MosaïCanada 150

This past week I took the kids to MosaïCanada 150, which is a massive garden installation in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. The exhibition is being held in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Québec (right across the river from Ottawa) from June 30th to October 15th, from 10:00am to 7:00pm. And it’s free! Well, the garden is, but parking isn’t.

The girls and I took a picnic lunch and stayed for a couple of hours, much to their delight. As a family we really do enjoy playing tourist, even in our own city. We ended up with perfect weather! I took what seems like a million pictures, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite pieces and the ones that resonate the most with my heritage.


Canada 150: A Powerful Symbol


Engine CPR 374

I’ve always loved trains.


Anne of Green Gables (waiting at for the train at the station)

I loved the Anne of Green Gables books as a child, and I faithfully watched the televised version with Megan Follows with my parents. I haven’t had a chance to check out the new version; although I’ve heard good things, I don’t know if it can compare in my mind with the nostalgia that the old version induces.


The Lobster Fisherman

I don’t know that any of my ancestors were lobster fishermen, but they’re iconic to the East Coast, where my family is definitely from.


The Canadian Horse

My girls loved this sculpture the most. They pointed out to me that it greatly resembles the scene at the end of The Last Unicorn where the unicorns emerge en masse from the sea. I particularly liked the use of grasses for the mane, which flowed in the breeze.


The Prospector (panning for gold)

We spent a lot of time in elementary school learning about the Klondike Gold Rush. I especially liked how the fountain in this piece added motion as the prospector “washed” his pan.


The Voyageur

Similarly, I remember many lessons on the French-Canadian Voyageurs.


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic

I have to admit, I’m not familiar with The Legend of Aataentsic, but Mother Earth and Mother Nature are stories told all over the world in different forms. I was especially impressed by this sculpture, which was the crowning glory of the exhibition. No other display was done on such a grand scale, or with such flow and attention to detail.


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic


Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic

If you’re in the Ottawa/Gatineau region before October 15th, I highly recommend visiting the MosaïCanada 150 garden. I hope to be able to go back again in the fall once the leaves have started to change colour; I expect it will be gorgeous.

Dragons and Spiders

I spent part of this weekend with what seemed like almost everybody else in Ottawa: watching La Machine. And I’m not kidding about the “almost everybody else” thing, either. Apparently attendance of the street theater production on Saturday (when we went) was 250,000 to 300,000 people, and the crowds over the four-day run was around 750,000. Keep in mind that the population of the city is just over a million. It would be drastically understating things to say that La Machine was well-attended.

So what’s the story of this performance? From the Ottawa 2017 website:

From the ninth level of heaven, Long Ma —- a cosmic creature who is half-horse, half-dragon—keeps watch over humanity. But a sinister force that has taken the form of a giant spider slips into his home as he sleeps, burning his wings and robbing his sacred temple. From this time forth, the Dragon-Horse roams the seven seas in search of his missing temple.

The giant spider, Kumo, takes refuge in Ottawa, the mother-city of all spiders. Buried deep beneath the waves, the temple remains concealed. But the recent work undertaken by the city to build Ottawa’s new transit line has disturbed Kumo, and she is forced to emerge from the ground. Her power depleted, the spider becomes vulnerable and loses control of the temple, which reappears in the city. Alerted by this apparition, Long Ma sets out on the route taken by Champlain several centuries earlier, with the intention of recovering his temple of travel, a shrine that he alone has the power to properly restore.

So on Saturday we headed downtown to City Hall to check out the sleeping Long Ma (the dragon horse):


Apparently Long Ma breathes smoke in his sleep.

We took a break for dinner and walked over to The Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. I have dined there before on several occasions, and I have yet to order something there I disliked. Given the massive crowds downtown for the La Machine performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s short wait time (about 15 minutes for a table inside, right at dinner hour), prompt service, and quick turnaround on food. I honestly was expecting everything to take forever no matter where we ended up. Considering that some restaurants ran out of food, my fear was not unfounded.

After dinner we walked down to the Supreme Court of Canada to check out Kumo (the giant spider):

Then we took a quick walk back to the intersection Elgin St and Queen St to stake out a spot to watch Long Ma walk by:


Long Ma turns north from Albert St onto Elgin St.


Long Ma walking up Elgin St. Thing 2 took this photo with my phone while sitting on my shoulders. You can really get an idea of the scale of the crowds.


Long Ma breathing smoke.


Thing 1 took this photo as well.

After Long Ma passed us, we put our cameras away and joined the rest of the crowd in following the dragon on his walk down Wellington St to the Supreme Court. Once Long Ma turned the corner to the courtyard for the main performance, we couldn’t see him live anymore and had to watch most of the performance on one of the giant screens. However, we did get close enough by the end of the performance to see him get his wings back through the trees, and to watch Kumo jet water, and to witness the “snow” falling. My kids were enthralled. I was somewhat less spellbound, as I had to carry a child on my shoulders for more than an hour and that’s a bit distracting, but it was still a wonderful show. We even got to see the dragon and the spider from a bit closer after things ended, once the crowds started to thin.

All in all, we got home around midnight tired, hungry, and footsore. But would I do it again? Heck yes, I would. This is the stuff that memories are made of.

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!

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.