Ottawa ComicCon Day 1: My Photos

I brought my camera along to Ottawa ComicCon on the days where my costume would allow it, and I took plenty of photos. Of course, I didn’t notice that my ISO was bumped up ridiculously high until well after the fact — something about wrangling children and costumes in a crowd makes photography somewhat challenging. So most of my photos are really grainy. Even so, I here are some of the most fun costumes that we saw; of course, the ones my kids wanted to have their pictures with are ones that they’re familiar with, so Friday’s photos concentrate on kid-friendly productions.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 with Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch).


We found three Pikachus (Pokémon) in the same area, so we rounded them up to take photos with my little Eeveelutions. I don’t think any of them know each other.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the T.A.R.D.I.S. in the Doctor Who booth.


Thing 2 with a Dalek, which was her favourite because it was orange, her favourite colour. In the Doctor Who booth.


Thing 1 with a blue-and-silver Dalek in the Doctor Who booth, also chosen because it contains her favourite colour.


Thing 2 and Thing 1 beside their favourite parts of the Star Wars universe: the droids! (R2D2 and BB8 from the 501st’s booth.)


Given that they went as characters from Zootopia last year, Thing 1 and Thing 2 were thrilled to meet Judy Hopps.


Thing 1 and Thing 2 were very happy to meet Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas — especially Thing 2, as it is her favourite movie. Don’t let her expression here fool you.


My mother took the kiddos for a few minutes, so I had a chance to snap a pic of this fantastic Storm (X-Men).


RWBY character Ruby, with a Grimm.


Thing 2 with Pokémon Cubone. This poor guy couldn’t see through his head piece at all! Looked great though.


Thing 2 and Thing 1 with Hipster Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas), as executed by the fabulous Lilithia Dark. She even let Thing 1 hold her stuffed Zero! The girls were super excited — once again, especially Thing 2, who adores this movie. “Mommy, she was so awesome!” I agree.

If you recognize yourself or anyone you know in my photos and want me to link to your cosplay page/Facebook/blog, just let me know!

Ottawa ComicCon Day 1: Pro Photos

Every year at Ottawa ComicCon (except for the first one, since he didn’t have a booth) we have our pictures taken by Richard Dufault Photography, also known as Open Shutter Photography. After putting all of that time, effort, and funds into making those costumes, it just makes sense to me to have photos professionally done to record the event. Richard does great work and I am always so happy to see the results!

(It should go without saying, but all of the photos in this post were by Richard Dufault.)


Thing 2 as Flareon, me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.

Day 1 (Friday) we dressed up as a group as Pokémon characters/creatures. On the day where I take the kids, they get to pick the costumes that they want me to make — within reason. The rules are that they have to make up their minds at least a month before ComicCon, and they can’t change their minds once I’ve started buying supplies. Hence, our Fridays are usually costumes for whatever movie, TV show, video game, or book they’re currently most interested in. The rule is also that they have to wear this costume again for Hallowe’en, so I try to make something that they won’t grow out of too quickly.


Thing 2 as Flareon, me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


Thing 1 as Vaporeon (an Eeveelution, or an evolution of an Eevee).


Thing 1 as Vaporeon.


Thing 2 as a Flareon (an alternate Eeveelution).


Thing 2 as a Flareon (an alternate Eeveelution).


Me as a Pokémon Go player, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, Thing 2 as Flareon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


Thing 1 as Vaporeon and Thing 2 as Flareon, posing with Richard’s fancy lightsabers.


Our group expanded a bit later to include additional Pokémon characters! Me as a Pokémon Go player, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon (another Eeveelution), Adam Joustra as a member of Team Rocket, Thing 2 as Flareon, Thing 1 as Vaporeon, and my mom as another Pokémon Go player.


The three Eeveelutions show off their tails! Thing 2 as Flareon, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon, and Thing 1 as Vaporeon.


Gotta catch ’em all! Me as a Pokémon Go player, Adam Joustra as a member of Team Rocket, my mom as another Pokémon Go player, Thing 2 as Flareon, Kelsey Joustra as Umbreon, and Thing 1 as Vaporeon.

I can’t wait to post the rest of the photos from the weekend! Saturday’s pro photos are up, but I’m still waiting on Sunday’s. Not that I don’t have enough photos of my own to process in the meantime. There were so many creative, detailed, fantastic costumes to check out — which is, let’s be honest, my favourite part of ComicCon.

Tulip Festival

Yesterday was lovely, if hot (30°C with a humidex of 36°C), so I headed out to Dow’s Lake to check out the gardens that were planted for the Canadian Tulip Festival. If a tulip festival sounds like something more apropos to the Netherlands than Canada, that’s kind of the point.


Canada 150 tulip.

There is a strong bond between the two countries, primarily because in 1945 Canadian troops participated in the liberation of the Netherlands and then helped to rebuild the country after the war. Not surprisingly, some 1,800 war brides and 400 children came back to Canada following the troops. Additionally, in 1940 Princess Juliana (who later became Queen of the Netherlands) and her two daughters, Princesses Beatrix (who grew up to be Queen for 33 years) and Irene fled from the Nazis to take refuge in Ottawa during the second World War. Prince Bernhard and Princess Juliana’s third daughter, Princess Margriet Francisca, was born in the Ottawa Civic Hospital during this period of exile. The “Canadian” princess was later baptized at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on June 29th, 1943, with the Governor General of Canada as one of her godparents.


Canada 150 tulips.

After the end of the war and the return of the Dutch Royal Family, Princess Juliana and the people of the Netherlands sent, among other things, 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada in thanks. In 1946, Princess Juliana gave an additional 20,000 bulbs, and since 1958 the Royal Family has sent 10,000 bulbs annually. The Canadian Tulip Festival has been running since 1951 and obviously not all of the nearly one million bulbs planted each year in the capital region are gifts from the Netherlands, but all of the flowers are a symbol of international friendship.


Canada 150 tulips, with the Rideau Canal and Carleton University in the background.

This year is particularly important, as it is Canada’s sesquicentennial — the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Basically, the year has been planned as a giant birthday party for the country, and the Tulip Festival is part of that celebration. Specifically, a Dutch grower was commissioned by the Government of Canada to breed a tulip especially for the occasion, with red and white petals meant to mimic the Canadian flag. I’ve read that when some people planted these bulbs privately, they came up orange or pink, but the ones planted by the National Capital Commission came up in the promised red and white. Perhaps the variation available for public purchase in garden centers was a different cultivar?

At any rate, when the weather is fine, a walk through the gardens for the Tulip Festival is definitely worth fighting the traffic downtown. My favourite spot is Commissioners Park at Dow’s Lake, although I’m told that Parliament Hill and Major’s Hill Park are also planted beautifully for the season. Of course, you can check out the art installation of 5-foot-tall painted tulips at Lansdowne Park as well.

Breadmaker

Yesterday was a hot one, and today is predicted to be much akin to it, with the addition of thunderstorms. That’s par for the course in the summer in Ottawa: first we get a stiflingly hot, humid day, followed by an impressive deluge and light show, often in the evening of the same day.

Of course, I had run out of bread, but I didn’t want to fire up the oven on such a hot day. I would like to continue making my own throughout the summer, so I dug out my breadmaker, which I’d never used before. Over the winter I purchased a Black & Decker All-In-One Deluxe Horizontal Breadmaker at Value Village for $9.99. There were (and always are) a few on the shelf, so I picked the one that showed the least wear and tear. I also Googled to make sure I could get a user manual.


100% Whole Wheat Bread in the breadmaker.

We didn’t have air conditioning when I was growing up, and one of the best lessons that my parents taught me was to keep the house cool, cook outside whenever possible. The most obvious example of this is barbecuing or grilling, but most countertop appliances work perfectly well outdoors. Breadmakers, toaster ovens, even toasters or kettles fit the bill, and it’s especially convenient to use them if you have a deck/patio or a balcony. They’re not intended for outdoor use, so you have to be very sure that they never get wet and are set on a surface that can’t be damaged by heat, like a concrete step or a glass-top table. If you’re uncomfortable leaving them out in the open, they can be left under a parking shelter or in a garage. Also, you have to make sure that any plugs or extension cords are up to the challenge (I recommend heavy-duty appliance extension cords just in case, you don’t want to start a fire).

So I made a loaf of 100% Whole Wheat Bread (page 24 in the user manual) in the breadmaker, and it turned out deliciously! It was really easy, and although I kind of missed kneading the bread and I don’t like the inflexibility of the recipes that go along with mechanization. But the results were delicious, and I can see why people will set breadmakers on timers so they have fresh bread first thing in the morning. Since I’m used to oven loaves, the bread looked kind of misshapen to me, much too tall and thin. The looks didn’t mar the flavour at all, though. My family devoured the entire loaf in a day (granted, we had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner). I will have to make another loaf asap.

Microwave Oatmeal Wheat Bread

My parents bought their first microwave when I was eight or nine years old, I believe. Possibly later. It was a big investment at the time; microwaves at the time were huge, noisy, and expensive. I know it was probably at least ten years after that that my grandmother finally got one. These days, you can get a serviceable one for under a hundred dollars; back then it was a purchase nearly equivalent of a new stove. But microwaves were being touted as the appliance of the future, and as the time-saving device that every family should have.

To that effect, many microwave cookbooks were published at the time, proclaiming that anything and everything was better made in the microwave; now that they have become ubiquitous, most of us now know that this isn’t the case. My parents had one microwave cookbook when I was growing up, namely Basic Microwaving from the Microwave Cooking library (by Barbara Methven, 1978). I think it may even have come with the purchase of the microwave oven. It is definitely aimed at people who have never used a microwave before, and offers such great tips as:

– A microwave oven is a cooking appliance. It may be faster and easier to use than a conventional appliance, but it still needs a cook to control it. (page 5)
– Room temperature foods cook faster than refrigerated or frozen ones. (page 9)
– Use small strips of foil on thin areas to prevent overcooking. (page 15)

As an aside, do not use metal in a microwave. It could start a fire or damage the appliance. Mental Floss has a great write-up as to why this happens.


Microwave oatmeal wheat bread.

As self-evident or outright wrong some of the advice offered by this book may now seem (it is almost 40 years old after all), some of the recipes are still good, so when I snapped up a copy of this book when I found it at a thrift shop. A staple of my diet in my early teenage years was the Open-Face Bacon, Tomato & Cheese Sandwich (page 100), and I have added just about every technique from their vegetable section (page 106 to 121) to my repertoire, except for those that use tinfoil. But I had never tried to bake anything in the microwave. Well, with summer heat coming on soon, I thought I’d give microwave bread a try with the Oatmeal Wheat Bread on page 128-129.

It didn’t turn out too badly, but I still don’t think I’ll be making this recipe again. As a positive, while it still took standard times to rise, I only had to use the microwave for about 12 minutes, which generated a lot less heat (and took a lot less power) than standard bread baking times in a conventional oven. The flavour of the bread was definitely worth making again. The texture, though, was where baking in the microwave failed me. Have you ever reheated a piece of leftover pizza in the microwave, and had the crust go hard and chewy without ever being crunchy? That was what the texture of this bread was like — although in a few spots where it was thickest it was soft and properly fresh-bread-like. It wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t great. I don’t know how much of this is because of the appliance and how much is the recipe, so I think next time I bake bread I’ll make a loaf of this in the oven as a comparison. Then I’ll know the cause for certain.

Lobster Rolls

The weather is finally changing to something vaguely resembling summer, and this is the time of year that I start thinking about all the summer trips to the Maritimes that I made as a child, and then again as an adult. We would drive there from Ontario, and it seemed that as soon as you crossed the border between Québec and New Brunswick, the food culture changed from land to sea. Just pop into a New Brunswick fast food restaurant in order to compare: McDonald’s in New Brunswick serves (very poor) lobster rolls, and Subway serves a (reasonable) seafood sub. The culinary transition is rather abrupt, because it’s not like the terrain and agriculture of eastern Québec and western New Brunswick are at all different. But New Brunswick is a maritime province, and this is reflected in the culture and the cuisine. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a strong agricultural foundation in the province as well; with an area almost the size of Ireland with one sixth the population, there is room for multiple local industries.


Golden Fry, Shediac, New Brunswick.

Most people who visit New Brunswick head for the coast. The best value for money as a tourist is generally to rent a cottage within walking distance of the sea, or if that’s not possible, to stay in an inn or B&B within a short drive of the beach. The town of Shediac (the self-proclaimed Lobster Capital of the World) has capitalized on its proximity to the gorgeous Parlee Beach Provincial Park and has, over the years, become somewhat overdone, over-hyped and overpriced. The town almost shuts down except for the months of July and August. There are some good seafood restaurants there during tourist season — but some of the best food in town can be found at the Golden Fry (560 Main St, Shediac).


Lobster roll and fries at the Golden Fry.

The place doesn’t look like much; it’s just a small building off the side of the road, with a gravel parking lot and some plastic tables and chairs out front. It’s takeout, pure and simple — it makes me think that a french fry truck grew roots and decided to stay in one place. But oh my goodness, their food is so good! Take the lobster roll, for example. It’s a toasted, buttered New England roll stuffed to bursting with chunks of fresh, cold lobster meat. Their their fries are fresh-cut, their poutine uses real cheese curds, their fried clams are crisp on the outside, soft in the center… A lot of the fancier restaurants in town could take lessons from this place, especially since “lobster roll and fries” is a standard menu item in the area no matter where you dine.


Bouctouche Beach.

To me, though, Shediac has been done to death. The town is packed to the gills during tourist season, the traffic can be gnarly, everything is overpriced compared to the same things just out of town, the cottages are so close they’re practically town houses… For my seaside vacation, I prefer something a little calmer. This is why I’ve fallen in love with the town of Bouctouche, which is a short drive up Highway 11. Like Shediac and Pointe-du-Chêne (which also has some lovely beaches), it is on the Northumberland Strait, and as such boasts some of the warmest ocean water temperatures on the Atlantic coast north of Virginia. Unlike Shediac, it hasn’t become a tourist trap, although Bouctouche does boom in summer. It’s a little further away from Moncton, and hence from the Moncton airport, so people aren’t as likely to make the effort.


Irving Eco-Center, La Dune de Bouctouche boardwalk.


Irving Arboretum.


Irving Arboretum.

The town of Bouctouche has benefited from being where James Dergavel Irving founded J.D. Irving Ltd. (the company most well-known these days for Irving gas stations) in 1882. The company/family has funded a big chunk of the most beautiful spots in town, like the Irving Arboretum, which is packed with scenic walking and biking trails, and the Irving Eco-Centre, La Dune de Bouctouche, which contains the local saltwater beach as well as a boardwalk and hiking trails.


Buctouche river.

In addition to the coastal attractions, the Buctouche river flows through Bouctouche and neighbouring towns, emptying into Buctouche Bay in the Northumberland Strait. This means that the town also has freshwater angling, boating, and scenery.


Banana split at Le Petit Crèmier, Bouctouche, NB.

One of my kids’ favourite places in Bouctouche was Le Petit Crèmier (103 Irving Blvd), which is the local ice cream parlour. Once again, it’s take-out only, but their ice cream is great, their portions generous, and the sheer variety of what they serve is mind-boggling. It’s totally worth a stop on a hot day (or, if you’re like me, any day).


Pirate de la Mer restaurant, Bouctouche, NB

The hidden gem of Bouctouche, food-wise, is Pirate de la Mer (10 rue Industrielle, across the street from the small mall containing the Co-Op and the liquor store). There’s nothing much to the restaurant when you see it from the outside. It’s in a plain red industrial building, with a couple of picnic tables out front, and a gravel parking lot. But if you head there on the weekend or at dinner time, be prepared for up to a half an hour wait in line just to place your order, with another half hour before your food is made. The place is popular with the locals and with tourists. It is not uncommon for there to be not enough seating for everybody, which is why a good portion of their clientele orders their food to go. The amply-sized parking lot gets full fast, with overflow parking on the road. After my first visit, I would order my food a half an hour in advance or so, giving them lots of time to prep while I headed over and then waited in line. This way the food was hot and ready to go as soon as I paid.


Double lobster roll, fries & coleslaw at Pirate de la Mer.

The lobster rolls at Pirate de la Mer are mouth-watering — enough so that I make a special trip to Bouctouche to order them, even when I’m not staying in town. Their fries are crispy deliciousness, and I’m told that their coleslaw is first rate (I don’t like coleslaw). In addition, they make their own tartar sauce – they’ll give you the option between their version and pre-made Kraft stuff. Go with their version. It’s definitely not a fancy restaurant, but I haven’t had better seafood at anywhere that charges four or five times more for “gourmet” and “ambiance”. If you want to eat somewhere prettier, you can always get your food to go and head up the road to the Arboretum or the beach.


Lobster roll at Pirate de la Mer.

There is no excuse for visiting the Maritimes without indulging in seafood. Unless you hate the stuff, I guess. Or are allergic. Or vegetarian. Or your religion prohibits it. Other than that, though, there is no excuse. If you can afford to travel, then you can afford at least one seafood meal — especially since, in New Brunswick, a lot of seafood dishes are on par or cheaper than any other kind of meat. So indulge! You won’t regret it.

“Baby”

I plead complete exhaustion after attending all three days of ComicCon in costume (and of course staying up late all of the nights before to complete said costumes). I haven’t yet had the chance to process all of my photos, and at any rate the professional photos that I’d like to share haven’t come back yet. However, I did promise a friend that I would take pictures of Baby, a reproduction of the car from Supernatural:


Photo by Ottawa Supernatural Impala

And of course I had to have my photo taken inside of this iconic vehicle. I showed up early on Sunday, so I didn’t end up having to wait in line. Perfect! There was very little head space in this car, though. They must have the seats cranked way back when filming, because Jared Padalecki is something like 6’4″ and Jensen Ackles about 6’1″. They would have to be folded like origami to fit in the car the way it was set up at the Con.


Photo taken by my mother.

I meant to have a photo taken in Baby last year, but in all of the hooferah of ComicCon I totally forgot. If you can’t tell by the smile on my face, I’m happy that I remembered this year.