Monthly Archives: April 2010

Parenting tip: Bargain hunting at garage sales

Kids and their stuff can cost a lot of money. They move through clothing and toys so quickly it can be painful.

Shopping at consignment stores and sales is one way to save money but in the spring and summer months in Ottawa another great way to save money is to hit garage sales.

I am VERY lucky because my mother is practically garage sale royalty. She knows the tricks to not only get great stuff, she gets it for great prices. And passes it on to my kids! I would guess that at least 80% of the clothing and toys my children have are from garage sales.

I go out a few times a year too though and am thankful for the strategies and tips my mother has passed along to me. And now, with her permission, I pass some of them along to you ūüôā

My 3 cuties, all in garage sale found outfits

– Knowing where you’re going ahead of time saves lot of wasted time trying to figure out where the garage sales are. You can look up garage sale postings online the night before and figure out what route makes most sense for you to take to be most efficient.

For me personally, I stick to the big community sales to get the most bang for my buck. I’ll be at the Blackburn Hamlet community sale this Saturday and there are two big ones on May 15 in Fallingbrook and Riverside South, not to mention the Great Glebe Garage sale and many more.

– For kids’ stuff you can do drivebys. If you drive by a garage sale and see an exersaucer or any other big children’s item, the chances are they have more stuff for kids and it’s worth stopping and having a look.

Q in a garage sale rocking chair and sleeper

– Bring exact change. Lots of loonies and toonies, a few quarters and $5 (depending on how long your list of items is). And for any large items keep the maximum amount you’re willing to pay with you. You don’t want to ask for change after you’ve been bargaining a person down.

– Keep in mind what is being sold is generally not the latest in styles. For kids they’re typically what was being sold 3-5 years ago

– Know what things are worth. Check the ads. My mother’s¬† recommendation is that you don’t pay more than 25 cents on the dollar… sometimes the asking price can be as low as 5 cents on the dollar. Once my parents bought a very large set of building blocks
for $4. Before they bought it they talked to the seller and she told them that a few specific pieces were broken/missing.They weren’t concerned about those pieces and so for them, it was a great buy.  When they looked things up on the Internet, they found that the original price for a slightly newer model was $80.

– Some sellers are happy to negotiate and others are not. Don’t be afraid to try to negotiate and don’t get upset if people seem offended you’re trying to negotiate. You have a right to ask, they have a right to say no.

Q in a garage sale outfit and exersaucer

– If the price is higher than the maximum you set before you left home and the seller isn’t happy to negotiate into your price range, keep walking.¬† Sometimes, I’ll feel the need to explain. Phrases like “that’s more than my budget, but thank you so much” can be helpful. My mother often talks of the biggest price difference. She saw a highchair she liked and was told it was $40. She walked away and found exactly the same highchair 4 doors down for $10.

РAsk if the price can be negotiated if you buy a lot  (of the same thing or of different things).

– If items are not priced, find out the price of 2-3 specific items before you start to look through. The first 2-3 that come to hand are just fine. What you want to avoid is spending 15 minutes selecting things, then finding out that their firm price is five times more than your planned price.

K in a garage sale outfit sitting on his garage sale IKEA chair.

– If the buyer really doesn’t know what they want to charge for something, suggest a price (like the 25 cent on the dollar rule). They may accept this or there may be a round of negotiation.

– Remember that all sales are final. Take the time to check items out carefully.

It’s an amazing money saver and worth the time to head out and do the work a couple of times a year. I’ll be in Blackburn hunting for deals this Saturday with Capital Mom and Some Kind of Wondermom. If you want to join us, let us know!



Filed under Parenting tips

Ottawa Public Library: Treasures for the Little Ones in Orleans

by Isabelle

I still remember going to the library with my mom as a preschooler. I don’t know how often we went, but I do know that every time we did, I took out a huge stash of books, often the same ones over and over again. Now that I have my own preschooler, I love our library trips. We are huge readers, and going to the library means that we’re getting a little variety in terms of bedtime stories. With four books every night, we go through them pretty quickly.

My local branch of the Ottawa Public Library¬† is on Orleans Boulevard. It has a good selection of books for preschoolers in both English and French. There’s also a smaller section of board books, again in both languages, for babies and toddlers. The children’s section at the Orleans branch has kid-sized tables and chairs as well as a rocking chair for moms and dads.

This particular branch offers a number of different programs for kids of all ages. For instance, it offers several sessions of Babytime¬†and Toddler Time each week, with stories, songs and games for the tiniest library aficionados. For preschoolers, the Orleans branch offers Storytime¬†sessions on weekdays, and older kids (6-9) are invited to special events at the library, such as the Springfun program in April, where kids will hear a story, do a craft and participate in other activities. All of these programs are identified as “bilingual” on the library site, although it is unclear whether the stories and activities will be presented in English and French to the same group, or whether groups will be divided up according to language. For kids who need a little bit of help with schoolwork, the Orleans branch also offers a homework club on Saturday mornings for grades 1-10.

My little guy loves the library and I look forward to bringing my daughter to the baby programs when she’s a little bit older. No matter the season, a Saturday-morning trip to the library is always a treat for our family!

Isabelle is the mom of 3.5 year old Jay and two-month old Rosie. You can also find her at Dr. Peach’s Blog.


Filed under Activities for kids, Books, Free, Outings

ABC Challenge : Week 3

Week three of the challenge already! Every week the group is growing and a wonderful suggestion was made to have a picnic at the end of the challenge for all the participants.  So keep your eyes open for something scheduled for mid July or so!

Photography tip #3

Natural light is your friend.

There are lots of reasons to try to take photos without your flash:

– flashes often blow out the photo so the person’s face is too bright

– flashes can distort the look of people

– flashes can eat up your battery power so it either takes longer between shots or just kills your battery really fast

Try taking more photos outside or just by a window.¬† But remember if you’re by a window not to put the person up against the window or that will likely just cause the photo to be backlit. And direct sunlight isn’t always your friend either (I distinctly remember the photographer on my wedding day wishing it weren’t quite so beautiful and sunny out).

Here are a couple of articles by people who can say it better than I can on flash photography and using natural/available light.

Coincidentally Shawna, one of our contributors, just recently wrote a post about turning off your flash too – check it out!

Question: Is anyone interested in offering a tip for one of the weekly posts? Either a photography tip or a great spot in the Ottawa to go to take photos. Email me at kidsinthecapital(at)

My two picks for this week:

C is for climbing
C is for climbing2

P is for playing (obviously flash isn’t always bad ūüôā
P is for playing

Participant photos

I am giddy with delight and how many of you are joining up and adding photos each week! Remember to post your photos to the letter discussion page as well as to the main pool.¬† Go visit the pool. And tell people how much you like their photos, comments always feel so good! ūüôā

Here is a sampling from new photos posted this week:
the runaway

jhscrapmom takes gorgeous photos and has also been a huge asset in helping me figure out this flickr stuff ūüôā This looks like a great spot to go and take photos – maybe she’ll share where it is! (Z is for zoom)
Early Morning

I love this breastfeeding photo by Tiana. So quiet and peaceful. (Q is for quiet)
440:1000 At the firestation TtV

Dani was one of my inspirations for this challenge and I love that she’s taking part! I love the way these TTV photos look! Also very thankful for her flickr help ūüôā (v is for vehicle)

Week Two - C is for Climbing

This photo by Stella is just so sweet -I can’t get enough! (c is for climbing)

Can’t wait to see all this week’s submissions.¬† Snow forts perhaps? ūüėČ


Filed under Photography

McDonalds (any one with a play structure)

by Shawna

Like many parents, I have a love/hate relationship with McDonalds.¬†I know, it’s accepted, even expected, by a lot of people that I wrinkle my nose in distaste at the mere mention of the golden arches.¬†The fat, the salt, the sugar, not to mention the factory-like approach to food (excuse me, “food”), the promotion of monoculture farming, the contribution of the fast-food industry¬†to obesity, both¬†childhood and adult, the rampant, in-your-face commercialism of their cross-promotions, the inculcation of the¬†disposable lifestyle mindset… well, you get the idea.¬†I’m supposed to shudder delicately and assert that my precious snowflakes would never eat at such a place, what with their 100% organic, chock-full-of-whole-grains, locavore lifestyle.¬†And yes, this is the ideal I suppose.

But here’s the thing: I live in the suburbs where choices for fast, kid-friendly food can be hard to find outside the big chains.¬†We’re busy. And sometimes, well, we’re on the go, and it’s lunchtime, and we didn’t get a chance to pack those nutrient-rich kelp-and-brown-rice rolls that toddlers love so much,¬†and it’s the middle of winter and hey, lookee¬†there, a McD’s¬†with a play structure, and our kids have spotted it too and know that playing and acquisition of toys happens there, as well as consumption of not-nutritionally-perfect-food, and they’re asking us to stop.

So we go in. We order a couple of Happy Meals (one cheeseburger with no pickles or¬†mustard, one McNuggets) with milk,¬†and ask for no salt on the fries of the first and¬†compromise by¬†swapping apples¬†slices for the fries in the second. We ask for two different toys, but might settle for two of the same if one is a cool little car but the other is¬†a mini plastic prostitot which we cannot condone in my daughter’s toy collection.

We head into the steamy pandemonium of the play area that is littered with wet winter clothes and boots and full to the brim with shrieking children (not mine of course, who are just the model of restraint I bet all the other parents wish their kids would emulate).¬† With a little luck we snag a seat and shovel food into the kids, and once they’ve eaten they scurry off to join the throng, leaving us with the other¬†harried-looking parents¬†to eat our own nutritionally-dubious¬†choices. (Yes, I know they have salads and chicken fajitas, but darnit sometimes I just want a few fries and a¬†Big Mac.¬† Or at least a cheeseburger with¬†lettuce and a squeeze of Mac Sauce added.¬† And here’s a tip: if you ask for a packet of Mac sauce they don’t charge you, but if you order the sandwich with the sauce on it they do.)¬†

Really, we’re just happy that a few bucks have bought us some known food (my youngest has an egg¬†allergy so it’s nice to know what¬†doesn’t have¬†egg in it — McNuggets, at least in Canada, have no egg —¬†without having to¬†take the word of the teenage staff), in¬†a warm place where the kids can burn off a little energy.¬†And when the weather warms up, we can balance it out by going to farmer’s markets for our culinary adventures.

Shawna is mom to 4 year old Sage and almost-2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  Like many parents, she has a computer stuffed with thousands of pics of her kids, and a ton of plastic Happy Meal toys underfoot.


Filed under Services

A Gym Tale – Birthday Parties and play

by Chantal

A Gym Tale is a play gym located in Barrehaven.¬† My 4 year old son had already attended two birthday parties there and when it came time to decide where to host his party he insisted his be there as well.¬† We have fluctuated between parties in our home and out.¬† I like the idea of a party outside our home, but often the cost was a deterrent.¬† We have had D’s (almost 9 years old) parties at a glow in the dark mini-put location, and a skating rink.¬† Both were okay as far as I was concerned, the kids loved them but they were busy stressful for Kevin and myself. ¬† M had never had a party outside our home.¬† When he suggested A Gym Tale we decided to agree. With D2 just 3 months old, we¬† could use all the help we could get.¬† A Gym Tale impressed me.

The party was two hours long.¬† It started with 30 minutes of free play in the play structure area.¬† While the kids had a blast running and playing I looked around and was very impressed with how clean the structures were.¬† The second half hour was spent in the “Enchanted Forest” which is a fenced off play area.¬† Your Party Champion joins you in this play area and the kids spend a fun filled 30 minutes doing activities based around your chosen theme.¬† M’s theme was Star Wars.¬† We then moved into our private party room where the kids enjoyed their lunch and M opened his presents.

There were a few things that impressed me about the party at A Gym Tale.  First and foremost was the Party Champion.  This was not just a facilitator who brought you the drinks and hot dogs when it was time to eat.  This was a real deal party host.  Our host was so enthusiastic and fun.  She did a great job of getting the kids to run around the obstacle course and getting them all pumped for the battle with the space alien!  It was 30 minutes of pure fun.  When we moved into the private room she took care of the food, drink and the cake.  She then organized the kids for the gift opening and added a nice touch of having each gift giver sit next to M while he opened their gift.  When the gift opening was done we still had 10 minutes on the clock.  She could have easily just sent the kids back out to play but instead she got out some props and did some magic tricks for the kids.  My husband and another parent helped out when needed but she was completely in control.  Considering I was alternately holding and nursing a 3 month old I found the Party Champion made this party worth every penny.

A Gym Tale isn’t only about birthday parties.¬† They have drop in play, play groups, nursery school, after school day care and even Kids (read: parents) night out activities.¬† If you are interested definitely check out the web site for more info.¬† I know we will be going back there for some drop in play time. I envision me and few other moms chatting at the table area while our kids play happily. Yes I do!


Filed under Activities for kids

A Weekend of Museums

by Isabelle

The first words out¬†of my four year-old’s mouth when he woke up last Saturday were: “I want to go to the train museum today!”. Given the rainy weekend forecasted, we packed up a picnic lunch, the baby stroller, and our two kids and headed to the Museum of Science and Technology. We’ve been there many times before with Jay, but we hadn’t yet gone with Rosie, our 10 week-old daughter.

The trains are a huge hit with kids of all ages, of course, as is the museum’s well-known crazy kitchen, but other temporary exhibits are also worth seeing for kids and adults alike. We were pleased to see that the exhibit focusing on Canadian space science has been recently expanded, and were impressed with a new exhibit on braille, which included a¬†number of different instruments developed in Canada (including the foldable white cane). Another new exhibit focuses on healthy foods and where they come from, and presents a series of wall-sized photographs of families from different parts of the world, posing with their weekly groceries. Needless to say, there is a remarkable variety when these families are compared. Finally, we ended our visit with our picnic lunch (tables and chairs are available and a small cafeteria offers food and drinks for purchase) and a run through the digital networks exhibit, which includes tunnels lit up in different colours.

We spent about two hours in the museum, and although the parking lot was packed, the museum didn’t feel too busy, even with the stroller. I took a number of pictures with my small point-and-shoot and intended to post them, but unfortunately, because of the low light level in the museum, they didn’t turn out very well. Next time, I will bring my larger camera, which has a removable flash.

The next morning, my son decided he wanted to visit the Aviation Museum. After a quick look outside our living room window, my husband decided to take him solo. We had last visited the museum on Canada Day, and the museum has changed quite a bit since then. Most striking is the memorial gallery, although my son enjoyed walking through the planes and helicopters and even sitting in one of them! The museum has two buildings, but one is only available as part of a guided tour. Since the tour lasts one hour, my husband decided to skip it and focus on the main building instead. On nice days, the museum has a play structure and picnic tables outdoors for its visitors.

Since his museum weekend, Jay has decided that when he grows up, he wants to be an astronaut, a train conductor, a truck driver and a pilot. He is going to be one busy guy ūüôā

For information on opening hours, admission prices and exhibits, visit and

Isabelle is the mom of 3.5 year old Jay and two-month old Rosie. You can also find her at Dr. Peach’s Blog.

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Filed under Attractions

Playgroups and more in Old Ottawa East

by Brie

The husband was a stay-at-home dad for a year between my return to work when the girl was one and my maternity leave with the boy. I remember asking him what he was going to do with her all day. Having a toddler to look after is a lot busier than staying at home with a baby!  I even looked for and found a few playgroups close by and presented him with the options.

He said he didn’t need them. He said he would sign up for a playgroup on one day and then the rest of the time they would just hang out.

That didn’t last long.

Playgroups soon became their favorite activity. It was a way for the girl to play with other kids her age and for the husband to talk to other people his age. They started going to various playgroups every day of the week. His favorite, and mine too once I started maternity leave with the boy, was at the Old Town Hall at 61 Main street.

The playgroup starts with free play for the kids. There are lots of toys and a small play structure. A table is set up for crafts and another for kids to sit and eat their snacks at. Circle time has them sitting quietly signing and then marching around the room signing. At the end of the playgroup the ride on cars come out. The girl was always waiting at the door as they were wheeled into the room.

The playgroup is open to kids from zero to five and is running on Mondays and Wednesday during the Spring session. Instead of offering a playgroup on Fridays this session they have introduced a new program called Parent Playtime.  Childcare is provided for kids aged 19 months to five years while the parents work on projects of their own, like scrapbooking, writing or knitting. I have registered the boy for this five-week session from  May 21 РJune 18 and I am looking forward to it!

The Community Activities Group for Old Ottawa East¬†runs programs for kids and adults out of the Old Town Hall. They have some great classes for older kids, like martial arts, robot building and soccer. I am most interested by the¬† Parent’s Night Out they have¬†introduced. Parents can register their kids age 5 to 13 for a games/ movie night on¬†April 30th or June 4th and then go out for a night on their own. If only my kids were old enough!

The Community Activities Group in Old Ottawa East is located at 61 Main Street. Registration for playgroup¬†is required and costs $35 for one day per week per child; siblings over 12 months of age are $20 per child. Siblings under 12 months of age are not required to register and are free. Parent Playtime runs for five Fridays¬†from May 21 to June 18 and costs¬†$20 per child. Parents’ Night Out¬†is on April 30 or June 4 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m and costs $12 for the first child and $7¬†for siblings.

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Filed under Playgroups