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.


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 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
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.

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.

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...

I received a nice little note over the weekend from our friends that had moved to town from Germany. I wrote a little about their arrival back in February - New Canadian and since then, they have settled in somewhat and are enjoying our rather crappy summer, but are definitely looking forward to some heat... Hope this week is good, as their kids and ours are on a week long summer camp with the YMCA.

Back to the note... he had wanted to post it on the blog, so I was more than glad to oblige!

Dear Ian and Sara,

Today, I completed my first 6 months in Canada! These months have been hectic and challenging but surely enriching. Even though they are dark clouds in the horizon and lot of uncertainties, we still think that coming to Canada was a great choice.

We enjoyed our very first Canada Day celebrating with your wonderful Canadian family and hope to take pleasure in many more such days in your generous land: Canada.

We thank your family for all you have done to help us settle down and feel at “home“ in this new Country, Continent, Culture and all the things that come along. We have travelled and lived around the world: France, Japan, India, Belgium, Germany (where we first met) and now Canada… We sound like professional travelers? Yet every move is tough and consumes a lot of energy. But this time it has been smoother, and this is thanks to the McMartin family, for their time and goodwill in helping us.

Thank you, Merci

Arabinda and family

I hope that they continue to enjoy their lives here, especially as the 6 month 'honeymoon' phase fades in the rear view mirror... the next 6 months will contain another decent chunk of winter. The first winter is nice, unique - all good, but I guarantee that next winter they'll be cursing the snow, after having shovelled for the 100th time, just like everyone else!

For now, I'll let them enjoy the summer (as crappy as it's been so far) and let them know that we were very glad that we could help them get settled, and we're even happier that they're here to stay.

Just a little late for a Canada Day wrap-up, but it's been a busy few weeks...
We had a pretty tame Canada Day. I took the girls to Canada Day in Kanata to see what was going on, we had hoped to have our shirts on display, but we couldn't work out the insurance details in time... no biggie - we just went and had fun instead.

Carnival Rides

Ah carnies... those barely safe rides that go from place to place, weekend after weekend came to Canada Day in Kanata again this year. The girls like the rides - well, the smaller ones... they're slowly becoming a little more brave with each passing year - but we're nowhere near ready for Canada's Wonderland yet. They took on the Octopus and Scrambler, but I couldn't talk them into the Salt'n'Pepper shakers, or even the Ferris Wheel... too high... Meghan wanted to go, but Emma wouldn't budge! (clip)

There were some bouncy things around the corner, so the girls decided they wanted to give it a try. There were 4 or 5 of these things, so we found the shortest line and 10mins later the girls had a nice little race. (clip)

We lucked out too, as just a few minutes later - we could see the air coming out of it as the whole thing started to collapse. I would have been some pissed to have waited and then watch it fall apart just before my turn!


Yummy Beavertails - a must have at any Ottawa event, or anytime wandering around downtown - at least for our girls. Beavertails are flat pastries covered in a variety of sauces - but the standard is Cinnamon and Sugar. We snagged a Cinnamon/Sugar and a Maple tail - the girls devoured them in seconds. Called Sara a little later - she had decided to stay home to prep for our guests, but made us bring one home ;-) (clip)

We didn't stick around for the whole day, so we missed whatever fireworks that might have been there and Loverboy... yes, they're still alive... was told by one of Meghan's friends who saw them - that they looked very old, and the singer was looking tired from trying to run around. too funny...
Now downtown Ottawa is another story. Tons of people pack the hill to see Sarah McLachlan and the fireworks

We're not quite ready for the crowds yet, but maybe next year...

We finished off our day by having our new Canadian friends over for beers and a bbq. It was their first Canada Day - so hope they enjoyed it!

Stop in at the Expat Blog to read my latest - trying to keep the memories of Canada alive for those so far away... Happy almost Canada Day!

Anyone else remember The Pop Shoppe?
With Canada Day fast approaching, thought I'd put together a little promotion for our new brand of Canadian Girl T's!
We're going to giveaway 5 shirts to the first five to respond to our little challenge...

The Challenge
As you know, our blog is full of us having fun with our girls - showing the world what it's like to be a Canadian girl. Now we want to see what your Canadian girls do for fun! Now this is not only restricted to kids in Canada - because there are more than a few Canadian expat kids out there too (like our girls used to be...) - so your little Canadian girl, having fun anywhere - let's see it!
This blog has readers from over 50 countries - so we are spreading the word.

We'll post the winners on our blog to help us show off Canada and/or our Canadian girls wherever they are - whatever they're doing. Of course we will only post what is sent, so if you don't want to include names or whatever - don't! Please include a picture or two, or even better, a short video - could be links to something you already have posted with flickr or youtube...

Here's a sample of what you could send:
Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany
Had the chance to go see the 'Cinderella Castle' or Schloss Neuschwanstein with the family while living in Germany - beautiful place, beautiful day. Meghan and I hiked up to where only few go, to get a spectacular view from high above the castle. Sara was not too pleased that we did it... but it's something I'll never forget.

For those who can't see the video window - here's the link: Schloss Neuschwanstein
It doesn't have to be a huge thing - just a quick paragraph or two - more if you like. Please let us know which shirt and size you would like - they come in Small (6-8) and Medium (10-12) - don't forget to provide your address!

Please send everything to info@mareadmare.ca

For those who don't make it into the first 5, we will be having an ongoing giveaway - one per month and will be picking from all the submissions sent (and of course posting the winners!). One more thing - we're working on a 'big girl' shirt and will have them soon, so this contest is open to all Canadian girls ;-)

Special note: If you want a shirt, but can't get something together in time for Canada Day - we are providing FREE shipping until Canada Day through iCraft.ca

Thanks and good luck!
(p.s - if you hurry, they will arrive in time for Canada Day!)
If you're wondering what to do this father's day, other than relax a lot... there are a few things that you could do with those kids that made you the good dad you are!

Since it is father's day weekend, just a quick note from me - then need to get ready for a big dance weekend for the girls - RECITAL weekend, which means a full friday and saturday...then recovery on Sunday - which is a decent way to spend fathers day ;-)

For those of you who don't yet have any elaborate plans...here's a few ideas from things I've done with the kids over the past year:

1. Build a hanging tomato planter.

2. Put together a homemade bird feeder.

3. Popular around here - go canoeing.

4. If you're still in the canoe - chase Loons.

5. If you're still near water (preferably fast water) go river rafting!

Or - you can do what I'm going to do - chill out in my newly finished basement!!!
You can see the whole lifecycle of the building process - along with the finished product - in this clip!

enjoy the weekend.

Last week I volunteered to accompany Meghan's class to the Bonnechere Caves in Eganville - about 80 mins west of Ottawa. Had another great day for it, not that we really needed it, since we were going to be in caves - but actually spent most of our day outside - so the good weather was a good thing!

I've been on a few of these class trips lately, but this is the first time we rode at the back of the bus. I had completely forgot that that was where you got the worst ride... it was over an hour of bouncing down mostly country roads and was cursing myself the whole way for not bringing my noise cancelling headphones to reduce the screams for the trip.

My crew
Luckily I was assigned to watch over four very nice girls, all friends with Meghan and all kids that I already knew - so that made the day easier...

The history
We got off the bus, and were welcomed by the owner (was a bit surprised that it wasn't crown land) of the land and caves, Chris Hinsperger. He gave us a nice little speach about how the caves were found, marked by a map maker in 1853 by noting 'subterranian channels', and then told us a little about the founder - Tom Woodward. This guy must have been nuts - cuz most of the caves that we were able to explore were completely underwater when he started exploring. He eventually bought the land and blocked off some of the river entrances with concrete, and pumped out most of the rest of the water - and made it a tourist attraction!


At the beginning of the tour we were told about the land that we were on, and that it was one of the richest fossil deposits of the Ordovician period (about 400 to 500 million years ago). These were little invertebrates and plant life that should have only been able to survive in tropical climates - says something about the continental drifts doesn't it!

They had a number of fossils to pass around that had been found on site, pretty interesting little presentation, and the kids actually listened...

The Caves
So following that, we got to go in the caves - we were the first of three groups - was glad that we weren't the last!
The caves themselves were nowhere near as big as the Luray Caverns down in Virginia, and since the caves had been pretty much filled with water up until about 50 years ago - there wasn't much in the way of stalagtites or stalagmites. This was pretty much the biggest in there...

But it was quite interesting in the way some of the caves had been formed by having rushing waters flow through them for hundreds of millions of years.

You can even see how the different water levels created layers in the rock - it was like a big wall of razor blades.

There were a few smaller caves off the main path, that the kids (and some of the more adventurous volunteers) were able to explore.

There was something like an overall 50m drop from surface to the bottom of the caves, and a temp drop from 24c or so outside, to 10c inside! And since it had rained quite a bit lately, the kids were constantly getting dripped on - so cold and wet, I think they were ok to see the other end of the tunnel and get back out to the nice sunny day.

We had to wait for the rest to finish their tours, so had plenty of time to explore - although they warned us against going off the beaten path - poison ivy. I thought they were just trying to scare the kids into staying put - but I could see plenty of it lying around! The kids got to check out the store and shovel in mounds of sugar that they were able to buy there. The owner Chris said he wouldn't let anyone buy anything until they were done their tour - I think it was a clever way to keep kids relatively calm until being done with going down into the caves ;-)

The river that flows by is really nice, and had this old broken bridge - had to take the shot.
I wasn't looking forward to the ride home, but figured I could maybe sneak in a few minutes nap... Even with all the kids yelling and screaming - literally all around me - I put my knees up, head to the wall, and napped the entire way back! Now that's a good school trip.

First off - want to thank XUP for the fantastic (and unsolicited!) post on our behalf for our little family project. From that, I've already received a few sales, some contact information for advertising and a few notes from groups wanting to do product reviews - so hopefully we get on a bit of a roll.

Still trying to get some exposure - I've applied to become a vendor at the Carp Farmers Market, a local favourite of ours, and have attempted to contact the Ottawa Store downtown - but have yet to hear back from either... Contacted the Canada Day in Kanata group to see if I could get in there, pretty last minute - but seems like a possibility. Canada Day seems like just about the best day for people to 'get' the shirts and our message. So fingers crossed!

On the job front...
I had an interview today with a software company out of Quebec City, that is looking to expand in the Ottawa area. They're providing a product for the R&D community to facilitate grants and project work - interview went very well and I hope to hear back on it soon!

The basement
I really need to put the clips together to show the progress I'm making - BEFORE - I'm done... I hope to be done in the next few days! I only have a bit of the ceiling, the floor, baseboards and doors to go - seems like a lot, but I feel like I'm 'this' close to FINALLY being done!

Game 7 tonight! Enjoy!
We had the Westboro Community Sale this past Saturday, and I had reserved a table to get our new line of Tshirts out into the public for the first time. This was more than a little nerve racking - putting yourself and your ideas right into the public view like that - looking, hoping for their approval, but with the obvious questions 'what if they hate it'?!?! There have been some great comments from some of my readers on the brand and the Ts - and that gave me a good measure of confidence to get out there - so thanks to you for that!

Relatively high hopes
I had some dillusions of having a good day. I was well prepared, the table was setup nicely with well printed signage and holders, free colouring books to handout, a good display of the shirts, I even brought a pile of change to make it easier for people to pull out their $20's. But it wasn't quite the success I had hoped for...

I was thinking that it would make such a great story that I had gone out with my wares (old school like a fishmonger or something...) sold well, and made enough money to buy supper for the family and go forward from there.

Didn't quite happen. I didn't make enough for lunch, I didn't make enough to buy myself a beer... not one sale. Boo.

Not all bad!
While I had hoped to make a few sales, I had to remind myself that the real reason I was out there was to expose the brand to the public and gauge their interest. In that area, it went very well. I had lots of people taking long looks, smiling at the design/text - lots of 'cutes' and 'adorables' - I think the spread showed quite nicely in that way to attract attention. A number of people read the 'About Us' that I had put up and really like the idea, the theme, etc - even had a fellow former expat come up to me and discuss the same problems I had faced in trying to find something nice and Canadian for the girls to wear. She was among a number of people who said they would be back later - but also took cards and colouring books so they could get to the site. Coming back later never happened, but I did leave a little early (I was getting burned to a crisp!!) - and there was lots of other things happening at the Westboro Community Centre that day.

Not quite the right environment...
First off - it was a garage sale, and most kids were more interested in all the old toys that were strewn about... and for others rummaging around, I don't think the mindset was right for what I was proposing. And I mentioned it before, but there lots of other things there to keep the kids busy - a band, activities...etc

I had also hoped to have my chief sales associates (my girls) with me to help bring in the customers. They had a few dance sessions that day, and there was so many people/cars at the event, that it made it impossible for them to get back and forth. If I get into the Carp Farmers Market - I'll be sure to have them there with me!

I'm being tested
Like I said, it was somewhat dissapointing - but I view it as a test. I was rejected - do I have the guts to keep pushing forward? Yes. There were good points to draw from the experience, and I need to build off those. If everyone who has ever tried something new and crazy quit after their first failure - we'd be without a lot of really cool stuff...

Next Up?
I'm going to be heading downtown today, to the Ottawa Store in the Byward Market. I'm hoping to partner up with them, have them be the flagship of sorts for our line. Makes sense - it has lots of Canadian touristy types things, so I'm hoping they see it the same way. With them being right down in the market should have lots of exposure for the brand - keep your fingers crossed for me, I'll let you know how it goes!

BTW - went with Meghan's class to Bonnechere Caves yesterday, will post on that later too!
I've never been one to sit around and wait for things to happen. Being 'unemployed' for the first time...ever...has given me more time than ever before to look at new opportunities. And really, with the current economic climate, you have to look at anything and everything. I've always wanted to own and operate my own business, and recently I've been wanting to try something a little different that the IT world that I've worked in my whole life. I've also wanted to expand on my comfort zone - work on marketing, branding, accounting, business management, sales, design...etc and I want to produce something that I can touch and feel...more than just 1's and 0's for a change.

With all that said, 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.

I have built a website at www.mareadmare.ca to display the shirts, provide links to the blog, where to buy and colouring pages. Take a look - let me know what you think!

We're starting the brand through 5 Tshirts, 4 of them representing our 4 seasons. We've taken elements of Canadiana and boiled them down to a fun design and a cute saying. These designs are kid approved, and have been updated through some great feedback on an earlier round of ideas on this brand. Special thanks to XUP, Jenn and others who commented - Hope you like the changes!

The line


After a long Canadian winter, spring can never arrive too soon! Pull on this Spring Green T and go planting girls!

Summer - Pass the Marshmallows!

Just in time for summer. 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.

Fall - Jump In!

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.

Winter - It's not ALWAYS cold in Canada.

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!

A kiss - Donnez-moi un petit baiser!

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all.
Girls, grab this little white T, and go get your kiss ;-)

In stores near you
We will be looking for retail partners to sell our line across the country, but for those who don't have a retail partner nearby (or are located abroad) - I've setup an etsy shop for the moment.
If you know someone or a store in your town that might be interested - please let me know! (I'm great with kick-backs! )

First showing - Westboro, this Saturday!
This weekend - we will have a table at the Westboro Garage Sale at Dovercourt! Not the most glamerous start, but figured it would be a good opportunity to get out and get some feedback on the shirts, see what kind of success we might be able to have... I hope to have the girls there helping me out (in between dance lessons). We'll be handing out colouring books for those poor kids that had to be dragged out to the garage sale - hope to see you there!

I'm pretty excited to get this going (finally after it being in my head for almost 2 years now...). I'll be updating the blog with business notes too now - hope you don't mind, but it should be an interesting journey. Can't wait.

Being a dad to 3 girls - it hasn't been easy, but it's not the mass disappointment that this commercial makes it out to be...

Hey 'dad' come up with a better answer - and faster next time! You're making me look bad.
As he's bumbling for the words, trying to come up with some pseudo answer to not break her heart - he actually does... Cuz by taking that half second or two, he's said all he needs to, indicating to her that she's really a second class kid to him cuz she isn't a boy. He's insulting himself, and other dads that are more than happy to have girls! And I'm a little pissed at McCrappy's for even putting a commercial like that out there - not that they're going to lose much business from me.

My friends say it's karma exacting some measure of revenge on me for not being a little angel when I was younger... but having these kids has changed my life completely, and having all girls has given me a very different perspective. I'm not saying that I don't want to be traveling 85% of the time again when they're all teenagers, but at the same time - I get to learn new things, and not have to try to live my life vicariously through a son, pressuring him to do the things I never got to do... and I'm not going to be forcing any of the girls to be my 'designated boy'. Not that there's anything wrong with boys - we had a name picked out from the beginning - just never got to use it, and I wasn't going to have FOUR girls ...

Pricesses and Divas
And just because they're girls - doesn't mean they have to be princesses or DIVAS (hate that word). My girls get in there, get their hands dirty when they need too. They love to help me out with whatever I'm doing - gardening, fixing the car, working on the rec room...etc They like biking, canoeing, skiing and camping - just like I do, so what's the problem? I guess for big hockey/football/baseball guys - their dreams for producing the next franchise player isn't going to happen - so maybe that's where that McD's dad stumbles for a second...

Of course, my girls are in Dance, and yes - dress like little princesses/divas while on stage - and this weekend they're back at competition. Emma had her first solo this morning, after being selected very late in the season to get a solo - she's learned her entire routine in little over 2 weeks! She did great - so proud that she made it all the way through very well, and ended up with a great score!

Going where no man has gone before...
Of course that's not true - there are tons of great dads out there that will do anything for their daughters - just watch So You Think You Can Dance. There was one dad last night whose chin was bouncing all over the place - trying to fight off the tears! (now that was funny)

However, there are a few things that I probably would not have done in my life had I been the father to 3 boys, instead of 3 girls - like being in the 'Daddy Synchronized Swim' for Rebekah's team when she was younger (yes - we looked EXACTLY like that SNL skit with Martin Short...). And I definitely would not be doing what I will for the first time this weekend - at a competition no less - being part of the parents dance number!

Here's a small hint as to what I'll look like come sunday...

But there's nothing wrong a little fun, and it's a challenge just like any other, and if you're not challenging yourself and having fun - what are you doing?

Took a break from the basement last weekend to take care of some overdue gardening and yard work. And as a break from the basement today (making good progress though) - I'm catching up on my blog by writing about the garden...

Victoria Day
Known to most as the May two-four weekend, I had to check up on the actual relevance of the day after the girls asked... figured it had to do with the former queen (why we celebrate this I have no idea), turns out it's for the former Queen (Victoria) and the current Queen. Yiippee.

It's always been the first weekend to start planting gardens and/or prepping the cottage and/or going camping for the first time of the year. Typically it falls around May 24th, and the two-four is for the case of beer that is usually consumed during the weekend. (per person or is that just me and my friends?)

We did gardening - check out the makeover!

The girls love planting vegetables, so we went out shopping at the local nursery (which they thought was going to be some baby place). We picked out some tomato plants, cherry tomato plants, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, beans - and some hops! Was told by a friend that hops grow great up here, and I make beer - so maybe I'll be able to use them...

Hanging Tomato Planters
We wanted to try to use the hanging tomato planters (as seen on TV) but couldn't find any, and didn't want to wait to order - so found some instructions on how to do it yourself. All you need is a plastic planter, some planting fabric, drill (to make the hole) and a place to hang it.
Check it out the quick how-to with the girls!

I'll let you know how well it actually works - later...

4 inches of land... really.
My neighbour came over and pointed out that the garden was 4 inches beyond the property line. I had simply extended what the previous owner had put in, and thought nothing of it. For some reason, he HAD to have this land back.

Now along the side of his house, he's planting a garden that goes all the way to the edge of my propery line, and every time his kids (or unlicensed daycare kids) run-by, they run through our garden! I'm TRYING to be the good Canadian and turn the other cheek... (don't salt his garden - don't salt his garden...) but now I'll have to put something up to stop that.

Isn't it fun living in the burbs?

About 15 years ago, Sara celebrated Rebekah's first birthday - then found a present of her own, she went out and met me! I was out celebrating too - my birthday.  Ever since then, Rebekah and I have been sharing birthday parties.

Rebekah is 16!

Except this past weekend... to celebrate #16, Sara and Rebekah went to Toronto to visit a friend, and go shopping! I got to stay home with the other two and work on the damned basement - and work on the gardens.  yay for me (no really - it was good!)

You'll like them until they become teenagers...

That's what one of the guys at work used to tell me...  He had girls too, and told me - one day you're going to wake up, and you're not going to really like 'em much anymore! (in a heavy southern drawl) 

Not sure WHEN it happened, but it HAS happened - probably over the course of the past 5 years, where we dragged her from country to country, all while I was travelling 70% of the time.  Being away so much during her formative years, probably didn't help...  Of course I still love her - but she makes it very difficult sometimes.   

And of course I'm that dad who thinks she wears too much makeup, clothes are too small, has too much perfume on, room is always a mess...grrrrrrrrrrrrr.  But i'm slowly trying to adjust... I have two more girls, and will have to do it all over again...so better get used to it.

It wasn't always that way, we spent a lot of time together when she was younger.

The younger years...Ottawa

Here we are at the Rideau Canal, getting ready for a skate - I think she was maybe 4!  

There she is... at age 5, getting ready for her first day of school when we lived in Vanier.  When she was even smaller than that, I used to take her to the parks all the time - and she would play, but lots of times - just sit back and watch the other kids.  But she never wanted to leave, and used to throw a huge fit - I'd have to bribe her with gum, just to get her into the bike seat! (something I would never do anymore with other two...older, wiser...)

Always had the attitude though.  We'd get called in by the teacher at every school she went to... talks too much, disrupts the class...   
But somehow still managed to get good grades.

Richmond, VA

When we moved to Richmond, her teacher had the nerve to tell us her class was full of perfect little angels - til Rebekah came in to disrupt the mix!?!?  In a later year, she did a pro-gay marriage report (her own idea) and was lectured by her teacher about why her opinion was wrong! WTF Richmond...

But she always outgoing - went around selling rocks door-to-door our first day there, and helped us get to know the neighbours!  I'm not sure how she'll remember of Richmond, other than the shopping.  

Then we moved to Dresden.  She was 12.  Probably not the best timing...  She had new found freedom, and could take the light rail system to school and all over the city - something that you couldn't do in Richmond.  We wanted her to explore, and get to know another culture - but she took it a little too far - too fast.  Don't need to go into all the gory details, but I can tell you that at one point - I did pull off her 9 foot high double doors to make sure she didn't slip out...

After a little tough love, it finally did settle down.  She was able to make some great friends - like Alexandra here, whom she misses a whole bunch, and wants to go back to visit.   She was able to pick up German pretty well, and loved hanging out at Subway of all places.

It was a difficult 2 years for us in Germany, but I think she will look back and have good memories of Germany - she liked the euro style of living, don't think she's much for the suburban crap that we're in now.

Back to Canada...
So coming home has been a bit of a challenge.  Going to high school in the country (while living in the city ... I don't get it either), has been boring for her I think, after living abroad and seeing/doing so many things.  Luckily she was recently accepted to Glebe, so will be bussing it downtown for school - you might think I'd be worried about that - but after what happened in Germany - it's all tame in comparison.  Not that I think she's an angel by any means, but I don't think she wants to repeat those mistakes.

I blame living in Richmond for this next video clip.  Nobody in Canada (other than the Catholics) does Cheerleading.  I still don't get why she liked doing it - seems so out of character for her.

She works a lot now, and isn't around very much when she isn't.  Doesn't want to have much to do with us... she has little interest in the things we do with the other two, and I can see why - she's not 6 anymore.

She's 16... and wants to drive my car.

Happy Birthday kid.

    About Me

    My photo
    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!