Although I am pretty torn on whether I would actually want to own a cottage, there is no doubt that I always love going to other people’s cottages. It’s a little bit like my relationship with pools and boats.
Luckily, we have some friends who are kind enough to invite us up to their cottage about an hour north of Ottawa at least once a year. Last weekend, they invited us up along with another family we are friends with to enjoy the lake and escape the heat of Ottawa. (Sunday was the warmest day in the past two years!)
After packing up what felt like most of our house, we were ready to go and we spent the weekend just as I’d want to at the cottage. We sat in the sun on the dock, ate lots of food, drank some cold pops, and swam in the lake. The kids all played great together, Lil’ E barely got out of the water the entire weekend, and the rest of them tried for hours without success to catch fish off the dock with a net. Sunday was a bit rough as we managed to stay up until about three in the morning on Saturday night talking around all sorts of nonsense before getting to bed.
The cottage was a perfect respite from work and home and the small roadtrip got us excited to head out on our more substantial one next weekend
Wow – summer is here and already it feels like it is flying by. After kicking off the summer with less than stellar weather, we’ve finally had a good stretch and the warm weather is most welcome.
The last few weeks have gone by so quickly; I had a quick work trip to Paris that Heidi joined me for, school ended for the kids, the big guy celebrated his fifth birthday, I acknowledged mine and we had a visit from my sister and her family after Canada Day. This weekend we had another visitor and took advantage of the great weather to get to the beach and play some golf. A couple of photos below wrap up this blur of three weeks. It seems like this pace will continue over the next couple of weeks before we leave for our own summer vacation.
This year we have left our vacation plans until the second part of the summer which I enjoy doing because by the time people at work are starting to return from their own vacations, we are just taking off and sometime the anticipation is just as much fun as the event.
Starting at the end of July, we have a trip to the Maritimes planned with stops in Gaspe, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. A couple of other camping trips will round out the summer.
What plans does everybody else have for the summer? I trust that I am not alone in feeling like this summer is already slipping by too quickly.
Over the past couple of years, my brother-in-law and I have made an effort to set aside at least one night each year to take our daughters camping. The cousins love spending the uninterrupted time together without their brothers and they are at an age now that makes it a pretty relaxing trip for the fathers too.
Since we only go for one night, we stay close to Ottawa, heading to Fitzroy Harbour and to Lac Phillipe in the past. This year we went to a park, Murphy’s Point, that I hadn’t visited in 12 years – since the first spring I was in Ottawa.
We were lucky to have great weather, and a great site (#29) to enjoy the park. After a quick lunch stop in Perth at Retro Fries, we headed out to set up camp. I always like to go on at least one short camping trip at the beginning of the year so I can remember everything that I have forgotten to put back in the bins or that has broken the year before that hasn’t been replaced. This way, I have a chance to make the adjustments without too many consequences. This year, it didn’t take long to figure out that I had forgotten to charge our pump so after it made a small dent in the air mattress, I was left to blow up the rest myself. Luckily, beyond batteries for flashlights, it didn’t seem that we forgot anything else too crucial.
After a break to sit in the sun and enjoy a cold beverage, we did the short but satisfying Sylvan Trail, a 3km loop that provides a nice view over Big Rideau lake.
We returned to our campsite for dinner and a big fire including smores before tucking in for a pretty chilly night as it dropped down to about five degrees.
The next morning we woke up to sun and once we had breakfast and packed up we rented a canoe for a couple of hours to enjoy the nice weather on the lake. After the girls even did some swimming (water was still freezing!) we had a picnic at the beach before heading home.
Just one night of camping was a good reminder that a trip doesn’t have to be long or far from home to serve as a nice break. Even though we were gone for less than 30 hours from door to door, it felt refreshing to get away from home and experience something different.
I am certain, after being told numerous times, that buying Christmas or birthday gifts for me is near to impossible. Despite that, I know my parents always put great care into thinking of gifts that are shippable, useable and wanted. This year, that led them to purchasing a gift certificate to a relatively new service in Ottawa called Chefx.
The basic premise of Chefx is that they provide and deliver all the ingredients you need to make a great meal after working with local chefs to develop easy-to-follow, step by step recipes which are also provided. I remember reading about it when it was first started; I believe the entrepreneur is a former public servant who had the guts to strike out on his own with this new idea.
There are two meals offered each week and you are able to choose which one(s) you would like by selecting through the website. I found the website a little confusing, but part of that was because I was using a gift certificate rather than traditional ordering. For our first meal last week, I ordered the Lemon leek lamb patties, a recipe developed by Marysol Foucault from Chez Edgar. This is a great little restaurant on the Gatineau side of the river that I would recommend to anyone visiting Ottawa – I have been a few times and it has always been stellar so I expected that her recipe wouldn’t let me down either.
The ingredients are all delivered in a cooler to prepare the meals for that week. The delivery came on Sunday and after unpacking, it was clear that they think of everything. All the ingredients are clearly labelled and the only thing missing was the salt and pepper. (which was noted on the recipe)
Putting the recipe together still involved some chopping, various steps of cooking, and messing up the kitchen a bit so it is certainly more involved than ordering take-out but I’d say it is much more satisfying as well, and healthier I’m sure. I had my sous-chef, Lil’ E, to help me through the process. The ingredients were all top-notch, clearly they have a better source of produce than I do for the middle of winter in Ottawa.
We were so eager to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the final result but it actually came together pretty much like the picture on the website – I was impressed with that! The recipe was delicious and a departure from what I would typically cook. The portions were also very generous – I ended up eating it in my lunch the next day as well.
Although I meant to post this last week, after doing another meal this week (elk burgers with pistachio winter green salad) , I think this service is certainly something that I will do on an ad-hoc basis. I am not sure that I could always keep up with a subscription that included one or two meals each week.
Even though my phone alerted me that it was -29 degrees (Celsius) yesterday, one thing that I always appreciate about this time of year though is that it gives us a chance to settle into routine a bit and get some things done that we seem to get through during the rest of the year. Ottawa has some unique outdoor activities in the winter that we try to take advantage of at least a little bit. After all, it is a four-season country and some of those seasons are longer than others so giving up on winter would be quite a waste.
Together as a family we brainstormed a list of things to do in Ottawa before the end of winter. (Which I consider to be March break, even if it often isn’t!) Many of these are things we have done in winters past but it is nice to have traditions.*
*As per my family custom, if any activity happens more than once it instantly attains ‘tradition’ status
Canadian Museum of History – The children’s museum at the former Museum of Civilization is always a hit and since we usually only go about once a year, it is a good opportunity to check out the special exhibits. A spin through the regular exhibitions is interesting as well; even if Canada’s history hasn’t changed since last year, the kids’ interests have and they tend to gravitate to different things each time.
National Art Gallery – Our attempt to ingest some culture; we usually get to this gallery once a year as well and wonder why we don’t go more often. On the weekends, they run Artissimo which has interactive components for the kids that have been quite a hit in the past.
Skating – Over the Christmas holidays we finally got the Big Guy going on skates so it should be fun to do this as a full family now. Of course, Ottawa is most famous for the Rideau Canal but there are other great spots for a family skate as well. After discovering the great ice at the Rink of Dreams last year, we will definitely be back there and Lil’ E was also intrigued by the rink at the Governor General’s residence, originally built in 1872 by the Earl of Dufferin. The new skating court at Landsdowne also looks interesting to check out so there is no shortage of places to try.
Hockey game – I realized that the Big Guy has never been to one. I am not too sure that he has the attention span to sit through one, and Lil’ E is terrified of mascots but I think we will still give this a try, either with some cheap Senators tickets through Stubhub or one of the Family Packs that the 67s (our local junior team) have been advertising.
Museum of Nature– We still have our annual pass but have not yet been to check out the new special exhibit on Arctic Voices, so I expect we will do that soon. The transformation of this museum over the past years has been amazing and has really made it into a favorite for the kids. Ottawa is lucky to have this museum in addition to all the others.
These were the few ideas that we came up with to keep us busy over the next couple of months but there are also lots of good ideas on local blogs such as Kids in the Capital, OttawaStart, and others.
As a function of the way our days work, since I leave early before the kids are even dressed, I get home first with the kids and often while they are eating their snack after school, I will be starting to prepare dinner. They ask some pretty funny questions, particularly about meat – what kind of animal is that? what part of the body does it come from? what are you doing now? It makes me proud that they take an interest in what actually goes into a meal and how it’s made. I think they have watched enough ‘Chopped’ and ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’ to see cooking as something that is exciting and their interest is piqued.
More recently though, instead of being bystanders, I have tried to incorporate them a bit in making the meals and for the most part, they’ve been pretty enthusiastic. This works pretty well (most days) for a couple of reasons; it keeps them busy while I get dinner ready, and it seems to result in them being more likely to eat what we make.
A real favorite to make seems to be chicken fingers – since they both love eating them and they also seem to enjoy the assembly line process of putting them together. Other things we have made recently include meatloaf, cinnamon buns, pizzas and some homemade macaroni and cheese. The big guy is always in charge of stirring, and likes to think he should also be in charge of breaking in the eggs, which usually puts me in charge of sifting out egg shells for the next few minutes. Lil’ E is a bit more versatile now, and also a little less to clean up after.
I have found this to be a really fun activity to do with the kids, and have started to learn a few things about how to make it more enjoyable. I know enough now to have everything prepped prior to getting them involved, and also to work with them to pick a recipe that they are interested both in making and in eating.
One of the great things about living in the nation’s capital is the availability of many great museums and historic sites that draw in tourists from across Canada and other countries. Despite this, I think a lot of people in Ottawa may take these for granted but we have tried our best not to become part of this group, visiting our favorites on a pretty regular basis. This summer we managed to hit four of them – The Nature Museum, where we have a pass, the Canada Food and Agriculture Museum, the Canada Space and Aviation Museum and finally, the Canadian War Museum.
The kids have aspects of all of these that they really enjoy so it is fun to take them and try to hit a few different parts each time without the pressure to take it all in at once.
One thing that ensures we make regular visits to these museums is the ability to visit them for free, with a little legwork. Most of the museums in Ottawa are free on Thursday nights after 4pm – an incentive to get people out that may not make a visit otherwise. Another tool we also take advantage of are the museum passes that are available through the Ottawa Public Library. I think these are both an excellent idea to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to visit the museums that are meant to represent all aspects of our country. I know that without them, we would be guilty of not visiting as often.
a work in progress – our adventures here and there