Tornado

This past Friday, September 21st, the Ottawa-Gatineau area experienced two tornadoes. We’d had tornado warnings in the past which never amounted to much more than a nasty storm with high winds, so I honestly had expected the warnings to be down-graded just like every other time. Actually, I was out photographing the promotional photos for my last post minutes before the storm struck. I was editing them as the wind picked up, thunder rumbled, and the deluge started.

My family was extremely lucky: the tornadoes never came close to us. The stronger tornado, a high E/F3, flattened parts of Dunrobin, and then moved on to Gatineau. The second twister, a E/F2, moved through the southwest end of Ottawa.

The thing that I think a lot of people not from around here don’t understand — especially those in the central part of the US, where they get something like 500 tornadoes a year — is that tornadoes are extremely rare around here. So far as I can tell, we’ve never even had one of any strength touch down in Ottawa (although there was an F1 that hit Gloucester in 2000). Because of this, we’re really not prepared for them! Our natural disasters tend more towards slower, cumulative events, like extremely cold and harsh winters, ice storms, and floods. Nobody has a storm cellar, although most single family homes have a basement or are built on a concrete slab — no crawlspaces under homes here unless it’s a motor/mini home, since with our winters pipes and floors would freeze. We don’t have tornado sirens or drills; the emergency alert that was supposed to be sent to all cell phones in the area simply did not reach a lot of customers. I know that I got the message, but my husband didn’t; my father did, but not my mother. Many people continued on with their days as usual, knowing that a storm was brewing, but with no idea of how strong it would be. As a city, we are extremely lucky that no fatalities have been reported so far, although some people are in critical condition.

As I said, my family was extremely lucky. Our only consequences to the storm were a very short power outage (we’ve experienced worse from a regular thunderstorm) and the downed lilac bush in our side yard. It doesn’t even really look like it has fallen from the front, just a bit overgrown…

But it’s pretty obvious once you go push through the branches to the back yard and look toward the front.

Despite the roots snapping, I count us extremely lucky because the bush (okay, it was over two stories, so it was more of a tree) fell away from the brand new back fence, and didn’t seem to do any damage to the houses as it fell down. Since it had multiple smaller trunks instead of one big one, it didn’t have the same impact as a true tree. I’m going to spend today cutting it apart and putting it out for garbage collection, and after that we should be able to tell if it damaged the neighbour’s air conditioner or gas meter at all.

Once again, I would like to reiterate that my family and friends are all fine, although many people I know experienced minor property damage and others went 48+ hours without power. My sincere thanks go out to the city’s emergency services, who responded quickly and efficiently to the disaster. I would also like to thank the electricity company employees who have been working tirelessly to restore power to the city, which was made especially difficult by the Merivale transmission station being taken out by the tornado. They’ve managed to route power around this station and restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers in just over two days, which is exceptional, in my personal opinion.

If you want to help those who have been affected by the tornadoes, here are some ways you can do so:

– Donate money to the Canadian Red Cross, who are providing hot meals to those in need.
– Donate food or money to the Ottawa Food Bank, who are providing supplies so that the Salvation Army can distribute hot meals, as well as helping people in need to replace the food that they have lost due to the power outages.
– Donate food to the Kanata Food Cupboard, who will redistribute the food to those most in need.
– Donate furniture, clothing, or household items to Salvation Army Thrift Stores; if you have larger items, you can arrange to have them picked up for free by calling 1-613-247-1435 ext. 228.
– Donate personal hygiene products and non-perishable foods (they now have more than enough donated clothing) in the former Sears location on the ground floor of Galeries de Hull (320 boul. Saint-Joseph, Hull sector) in Gatineau.
– Donate money to the Ottawa Senators’ GoFundMe, who have pledged to match donations up to $25,000.

613flea Saturday July 7th

This coming Saturday I’ll be bringing my vintage kitchenware booth to 613flea at Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. You’ll be able to find me in the northwest side of the building, one row north of center. As there will be 110 vendors there and the amount of sights to see can sometimes become a bit overwhelming, here’s a handy map:

The organizers of the market have started a contest among the vendors for most creative social media post. The winner receives their booth rental at the next event for free! I would love to win this prize, but I’m really not a graphic artist like Carabara Designs or Scatterbee. I had to make do with my photography editing skills. I worked on this for hours, and in the end I came up with two designs that I thought had promise. The first featured some my my colourful vintage Tupperware:

And the second a selection of my Blue Cornflower CorningWare coffee pots and percolators:

I’m honestly at a loss for which one I prefer, although I rather like how the high contrast makes the CorningWare one look like a vintage magazine advertisement.

Which one do you prefer?

Pumpkinferno

I’ve been going to Upper Canada Village since I was a child. It’s a historical recreation of a rural English Canadian village from 1860’s along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Most of the buildings are authentic to the time period, although I don’t think there was ever an actual village on that site — the buildings were moved in from a number of different sources. Needless to say, it’s an educational gold mine. Not surprisingly, it was a popular spot for school field trips, and my parents also took my brother and I there on summer outings. However, back when I was a kid they didn’t have the two lights festivals that they do now (Pumpkinferno for Halloween, and Alight at Night for Christmas). I’m pretty sure they didn’t host the medieval fair in the summer there either. These are all great events, though, even if they’re not exactly time-period-accurate.

Pumpkinferno is an exhibition of 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins along a kilometer-long walking trail. The majority of the pumpkins are artificial, since the exhibition lasts for about a month and no real pumpkin would last that long. There are some real pumpkins painted (and in previous years, carved) by local children on exhibit as well. Back when they used carved ones they had to keep switching them up for new, fresh gourds, which is probably why they switched to painting. I’ve been going to Pumpkinferno since the very first year (five years ago or so), and as my kids got older I started bringing them along as well. This year was Thing 2’s first time attending.

There has been at least one Chinese-style dragon every year (this year there were two). My kids’ first thrilled exclamation was, “Long Ma!”

There was also a rainbow ribbon made of birds (doves?) in the mill pond. Only the top half of the ribbon was actually made of pumpkins; the bottom was a reflection.

Witches danced around a cauldron to a recording of the witches’ chant from Macbeth. These witches seemed more Pratchett-like than Shakespeare-like to me, though.

There was a whole section of famous paintings recreated in pumpkins. The most recognizable, of course, was the Mona Lisa. There was also Van Gogh’s self-portrait, Emily Carr’s Haida Totems, Girl with a Pearl Earring, American Gothic, White Pine by A.J. Casson (Group of Seven), and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.

In honour of the village itself, there was an exhibit called the “Upper Canada Village People”, of which there were a schoolteacher, a cheese-maker, a baker, and a spinner.

The Jack-o’-lantern-covered archway to the children’s area is another exhibit that has remained constant (although I believe at least some of the individual pumpkins have changed).

My favourite part this year was the Day of the Dead area, which was actually so large that I couldn’t fit all of it (or even most of it) in one picture. It was colourful and detailed and a general pleasure to behold.

Of course, these aren’t all of the exhibits at Pumpkinferno — they’re just the ones of which I got the best pictures. If you have time before Hallowe’en, I highly recommend a visit. It only runs Thursday through Sunday for the next two weekends, so keep that in mind when you’re planning. Also, the lines for entry can be quite long. I highly recommend buying your tickets online in advance, which means you get to take the quicker and shorter line, and spend more time inside the event.

The Great Glebe Garage Sale 2017

The Great Glebe Garage Sale is a Big Deal in Ottawa. A community garage sale may not seem like an exceptional event, but it is huge and densely packed with buyers and sellers alike. The roads are thronged with people, strollers, bicycles, and parked cars. Driving in the area — which is usually a fairly quiet residential area — is inadvisable; if you’re going to park in the area, plan to show up at the crack of dawn to get a spot. Even people who don’t go to garage sales as a general rule will make a day of hitting this one.


Panorama taken to give an idea of the crowds; click to enlarge. Please ignore how some people are visually chopped up, as everyone was moving and my camera objected. Taken from just north of Glebe Ave. and Lyon St. South.


I found somebody selling everything including the kitchen sink.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Glebe is one of the older and wealthier areas of downtown Ottawa. It is bordered by the Queensway (a.k.a. the Trans-Canada Highway) to the north, the Rideau Canal to the east and south, and Bronson Avenue to the west. The residential streets are lined with huge hundred-year-old houses, and are shaded by equally-old trees.


I spotted this CCM GT-101 bicycle in a hodgepodge of bikes in front of the Glebe Collegiate. I think it would have fit right in in Stranger Things — it even still had its headlamp. Except that CCM is a Canadian company, and Stranger Things is set in Indiana, I guess.


Bargain hunters on Glebe Ave.

The Glebe Community Association schedules and runs the Sale, which has been held on the fourth Saturday in May, rain or shine, since 1986. Sellers are expected to donate a portion the day’s proceeds to the Ottawa Food Bank. The goal for this year was to raise $12,000, which is in addition to all of the other fundraising events that take advantage of the crowds. For example, every year I have attended there has been a scout troupe selling hot dogs and cold drinks in front of St. James United Church, and they do a brisk business. Some groups pool all their resources and run a larger sale from inside a community center or church, although some such fundraisers are held in volunteers’ driveways and front yards.


This was the thing that I wanted the most at the entire garage sale, but at an asking price of $175 it was much too dear for my budget, especially since I didn’t need to use it for anything, I just liked it. It’s an M-S-A Chemox Oxygen Breathing Apparatus — a rebreather (probably for firefighting), most likely from the 1950’s.


Both sides of this driveway were lined with golf bags; there were literally so many that I couldn’t get far enough away to get them all in one shot.

I have been attending the Great Glebe Garage Sale for at least fifteen years now, and my success in finding things to buy has been variable. Some years I don’t find a darned thing; other years I have to walk back to my car (usually parked outside the Glebe but within relatively easy walking distance) four or five times to drop things off because my bag(s) have become too heavy. But I find it fun to go whether or not I discover any treasures. Half of the thrill is of the hunt, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had people-watching (spotted a man carrying a live parrot on his shoulder this year), listening to music (there seems to be a busker or a DJ set up on every block), and eating (every fundraiser going is selling food on the street, alongside every style of food truck in town).


A whole pig being spit-roasted for pork sandwiches to be sold at lunch. It smelled divine.


The crowds on Third Ave.

If you’ve never been to the Great Glebe Garage Sale, and you’re in town on the fourth Saturday in May, I highly recommend that you go. Especially if you’re into anything that can be difficult to find — you might just get lucky!