Category Archives: Events

Costume Swapping for Halloween

by Laura

October 9th is National Costume Swap Day in the United States.  This green event is promoted by Kiwi Magazine, Green Halloween, and Swap.com.  It is a simple idea to save money and the environment too.  Children are encouraged to swap costumes and keep old ones out of the landfill. 

Some children lose interest in dressing like Luke Skywalker or Cinderella.   My kids are happy to reuse costumes but this year they have both outgrown their outfits.  I am not handy with a sewing machine or a glue gun and have purchased costumes in the past.  Instead of spending money or trying to create something in the wee hours of October 30th, simply trade/borrow costumes with fellow trick-or-treaters.  
 
According to the National Costume Swap website, “swapping half the costumes kids wear on Halloween would reduce the annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equal to the weight of 2500 mid-sized cars”.   In addition, swapping reduces packaging, transportation, and manufacturing impacts too.  
 
A costume swap can be as simple as sending an email to friends/classmates, or organizing something larger at a brownie/cubs meeting, local library or recreation facility.  I imagine that even folks with little interest in eco-friendly ideas might be keen to save a few dollars.  It is a win/win idea. 
 
Why limit it to children’s costumes?  Adults attend Halloween parties and dress up to hand out treats at the door.  I wonder if my pal Kelly is growing tired of her pink pig costume and would like to dress this year as a defeated Leafs fan?  Perhaps our neighbour Steve wants to swap his vampire cape with my husband and dress as scary mask guy.   Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Although it is not a national event in Canada, a costume swap puts a fresh spin on an old tradition.   It is an opportunity to make a difference, save money and enjoy some holiday fun.   Happy Halloween!

Laura is a wife and Mother to beautiful 8 and 10 year old girls.  She describes herself as an eco-advocate and moderate neat freak with a recessive frugal gene.  Laura provides light-hearted commentary for every day, practical green living on her blog the Mindful Merchant.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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The Butterfly Show at Carleton University

by Tiana

Last Sunday my mom and I brought my 2 year old son to the Butterfly Show in the Nesbitt Building of Carleton University. He really likes butterflies and we thought he would have a blast. We were correct!

Bobby becomes a Butterfly

For those not in the know, the show runs from Oct 2-11th inclusively and is absolutely free (although donations are recommended). You can find free parking on campus on weekends and the O-Train stop is a 2 minute walk from the show. Did I mention this is FREE? I love free activities for kids!

The show takes place inside the greenhouse. It is very warm and humid so wear layers that you can remove because it doesn’t take long to get too hot in there. The butterflies are loose in the greenhouse and are fluttering about, mating (!) and sometimes will even land on you. Visitors can bring slices of oranges to encourage butterflies to come have a sip of OJ. When we walked into the smaller greenhouse, a little boy with a butterfly on his sweater handed Bobby a slice of orange already hosting a butterfly. It happily sat there sipping away as it got passed from child to child.

Butterfly on Orange

We stayed for about 45 minutes total. In that time we went through 2 greenhouses, had butterflies crawl on our hands and even got to see two emerge from their chrysalises.

This is a must attend event for anyone who isn’t absolutely terrified of butterflies.

Tiana is mother to Bobby Hurricane. You can catch her being generally awesome over at Sassy Red Head.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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Filed under Activities for kids, Attractions, Events, Free

Musicals for kids

by Brie 

I am not a big concert goer. If you ask me if I want to see some live music, I will probably shrug. Whatever. However, if you ask me if I want to see a musical I will stop you in mid sentence and race you to the door. 

I like the spectacle of it all. The costumes. The songs tied into a story. The dancing. I think this is why I have been so interested in taking the girl to see kid friendly musicals when they come through town. 

The first one my now 4-year-old saw was a Dora show when she was 2. Friends had some extra tickets and after a serious discussion it was decided that the husband would go with her. I was okay with that. I’m not the biggest Dora fan. However the girl was thrilled and kept referring to the “Dora party” she was going to. 

The husband enjoyed the show just as much as the girl did. One highlight for him was the intense screaming that started as soon as Dora appeared, and then again for Boots. He said the production value was high and the  performers all did a great job. He was particularly impressed with Boots, speculating that the actor must have been a gymnast to be able to do all the  hunched up monkey swinging moves for minutes at a time.  The girl was was less impressed with the strange-looking orangutan, and freaked out every time it took the stage.   

When the girl was 3 we bought tickets for her to see the Backyardigans show coming through town. I claimed that show before the husband even had a chance to open his mouth. I have a deep love of the Backyardigans. In fact, I have had lengthy conversations with friends about how they could possibly not love the Backyardigans. They sing! They dance! Pablo wears a beanie! 

The girl got into the spirit of it all and dressed up for the show. I thought she looked quite fetching in her red patent shoes and fairy costume. The girl enjoyed the show, although she did sit on my lap when the scary crab (or was it an octopus?) appeared. Unfortunately, the show did not live up to my expectations. I was expecting better production values and costumes. I mean, Pablo even looked fake to me and I was all ready to believe! 

The latest spectacle we went to was Yo Gabba Gabba when it came through town recently. Or Gabba Go Gabba as the girl calls it. I wasn’t that familiar with the television show but I had won tickets on Twitter and thought it would be fun. We went to the show with Lara and her son and just the kids’ excitment and anticipation was worth it. 

Me, the girl who looks terrified but was really quite happy, Kiernan and Lara

It was also a good show. The songs and dancing and energy all kept the crowd happy. The girl even abandoned her seat to run up to the stage. We spent the last few minutes of the concert sitting at the foot of the stage watching the performers. All I could think as I sat there watching her was that in ten years she will probably be trying to mosh where we are now quietly sitting. 

There are a number of kid and family shows planned in Ottawa in the next few months, like the Wiggles, The Wind in the Willows, Trick or Treat to a Wicked Beat,  Toopy and Binoo – Live and the Nutcracker

Have you taken your kids to any musicals or spectacles?  And really, are they always better on ice? 

Brie is the mom of a 4-year-old daughter “the girl” and 2 old son “the boy”. You can read her blog at Capital Mom.

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The Richmond Fair: Fall Fair Series Part 2

By Shawna

 Last weekend saw your intrepid heroine at the Spencerville Fair.  I made it just in time for the last round of the greased pig contest, then met up with a friend and we took my kids through the Small Animal and Poultry Barn before checking out a couple of the horse competitions.  We were contemplating hitting the midway when my husband arrived with his friend (such a social day!), and they ferried the kids off to go on a few rides and play a few games, though my youngest eventually ended up at the tractor pull and my daughter got to ride the kiddie roller coaster and cajole her uncle Bob into pretty much anything she wanted.  Since both my friend Raceytay and I are into the photo thing, this freed us up to wander around and take some pics.  In addition to the de rigeur shots of my kids on the carousel, we both ended up with, among others, shots of candied apples; mine were caramel while hers were the classic red sugar.

 

Other highlights: the classic fair food (pogos, Beavertails, fries ‘n hotdogs, soda, GIANT multicoloured lollipop), a high-diving show, watching my husband hit a sensor with a giant sledgehammer to win inflatable aliens for my kids, and trying to shoot the star out of a piece of paper with a BB gun (I can never resist trying at least once).

 This weekend we’ll be hitting the Richmond Fair.  If it runs true to form, there will be a petting zoo, a show by Little Ray’s Reptiles, an activity centre for the kids (last year, in addition to the usual music and drawing, they could try to identify full-sized plastic horse’s bones based on comparing them to a skeleton model), and a good display of antique tractors.  Though we no longer need it, it’s nice to know they have a space for both baby-changing and breastfeeding too.

 Maybe we’ll see you there!

 Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She loves fall fair season as much as her kids.

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Filed under Activities for kids, Attractions, Events, Out of town ideas, Outings

A birthday cake for a Thomas fan

by Carly

So the Little Man was fast approaching his fourth birthday.  For the last few months the Thomas obsession has grown to staggering proportions; it’s all Thomas all the time and you can’t move through our family room without impaling yourself on a train or six.  What’s a mom to do but make a Thomas-themed cake for the upcoming par-tay.

My mother always made our cakes as children and I’ve long desired to do the same for my family.  But a Thomas cake?!  I can’t begin to tell you what an amateur I am and how deep my fear of 3-D cakes runs.  Not the actual cakes – that would be silly – but the making of them.  Not so much.

 So I did what any good mom would do: before calling the bakery, I called Google.  Remember when you had to go the library to find out stuff?  Google was a treasure trove of Thomas cakes.  All them either baked in a special train pan or molded out of cereal treats and modeling chocolate.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work for me so I was thrilled to find a version of the cake you see below that involved a simple round cake and buttercream.

Before I get into the nitty gritty details and in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I need to tell you that for the masterpiece you see below I used a cake mix, a buttercream mix, canned icing and pre-made fondant.  And I’d do it all again.  Finally, lest you think the fondant is beyond your abilities, you should know that this Thomas cake was only my third attempt at using fondant.  You’ll never know unless you try so roll up your sleeves and think of it as play-dough for grown-ups!

Here’s what I used, but feel free to substitute your own recipes in place of the mixes:

  •  2 Cake Mixes (any flavour you like)
  • 2 14 oz. packages of “Creamy White Buttercream Icing Mix”
  • 1.5 24 oz. packages of “Ready-to-Use White Rolled Fondant”
  • 1 Can “French Vanilla” icing
  • 1 Tube black decorating icing (or you can tint some of your buttercream black)
  • 2 tsp. CLEAR vanilla extract
  • Eggs, Milk, Butter, Water & Oil as called for in the cakes and buttercream mixes
  • Icing Sugar to roll the fondant on
  • Green, blue, brown, black and red food colouring concentrated GEL (or paste)
  • Large ziploc freezer bags
  • No. 11 round decorating tip
  • No. 3 round decorating tip
  • No. 233 decorating tip (grass)
  • Coupler (fancy name for this )
  • Flower cookie cutter
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden (or plastic) Thomas the Train

Here’s how it came together:

1.  I used the equivalent of two cake mixes to make three 8” (or 9” – we’re not picky) round cakes.  The leftover batter went into the cupcake tray so as not to waste it.  I prefer to grease and flour my pans before pouring in the batter.

2.  Bake the cakes according to the recipe you’re using and allow to cool 10-20 minutes before removing them from the pans.

3. While you’re waiting for them to cool, ice a cupcake and eat it.

4. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool until they’re cold to the touch.  I put mine in the fridge to speed up the process.

5. While the cakes are cooling completely, make some buttercream icing.  I added about 1.5 teaspoons of clear vanilla extract (not in my recipe) for a yummier flavour.

6. When the cakes are ready, level the tops of all three cakes with a serrated knife.  I just eye-balled it, but you can use a special cake leveler if you’re so inclined.

7. Save the tops for your husband.  It makes a nice thank-you treat for the help cleaning up you’re going to insist on later.

8. Cut two of the round cakes in half and stack three halves on top of each other to form the sky/tunnel.  I used canned icing in between the layers because I like it.  You can use that or a light layer of buttercream.

9.  Save the fourth half for your husband.  See number seven.

10. Crumb coat/dirty ice (see how I’m now trying to impress you with my technical terms so you’ll forget I’m using mixes and pre-made fondant) the stack of cakes.  This just means you use a thin layer of buttercream to make everything stick together.  It won’t matter if there are crumbs peaking through, but try to make the buttercream as smooth as possible to avoid lumps in the fondant.  My cakes almost always break, crumb or crack a little and I use the buttercream to “glue” those areas and build up any part of the cake that’s not level.

 *TIP* Use a butter knife or metal/stainless spreader for the icing work.  Never use a plastic spatula.  A knife will give you a more even coat and fewer crumbs/breakage in your cakes.  Keep the buttercream in a ziploc baggie or covered with a damp cloth/plastic wrap so it won’t dry out.

11. Crumb coat/dirty ice the remaining (whole) round cake.

12. Put the stack of half cakes and the whole round cake in the fridge to set.  This is especially important if you’ve had to “glue” your cakes.

13. Take a much needed break.  I like to set my cakes for at least 30 minutes, but often wait an hour.

14. Open a package of fondant.  You’ll need about 12 ounces (about half the package) of fondant to cover the base of the cake.  Sprinkle some icing sugar on the counter and knead in some green food colouring.  This is where the gel or paste kind works best, because the colour will be more true, you won’t water down the fondant, and you won’t need as much of it.

15. Pull the base of the cake out of the fridge and spread on another thin layer of buttercream.  This is to give the fondant something to stick to and a sweeter taste to the cake.  Make sure the icing is as smooth and level as possible.

16. When you’re happy with the fondant colour, roll it into a circle-like shape, about 1/8 of an inch thick and a two inches bigger than your cake.  Keep adding icing sugar to the fondant/counter/rolling pin so the fondant doesn’t stick.

 *TIP* The thicker you roll your fondant, the less likely you are to see any bumps that still exist in your cakes.  Don’t make it too thick though, or your cake will fall over!  Keep as yet unused fondant in ziploc bags so it won’t dry out – it happens faster than you might think!

 17. Brush any lingering speckles of icing sugar off the fondant with your hands and carefully lift it over the base of the cake.

18. Pulling gently on the edges, smooth it out around the sides.  Using a butter knife, cut the fondant from around the base of the cake.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll cover it up later.

19. Tint some buttercream green and using the grass tip (No. 233) pipe grass around the base of the cake.  Rather than expensive decorating bags, I use large ziploc baggies for holding my icing.  Put the cake back in the fridge.  Keep the green buttercream with grass tip attached.  You’ll need it again.

20. Repeat steps 14 to 18 for the top of the cake, using blue food colouring instead.  You’ll need slightly more fondant this time so break open that second package and use about 18-20 ounces in total.

 *TIP* Covering the top of stacked cake halves was a fair bit harder than the round base.  Go ahead and trim then tuck in the corners/edges and smooth them out as best you can.  Don’t worry about a seam showing through – you’re going to cover it up with trees later.

21.   Bring out the base of the cake and spread a thin layer of buttercream on the top half of it.  Carefully place the stacked top piece on the buttercream.

22. Put it back in the fridge to set and have another cupcake.

23. While the cake is setting, tint some fondant red for flowers, green for tree tops and brown for tree trunks and railway ties.  Leave some white for the clouds.

24. To make the stones surrounding the tunnel, tint fondant with a very small amount of black food colouring gel, but don’t mix it too much – leave it speckled and grey.  Roll small amounts in balls.

25. Time to start decorating and finishing the cake!  Using a knife or metal spatula, spread some black icing (I used it pre-made from a tube I already had, or you could tint some leftover buttercream) onto the sky to make an upside down “U” shape.  It doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll cover up the edges with stones.

*TIP* Have a small bowl of water handy.  With a paintbrush or your finger, use the water to attach the fondant cut outs to the sky and base.

26. Squish the stones you made into various shapes and attach them to the cake around the tunnel with a dab of water on the back of the stones.

27. Roll out the brown fondant and make some tree trunk shapes.  I did mine free hand with a butter knife and smoothed out any rough edges with a finger dipped in a bit of water. I deliberately put one on either corner to cover up the seams in the blue fondant.

28. Roll out some green fondant and using the flower shaped cookie cutter, make some tree tops and attach them to the cake.  Layer them on top of one another for a more three dimensional look, if you like.

29. Roll out some white fondant and using the flower shaped cookie cutter, make some clouds.  Before attaching them to the cake, stretch the shapes out to look more like clouds than flowers.

30. Repeat with red fondant to make flowers.

31. Pipe some green buttercream where the top cake meets the bottom cake to make a grass border around it, covering up the seams.

32. Using the brown fondant, cut some railway ties.  I did mine free hand.  Place them on the base of the cake using a bit of water.

33. Using the black buttercream (or leftover tube of black icing) and a No. 11 round tip, pipe the outline of the railway tracks.

34. Add some extra stones and pipe on some more grass around the tracks for decoration.

35. Tint some leftover buttercream red and using a No. 3 round tip, pipe on the birthday message.

36. Add Thomas to the cake and in just thirty-six short steps, you’re done!  The cake will keep overnight on the counter, as long as it’s not too hot.  If you’re worried, keep it in the fridge.

Despite the many steps, this cake is actually much easier to make than it looks.  If you tried the fondant and it just didn’t work for you, or if you’re not up for it at all, you can skip all that and decorate it with tinted buttercream instead.  Either way I’m sure your Thomas fans will be thrilled.  Just try not to cry (not that I’m saying I did) when the kids dig into it.

I’m Carly.  I’ve got red hair and occasionally the temper to match.  I love potatoes, rainy nights, photography, my husband and my 4 year old son, Jacob.  Probably in reverse order.  But only when he sleeps through the night.  Jake, I mean, not the husband.  But him too.  I like sleep . . . and hate mayonnaise.  You can read more about our family at http://talkingmyselfoutofthetree.blogspot.com/.

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Pop Life: Taking a trip to the National Gallery

by Barbara

I’ve been excited about the Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibit at the National Gallery since they started advertising their search for identical twins to be part of one of the works of art. Somehow, though, the summer passed and we didn’t go to the exhibit until recently. Luckily, the exhibit will be open until September 19th and you still have time to go.

I went with my six-year-old daughter, Reid, my mom and my 30-year-old niece and we all enjoyed ourselves. I asked Reid if she thought I should recommend that other moms take their kids and she said, “Yes! I am a kid and I liked it and so will they.”

Reid’s favourite parts of the exhibit were the Andy Warhol pieces. He is her favourite artist right now, thanks to the Dropping in on Andy Warhol book and video we signed out from the library. She watched a bit of the Love Boat episode starring Andy Warhol, giving me time to read a bit more of the labels.

The piece featuring the twins – two young women playing cards when we were there – was more of a fascination to me than to Reid. When you’re six, I guess you have less of an expectation about what will appear in a work of art. Reid enjoyed the room depicting anime art, especially the video of Kirsten Dunst singing “Turning Japanese”. The video is on YouTube but it is marked as possibly unsuitable for children. I didn’t find it to be inappropriate, though.

We both liked Keith Haring‘s chalk drawing-like images. You can purchase items featuring his art right in the midst of the exhibit but it’s a passive offering and the kids (probably) won’t notice. Ashley Bickerton‘s “self portrait”, in which he presents himself through the logos of products he uses, was the springboard for a surprisingly good conversation about the things we use. I think Reid and I could do something like this at home. The other artists and their works provoked conversations as well. Reid didn’t have any “they call that art?!” reactions but she did have some questions about what she saw and why it was included in the exhibit.

Admission is $15 for adults, $7 for youth 12-19 and kids under 12 are free. There are a few rooms with explicit artwork but these are well-signed and easily avoided.  There is a horse with something stabbed into it that isn’t signed and you might want to be ready to avoid it or explain it.

There is a sign in the foyer indicating the cameras are banned in the gallery and there are many guards in the exhibit and so I took no pictures. The exhibit is visually powerful and I agree with Reid, kids will enjoy it. You may want to explore other galleries while you’re at the National Gallery but don’t be too ambitious. Good behaviour is tiring and you’ll want your kids to be as eager to return as you will be.

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Ottawa Lumière Festival this Saturday

We wrote about the  Ottawa Lumière Festival awhile back, and all of the fun activities they had leading up to it.  But because there was a pretty long lead time we wanted to remind everyone it’s happening this Saturday.

Will you be there? I plan to be!

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