 20.
  • The Ottawa Grassroots Festival is set for Saturday, Apr 27, and Sunday, April 28, at the Rideau Curling Club, 715 Cooper St, corner of Percy. 
  • Finally, on May 1 at 7:30 pm, there is Gil’s Hootenanny songs of protest, songs of hope.  This event is set to occur at the Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Avenue..
Events in May

The Old Ottawa South Community Association has details on The Tracey Arnett Realty 2013 Hike for Hospice that will begin at The Hospice at May Court on Sunday, May 5th at 9 am..

The Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Association notes the upcoming production of the Drowsy Chaperon,  a musical comedy set in the 1920s.  The show runs from May 7 to 11 and will take place at the Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre.  For more information you can read this article from West Carleton EMC.  To purchase tickets online go to www.ruralroot.org/drowsy or call the box office at (613) 832-1070.

Twitter Talks about Summer Fun

Ottawa Rickshaw took the twitterverse to find out what people were looking forward to this summer.  Click here to see what they found.

National Wildlife Week

The blog Green Living Ottawa has a post about National Wildlife Week.  According to the post, to celebrate this event the Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge is organizing Ottawa Goes Wild, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 13 (rain date Sunday April 14) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brewer Park.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) also is inviting people to sign up for their Walk for Wildlife program, with events across Canada.  A local walk is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, when the CWF will lead a walk through the beautiful Fletcher Wildlife Garden from 9:30 to noon.

Blog Review: Meaghan to the Max

Photo courtesy of http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com/

Imagine that you are drinking coffee in a café when you suddenly strike a conversation with an interesting stranger.  "My name is Meaghan and I work at Foreign Affairs Canada," the woman tells you, as you observe the numerous tattoos on her arm and just below her neck.  Intrigued by her intelligence,  you begin a conversation about authors, the best restaurants in Ottawa, and Meaghan's upcoming move to Jordan with her husband, where she will be posted at the Canadian embassy in Amman.

Welcome to the blog Meaghan to the Max by Meaghan King, who self-describes as a lover of making lists ("I probably think too much about the future"), an owner of a great Dane, and a person who enjoys, "scientific studies that support my level of coffee consumption."  Reading through her posts, Meaghan strikes me as someone with a great sense of humour and who is not shy about expressing her wit.  For instance, consider this review of the novel Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore:
This book is everything that Douglas Coupland isn’t, by which I mean it’s excellent and references technology and young people without making those young people sound vapid and incompetent. It’s also about books, and secret societies, and weird smart girls.
You should probably read it.
She can also poke fun at herself, while making no apologies for who she is. "The tattoos, of course, are cool for now, although I’ve been told by many an older person that I’ll regret them, so check back," she writes on her blog bio.

In terms of content, the posts are a random collection of Meaghan's interests. There are posts about her upcoming posting in Amman, in which she will also spend time in Baghdad, the rare recipe, her list of favourite food eateries in Ottawa, (I found myself nodding in agreement as I read through her choices), thoughts on a recent trip to Mexico, posts on books she's reading, and an answer to the question about how her work colleagues will react to her tattoos.

Given that The Ottawa Blogging Library is dedicated to bloggers from the National Capital Region, it's fair to ask if I will include this blog on the blogroll once Meaghan moves to Jordan.  The answer is obvious: Of course I will.  Given that I regularly follow a blogger who lives in Nunavut, I see no reason why we can't follow the adventures of an awesome Canadian diplomat from the Middle East.  Which is my unsubtle way of telling Meaghan that I hope she continues blogging from Jordan and Iraq.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blog Review: rob mclennan's blog

Photo of rob mclennan by Pearl Pirie
(Creative Commons)

Ottawa writer and blogger rob mclennan is a local literary treasure.  Among his numerous accomplishments, he has authored 26 books, including two novels, the non-fiction work Ottawa: The Unknown City, essay collections and numerous volumes of poetry.  In addition, he has published more than 110 poetry chapbooks, contributed to more than a dozen anthologies, and edited about two dozen other literary works.

Remarkably, his impressive career includes much more than his numerous published writings.  When you add the fact that he wrote for the now defunct Ottawa (x)press, has won awards for his poetry, been shortlisted for other prizes, and received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Arts Council, his career is a truly distinguished one.

Given the large body of work produced by mclennan (his name is spelled all lowercase), I plan to write a feature on him in the near future.  For the purposes of this review, however, I will focus on his personal blog, which is almost certainly one of the the most important literary sites in the National Capital Region.

Launched in 2003, the blog contains information on mclennan's writing career, similar to other author web sites.  His blogging, however, also contains a lot of other information, such as a large number of interviews with other authors and many, many book reviews.  "I wanted to have a web site where you could find everything that I am writing," mclennan tells me in a phone interview.  "But I also didn't want it to be focused solely on me."

While his blog covers poetry extensively, it also contains information from other writers.  One of my favourite parts of the blog is the numerous published interviews with a wide range of authors.  To give you a sense of mclennan's prolific blogging, here are the authors that he has interviewed in the past three weeks alone:

In our phone interview, mclennan told me that has interviewed approximately 800 writers since 2007. These interviews are on top of a huge number of book reviews, posts on literary news (such as the induction last month of local poets William Hawkins and Greg “Ritalin” Franks into the first annual VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour), and updates on mclennan's own writing career. In short, this site is essential reading for anyone who wants to know about current poets and writers, as well as keeping current on Ottawa's literary scene.