A New Challenge!

Posted by Ian On June 5, 2009

I'm pleased to announce that I have started my own little company - mare ad mare, which is latin for 'sea to sea' and part of the Canadian motto (check the cover of your new passports). Our goal will be to build a fresh new brand of clothing for Canadian (and wannabe Canadian) girls. I will be using this blog, much as I have in the past - to continue showing people around the globe (over 50 countries now!) what it's like to be a Canadian girl, tracing the footsteps of our 3 girls as we explore more of this great place we call home.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Now for big girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

JUMP IN!

Fall shirt for Canadian girls

A big pile of leaves for you here! As a Canadian summer turns to fall, the leaves change colours and then fall off the trees. Kids rake them up and play! So go on, Jump into Fall with this Orange T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Pass the Marshmallows!

Summer shirt for Canadian Girls

Summer in Canada is the time for camping, camp fires and of course - Marshmallows! Get ready to go roast some in this summer yellow T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Spring...Finally!

Spring shirt for Canadian Girls

After a long Canadian winter, spring can never arrive too soon! Pull on this Spring Green T and go planting girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

It's not ALWAYS cold in Canada...

Winter shirt for Canadian Girls

How many times have you had to tell someone that it's not always cold here? Well, sometimes it is cold - but to make your point, grab this little winter blue T and let them know that it's not just snow and ice up here all the time! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Girls, grab this little white T, and go get your kiss ;-) Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

One of the great things about living where we do, is the very close proximity to the Kanata Lakes Trail Network - where you can go hiking or mountain biking, and I'm guessing cross-country skiing in the winter. Well, yesterday we had planned on visiting an apple orchard, doing some apple picking, having a hayride - that sort of afternoon, but after a lazy morning - we didn't much feel like driving for an hour to do that... Instead, we decided to take the kids (minus Rebekah of course) and dog on a little walk through the trails. 'Little walk' being the operative word - you see, this 'little walk' turned into a Gilligans Island-like 3 hour tour!!! Unfortunately, we were not at all prepared for anything more than a 20min walk. Not really dressed for the warm day, no water, no food, no cell phone, no camera and no map - like the one shown below - would have been handy!!!

The trouble with the trail system in this area, is that there are so many little loops and turns, that you can easily go the wrong way - we never said lost - but with 30 km of trails, you can be out for a looooooooooong time, and not see civilization. Luckily these trails are bordered on all sides by major roads - so you're never truly lost - but it sure felt that way at times. I've biked back there a number of times, but rarely gone the same way twice...

Mistake Number 1 (pink star #1 on map below)
We started out ok, made our way in and found the bird feeder intersection and turned right. We cursed this decision for a good part of the next few hours. A left turn limits the area we can go before hitting a big road, and is usually good for a quick tour. But this time, I felt like going right. Like I said, there's lots of little loops and usually you can make your way out pretty quick from that area. After awhile, we did come up to the big pond (missing one out point already), and from this point I was fairly certain that if we continued this way, we would make our way around the pond and come out near Klondike road by the flat rock section.

Mistake Number 2 (pink star #2 on map)
I'm not sure that you can call this point a mistake - as we really didn't see the connections that the map is showing. We really did not have that many decision points. Lots of places have spots that could be trails, but don't look like a main trail. So that could have been the case here - but we didn't see it... If we had seen these connections, we might have been able to get back relatively quick - but we didn't.

Mistake Number 3 (pink star #3 on map)
Keeping in mind the looping, we came to an intersection and had the option of continuing further into the forest, or turn right (which theoretically would have kept us in the direction I wanted - back toward home). Guess which one we chose? Yup the wrong one. If we had gone left, we could have looped around and been back within 30mins or so...
But no, we continued around the lake and finally came to the Inukshuk.

Mistake Number 4 (pink star #4 on map)
I remember having gone past this pile of rocks before (named the Inukshuk), but couldn't remember what to do at that point. Looking now at the map, there's supposed to be another unofficial trail leading off from that point which would have put us back towards Second Line and Klondike road. But again - we didn't see it...
At this point, we were happy we hadn't started the walk at 4! We had already walked for a good hour or so and ~6km. The girls were still keeping up pretty good, but were definitely wanting to get home soon. We were able to keep their spirits up by taking in the scenery, and finding lots of little animals and snakes along the way.
However, not seeing any options at this point, the only thing we could do is continue forward. For the next 15 mins or so, I thought we were close to our exit - but it never seem to come. And once we started looping the wrong way - away from the pond, and further west - I knew that we were on our way to Huntmar or Old Carp road at the opposite end of the forest from where we had entered.
Every once in awhile we would see bikers, or other hikers - thinking that we were getting closer to an out point, but soon after were back to being completely alone and in the middle of nowhere. We did run into one biker more than a few times, and like me, had been out a few times before with friends, but didn't have a map this time, and he wasn't exactly sure where he was either. He did have GPS though, and we could see that we were heading towards Huntmar. Problem is - it's not a straight line - and that part of the forest is some of the most difficult terrain in the area. Lots of rocks, ups and downs - and it was starting to take its affect on the girls.
The joking and minor complaints about being lost, and wanting to get home were becoming worse. They were tired and thirsty - the only one able to drink was the poor dog, who had never been on such a walk - not that the girls had either - but at least the dog could drink from the area ponds.
This part of the trail seemed to go on forever, and just when it seemed to start heading in the right direction, it would turn back the other way. Looking at the map now - I can see that we were on the Outback loop. 6 km of Very hard, technical terrain as listed on the mountain bike map. Every once in awhile the same biker would catch up to us. We'd check his GPS to see that yes - we were getting there...slowly. He joked that his girlfriend was really pissed off from being out this far, was supposed to be back home an hour before!

Out finally!
We finally started hearing cars. I took a path less traveled this time to continue towards the sound of the cars and a few minutes later we were out of the forest, on the rail line about 100m from Huntmar Rd.
While we were happy to be out, we were pretty far from home. I had been at this point on my bike before, and it had taken a good 20mins or so of hard biking to get home. We had been out already for 3 hours over hard terrain, tired, hot, thirsty and with kids ready to drop - although not heavily complaining or willing to take piggy-back rides. They were real troopers.

Good decision #1
At that spot too, was a massive uphill walk to start our way back. By the time we got to the top, they were all ready to drop. I was ready to go ahead and come back for them with the car, but we didn't feel comfortable splitting up. They'd have to sit there and wait another 30-40mins easily. Had to do something...
Emma was just about done. I picked her up and continued down the road. At one of the houses on the road, there were a couple sitting out on their deck with their grandchildren playing in the front, and I could see they saw us struggling along. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to make it without killing ourselves, I walked up to them, explained the situation and asked if I could call a cab. He offered the phone, but then quickly instead offered a ride! PHEW!

10 mins later and many, many thanks to our driver, we were home and completely exhausted after over 3 hours and ~15 km of hiking!

We said that we should never again talk about this hike - but I guarantee - this will be one of those moments that we'll all remember for the rest of our lives.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get a nice little gift certificate at the beer store for that guy... he really was a life saver!

(btw - here's a map of the area, the blue line is our path as best as I can guess it...and if you ever think about heading out in this area - bring the map!)

Just as it appears as though summer might actually make an appearance, the kids headed back to school yesterday.

It's so different from how I remember it - maybe it's because I was in a french immersion program, or maybe it's the new class size limitations - but there weren't 4 different classes for every single grade. We didn't need to wait for the first day to find out who we had for a teacher, or who was going to be in our class... I went to school from year to year, with the same group of kids. We knew who the teacher was for the next grade, and that was going to be your teacher the next year.

In this exploding area of Ottawa however, even with a new school opening up nearby to take a good chunk of the kids - it's still school-yard chaos on day 1. Papers posted on the walls for all the kids to see which class they're in, and for the older students - they had to wait to get into the gym to get their assigned teachers and classes... I can only imagine what kind of crazy the gym would have been for that. It's a brand new school, only a few years old - but they've put an addition on it now, and have 10 or 12 portables in the yard to hold all the kids. Of course they're still building a pile of homes in the area too - where the heck are they going to fit them all?!?! More great city planning Ottawa.

What's more amazing, is the names on the class lists... The ratio of boys to girls is at least 4:1 and the names, like the area, is so diverse. There's a ton of new canadians in the area, from Indian to Russian, Muslim and Chinese - the regular old 'canadians' are the minority here. Where I grew up, they used to have seperate areas in the class lists for Mc's and Mac's on top of the M's. Not quite the same problem here. Meghan said she had a few new boys in her class, one who's first name was Zhang, the other who's last name was Zhang ;-)

But the girls seem relatively happy with their classes and teachers, so here's to hoping for a good year for them!

bummer summer though...


Before the summer started, Sara and I actually got organized for a change (might have helped that I wasn't constantly traveling!) and reserved some camping weekends. One of the weekends/campgrounds we reserved was at Samuel de Champlain, the girls were going to be camping with their grandparents and cousins for the week, and we would go up and spend the weekend with them (and yes, the week at home alone was nice). Samuel de Champlain is a very nice campground, covered it last year so won't go into too many details other than to say - it's great one of the better ones, but at just over 3 hours away - it's not great for a weekend getaway. The girls loved being able to camp with grandpa and grandma though and they called in the middle of the week to say they had seen umpteen turtles, loads of frogs, a loon and her baby, river otters, great blue herons... on one canoe trip! Was a nice weekend for us - other than all the rain, but that's the way it's been this summer.
For more on Samuel de Champlain, check out my previous post.

Park Hunting

In selecting our other 2 weekend camping destinations, we had a few criterias which had to be met, and luckily, the provincial park website is not bad for checking things out and getting some decent information - whereas my parents used to drive in to the park on the way by to see if would be ok, and check out desireable sites - we can do that online now for the most part. It's not
100%, but far better than going in blind!
We wanted campgrounds that were around 1.5 hours away, sites that were a decent size, fairly private, grass covered and close to water... Not too easy, but we did manage to reserve the long weekend at the Voyageurs Provincial Park, near Hawkesbury and the Quebec border.

Camp Setup

We were anticipating the first half-decent weekend of the summer, it's been raining CONSTANTLY, and we're all getting more than a little tired of it...
We got there, got setup, had a decent enough setup too - especially for not anticipating any rain. We had a new dining tent, and lots of tarp to keep us covered if we did get some rain.
By the way - those are Eureka Apex tents, the 2 XTC and 3 XTC. Nice little tents. The fly completely covers the tent, and the tent itself is nice and airy - go up in a flash too. Have never waterproofed them, and have yet to see drop one inside the tent. Having the tarp over the entrances like this is nice though for when it rains - you can get in and out without getting wet and have your shoes outside. We had some nice little straw mats between the two tents too...
We bought a dining tent too, so we could hide somewhere if it rained, or if the bugs got too bad. Had one spec'd out - but Canadian Tire ran out, so settled on this much more economical model. Actually would have loved the 'Northern Breeze' from Eureka, but at $400 I wasn't that in love with it...
Two main problems of this Woods tent, was that there weren't enough trees around to hook up a tarp over it, and it didn't fit the oversized picnic table...

A Perfect Day of Camping!

Saturday was a perfect day of camping. It was mid-20's, sunny with a few clouds and we got in a ton of good camping activities. We went out canoeing and introduced the girls to fishing! Not that they caught anything, was probably a good thing we didn't, they're huge animal lovers, and even though we told them it would be a catch and release situation - if anything were to go wrong, it would have spelled disaster... at any rate, they had a good time learning how to cast and troll. Caught more weeds than anything - but they liked it.


Now - it might not have looked like the nicest of days - but that was relatively early in the morning and was actually quite nice for being out in the canoe (no burning hot sun).

We got back in time for lunch, and put on a fire to have pie-iron grilled cheese sandwiches. Normally, you do pizzas, but we screwed that up... The secret to a good pie-iron sandwich (just like marshmallows) is red-hot coals. Getting a fire going with camp store firewood is near impossible - since it's ALWAYS soaking wet! But we did get it going and got our nice grilled cheese - btw - this is what pie-irons look like:

After lunch, we went on a very lame frog hunt. There were some park guides telling the kids about the lifecycle of frogs, a little info about frogs and then we ALL went on a walk to find frogs. Now anyone that knows anything about frog catching, knows that you have to be quiet, slow, sneaky - so how does parading 40 something kids and their parents through a swamp help them find frogs?!?! Needless to say it was a complete waste of time - told the girls we'd head back later...

We headed to the overly crowded beach after that. Weekends at provincial parks are havens for family get togethers. The picnic areas usually surround the beach, so it's packed too. Lots of 'new canadians' at the park too. Couple of burqa's out too - one in full gear - IN the lake! Never seen that before.

For supper that night - we were tempted by the 3.99 spaghetti offer - but decided on bacon, eggs and beans. We had brought out the cast iron skillet, so we started another fire, got it down to a nice low burn and slapped the bacon in the pan - right on the fire! Tastiest bacon we've ever had - bar none. Perfectly crisp with a nice smokey flavour. Check it out:

Sara on the other hand, got to fight off mosquitos while cooking under the tarp next to the bush...


It was a late supper (we had gone for another canoe ride) so we were able to just let the fire go, and move right into marshmallow country - ending our perfect day of camping.

Then the rains came...

It was SUPPOSED to be nice all weekend, but we were rudely woken by raindrops at 6:30 the next morning. Sara ran out and put away all the things that had been hanging, and then headed back into the tent to wait out what we hoped would just be a short shower. But it didn't go away... and it gradually got worse. One of our bungees that was holding the tarps out over our table and dining tent had given way with the rain, so there went our cover! We decided to head into town for breakfast, get out of the rain for a bit and hopefully wait for it to pass over.

But it didn't. It kept raining and raining. Luckily we had a nice breakfast in Hawesbury, but we couldn't stay all day. Decided to head back and heard on the radio that it was supposed to rain all day. That was it - we decided to pack up and go home. No sense in sitting in rain all day to just pack up in the morning. So I sent Sara and the girls in the tent to play cards, and I packed up. The tarps covered me for at least half the pack up - but as we started to pack up the tents and then the tarps - we got soaked. The tents were a muddy mess and the tarps were worse... but we managed to jam everything in and get away.

Voyageur Provincial Park - The good, bad and ugly
Good:
Close to home (1.5hours), decent sites, pretty good privacy (except when the neighbours feel responsible for providing the music broadcast for the area...and I love Metallica, but NOT while camping) I suppose you could say that the beaches were ok - but I'm stretching for good things here.

Bad:
Close to the highway, you could hear traffic all the time. The water was not great for canoeing, way too many motorboats coming in and out of the Ottawa River into the bays. The park store barely had any supplies, and of course the wood was completely soaked.

Ugly:
Dirty. The bathrooms were not nearly as well kept as some others we've been to, and there was garbage overflow at the cans - because the garbage dropoff was not within walking distance.

Overall - wouldn't go back... but not the worst place by any means.

Maybe next post I'll do a little bit on the amount of crap you need to have a 'nice and easy' weekend of camping!
Last night I attended (and read) at Blog Out Loud Ottawa at the Raw Sugar Cafe. A little different for sure - but had a great time doing it. I wasn't really nervous about reading, til I actually got started...

It's not like I'm not used to speaking in front of large groups - I've presented in front of hundreds at user conferences and company meetings. And I used to play in front of 10's - sometimes 100's of people when I was singing/playing bass in my punk band. So I shouldn't have been nervous. But this group was a little different from my typical audiences. I had to read in front of fellow bloggers - 95% of them bright, intelligent and talented women - which was more than a little intimidating I have to admit.

I read terribly. I was the last up for the night - was a late addition, so I think I screwed up the closing order a little bit, as I'm sure more were there to hear Dani than me - but I'm glad Lynn let me read.

I read about my last day with my former company - titled 'my not so short goodbye'. And like the title says - it wasn't a short post... I read it and timed it, by the 8 minute mark I had barely finished Portugal - so had to pull out the editing pen. Most of what was cut, was project specific work stories - but I hope some go back and read it all - there's some pretty good stuff in there! It was the end of the night - and I think I tried to move almost too quickly through it - I speak fast enough as it is... But it was a little weird being in front of a crowd, yet having to stare down at this piece of paper and just read. I had to adlib a few times - just to be able to look out and engage the crowd(hope noone would be sleeping or sneaking out). Those were about the only moments up there where I actually felt comfortable! Usually I'll have a slide show, or white board behind me - with only a few notes or points to keep me on-track, where I'll provide filler to keep the speech flowing - but I didn't have that luxury here. Maybe if there's a next time - I'll bring some props or a projector to help me out.

It was definitely different - definitely fun. Some great stories too, and I've got a brand new reader list to catch up on now. Hearing the stories right from the source allows you to get to know that person that much better - know where they're coming from - so it will definitely help me get into their blogs faster!

It wasn't the first time I had performed at a coffee house - but it was the first time I did it relatively sober, without a bass in my hands and have an actual recollection of the night the next morning! Oh - and we didn't wreck the place! Here's a shot of me the last time I played a coffee house... over 15 years ago...

You don't want to see the 'after' pics...
Well - more Dance Finals than summer vacation really... but not for lack of trying!

The club where the girls dance decided to go to finals this year, and so 2 weeks ago we headed off to Collingwood. Normally this would be a 6+ hour drive from Ottawa to Collingwood, but we decided to break the trip up (5 in the car - plus dog is too much for that long of a trip) and head to North Bay for a night to visit my parents. A couple of 3.5 hour trips later - we were in Collingwood.

The finals were held at the Blue Mountain Resort, a pretty big resort - with a number of condo/hotels and a nice little village to walk around at the center. There's a conference center right there on-site, plenty of restaurants, groceries, a Beavertails and Starbucks right there - so no need to head into town even and it was all walking distance. Was nice that we didn't have to do much driving while there, and could focus a little more on the finals and some relaxing...
The resort itself is a 'ski' resort, although the hill is pretty small. It's reported as Ontario's biggest ski hill - which really doesn't say much for Ontario skiing. There are a number of runs, but the hill is only 450m high with a vertical drop of just over 200m. But we DID NOT GO FOR SKIING - it is summer after all...




We did go up the hill to look around - could see Georgian Bay from the top and all around the area. Nice view. The hill in the summer is used for hiking, mountain biking and downhill biking (which looked pretty fun).
Here's a pic from the top, village below and Georgian Bay in the background.










Rebekah actually joined us for the trip! (I think she was hoping for more sun...) Was pretty bored for most of the week, until she started hanging out with some of the older dancers that she knew from school.









Here is a quick clip of the resort and some of the views from the hill. clip


When we booked, we had hoped to have the first part of the week for dance, the second part for vacation - but the first half extended to Thursday to compete in the overalls - so it was more 75% dance, 25% vacation. Which ended up being ok - because the first part of the week, the weather was crap. We were able to sneak a few swims/hottubs during the few moments of sun in just about 20c weather... but Friday was great, hot and sunny, great for hiking and swimming.


As for the dancing...

Both Emma and Meghan competed. Emma only had one solo, and was done on morning 1. She did her best routine yet, but came up a little short against another girl from Elite. She was very happy with the way she danced - so it was all good.

Meghan did an amazing job on her solo, landing her tripple spin and all of her holds. She eventually won 1st overall in her category and a photographers award for the most photogenic routine - check out some of the pics!















































Many of her other routines (solos and groups) did very well, getting high scores and one of the numbers competed in the dance-off. So overall - a great week for Meghan!



Highlight of the week?
I think the girls would agree that the highlight of their week, was their workshops with Lisa from So you think you can Dance Canada! They each had a couple hours with her and learned a short routine in jazz funk - check em out...


Emma with Lisa - clip



Meghan with Lisa - clip



Dance is over!!!
No more dance for the year now... well, there are some summer practice sessions... but last night we found out that Emma has been asked to move up to Meghan's competition group - so she is EXTREMELY happy about that!

A final note - the year end recital for Elite went off well (prior to finals) and the parents number survived the back-to-back nights (with just the appropriate amounts of alcohol). As promised - here is a pic of the Dance Dads in all their glory...



If you can guess which one is me - you get a prize...



    About Me

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    It's not about the money you make, the toys you have, the clothes you wear - it's about the life experiences you go through, the challenges you face and the stories you tell... Having just moved back to Canada (after almost 8 years in the U.S and Germany), we have lots to show our girls and our friends around the world about Canada. We're going to be telling our stories, hope you enjoy our adventures. Mare ad Mare means 'sea to sea' and we want to show the world, from Sea to Sea - this is what it's like to be a Canadian Girl!