Saved by the Bird

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A month or so ago, I attended my first Girl Geek Ottawa dinner. Good food, great company, inspiring speakers; what more could a girl (and geek) ask for? Except that when I got there and looked around, I didn’t recognize anybody.

Some might be unphased by this. But I’m sure at least some of you can relate: The sinking stomach. The rising panic.

Etiquette gurus may beg to differ, but the advantage of a geek-gathering is that whipping out your smart phone is completely acceptable behaviour. So I did. And started at it intently. Tapped purposefully. And wondered how to make a mournful “Hellooo? Anybody here?” sound less lame. Because nonchalance is a lot easier in 140 characters.

But it was completley unnecessary: there, at the top of my stream, was

@saramphoto
Did I just see @sasharambles at #ggdottawa ?

<cue angel chorus>

Hallelujah! Saved by the bird. I immediately whipped around, and spotted Sara. And made the first faux-pas of the evening by abandoning a table full of potential new friends for a one that didn’t even have an empty seat.

Especially amongst strangers, but even amongst friends, I frequently feel… awkward. And any brief moments of relaxation are swiftly followed by raging self doubt: what did I say? Did it come out right? Did I interrupt anybody? I’m a terrible interrupter. And while I can crank up the bluster on Twitter, in real life I can’t even fully relax at a spa tweet-up.

Although I’m willing to put in a little extra practice for that one.

But back to dinner. I ended up at a table with some very interesting women. And I couldn’t have done too badly, right? Because afterwards I got a very nice email from one of my table-mates. She said it was a pleasure meeting me, she hoped I enjoyed myself, and I skipped out on the bill so could I please send her 20 dollars?


Related Links

  • Twitter and Cliques. I loved this post. It came at a time when I was new to Twitter and still finding my way around. Lara, who is definitely a cool kid (and don’t let her tell you otherwise), reassures that “Even the cool kids feel like losers some times.”
  • Brie from Capital Mom has invited everyone to share their Monday Moments. And Sara (yes, that Sara), recently shared a moment that resonates here.
  • Party Mummy posted this guide to mingling online & off, just before YMC Winterlude. It came in handy then, I think I may read it again.

Nutritional Information for Ottawa Restaurants

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My favourite restaurants are all one-of-a-kind, but lately I’ve been trying to stick to places where I can get nutritional information (even if it’s bad news ;)).

But when 5:30 rolls around all I can think of is Swiss Chalet. So here is a list full-service restaurants in Ottawa where I could find nutritional information online.

Heaven forbid I should have to think while hungry.

If you know of any others, please do let me know!

Seven Milliseconds of Fame

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One night, the night of March 6 to be exact, I achieved a hitherto unheard-of level of fame and adulation:

My favourite was, of course, the hero worship. I mean, who doesn’t need a little hero-worship now and then? But I politely declined.

But that was not my first brush with twitter-fame. Oh no. I once made The #SlowCooker Daily on paper.li.

[Ooooooo. Ahhhhhh.]

If you haven’t seen paper.li, there’s a good summary here.  It’s basically a web site that combs twitter for keywords etc. and auto-generates a ‘newspaper’ page with ‘top links’.

Accolades indeed.

Now, I started this post in a mindset somewhere between poking fun at my 7 milliseconds of fame and pondering the potential of tweet-agglomeration. For example, in the article above, @spydergrrl uses it as a way to summarize her Twitter feed at the end of a day when she didn’t have time to follow it.

Hm. I can see that being useful.

Oh, and in putting together this post, I went looking for the press clipping for my 7 milliseconds – and instead found a recipe for Crockpot Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal.

Score one for paper.li.

You can also use twitter lists as the basis for a page. While my days as an art thief may be over, I still like to know what’s going on at the museums.  So I have a list of Ottawa Museums, but it’s still easy to miss their tweets in the general conversation (and I never remember to look at my ‘other’ Hootsuite page). A daily summary page would be perfect.

Or, well, I’m hoping it’s perfect. I’ve decided to try it out. You can check it out too, if you like:

http://paper.li/ramblingstrollr/ottawa-museums

We’ll see how it goes. For starters, I expected to add it to my RSS reader, but I can’t seem to subscribe except by email.

You brought me Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal, paper.li, but the jury is still out.

Love at Second Sight

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Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, but today I fell in love.

Her name is Esther, and it was Elizabeth, a docent at the National Gallery that fixed us up.

Esther caught my eye last week, on a mom-baby meetup at the gallery. I’m no art connoisseur, I was just exploring the gallery as a ‘good place to take a baby’ for a Kids in the Capital post. And it is a good place to take a baby. But I was having trouble with the post, so I went back today to get inspired.

Inspired doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I did get that Kids in the Capital post drafted, but also found myself (completely unexpectedly) transported by a work of art. While there, I attended a “Docent’s Choice” talk – a 10 minute talk about a single piece of art.  This one was about “Kitchen Door and Esther”, by Christiane Pflug. Elizabeth told us a bit about Christiane’s life, and what really caught my attention was the story of her immigration to Canada from Germany, sent ahead to Toronto by her husband, and how the feelings of isolation as a mother alone with her kids in a new country led to depression.

Mom. Isolation. Depression. Yeah, that caught my attention.

You’ll be hearing more about Esther here. There are many many blog posts tumbling around in my head right now, but I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to start with a proper introduction.

So bloggy peeps, meet Esther. And please trust me that the picture doesn’t do her justice, you need to meet her in person 🙂

A Rambler’s Guide to Hidden Treasure

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You pass by them every day. Hiding in your local park. Tucked in among the trees at the end of the street. Stashed in the empty lot behind the mall. Little treasures hidden all over the city, while you walk by with nary an inkling.

That, my friend, is because you are a Muggle.

‘Muggle’ is the name geocachers give to non-geocaching folk. But what is geocaching? It’s a world-wide, year-around, easter-egg hunt. It’s hide-and-seek, but with loot. It is also one great excuse to get out and do some more rambling before the snow flies (again).

Geomonster with our first find.

A cache is a little container, carefully concealed from the prying eyes of Muggles. It holds a log book where finders can record their visit, and (usually) some trinkets for swapping. Take a trinket, leave a trinket, write your name – it’s that simple. Well, once you find it of course.

Chances are, there’s at least one cache within walking distance of where you are right now. Just look at all the caches in downtown Ottawa alone:

Geocaches in Downtown Ottawa

Some caches will hold ‘travellers’, with a metal tag (or ‘travel-bug’) attached. The tag has a number which allows it to be tracked on the web. Some travellers are sent out just to roam the world, others have specific goals in mind. Either way, their owners (and anyone else) can track their progress on geocaching.com.

Travel Bug

Most importantly, geocaching is family friendly – what kid can resist the allure of hidden loot? Miss Bea picked a Pooh figurine from her first find, and proudly carried it home to Daddy. I have a travel bug waiting for a mission, I’m thinking I may send it out to make it’s way around the British Isles, to return in time for Miss Bea’s 10th birthday, when we can plan a trip to follow in it’s footsteps.

And speaking of hidden treasure, here’s a find: geonarcissa’s list of family-friendly caches in Ottawa. “The caches on this list are accessible to families with kids in strollers, or easy to grab while a little one snoozes in the carseat. I’ve done them all!”. I contacted her while preparing this post, to ask her advice on families starting out, and not only did she come up with a great list, she posted it to her blog: Geocaching With Kids – Some Helpful Tips.

A word of warning though: geocaching is addictive. Ever since getting into this a couple of weeks ago, I find myself checking for caches wherever I go. Gotta run to Home Depot? There’s a cache at the end of the street. Going for a walk? You’re bound to pass some. And to think I thought I’d already discovered all Andrew Haydon Park had to offer.

Ready to start?  Here are some useful resources:

So check the map, put on your explorer boots and hats (and scarves and mittens), and go find some hidden treasure!

6 Ways Into Ottawa Museums, Free

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My favourite piece of art came from a museum.

I stole it.

It was the late 80’s. I was tromping around downtown Toronto with some friends when I spotted King Tut’s golden sarcophagus on banners outside the ROM. The caption: “Get an Afterlife. Come to the Museum”. I was smitten. I headed for the gift shop, looking for a poster. They were sold out.

That evening, on the GO train back to the ‘burbs, I sat down, looked up, and there it was. My poster. Clearly the gods of ancient Egypt were smiling down on me. Clearly I was meant to have that poster. And so, after the train reached it’s last stop and the car emptied out, the boy king left with me.

And here I am, 20 years later, sneaking into museums without paying. What can I say? Venerable cultural edifices bring out my inner delinquent. I could tell you about the sneaky back door* into the Museum of Civilization, the one next to the river, but clambering over those rocks with a stroller is not fun. Trust me.

Instead, here are a 6 ways to enjoy Ottawa’s museums, without paying a cent.

1) The Ottawa Public Library lends passes for the Museums of Civilization, Science and Technology, Nature, and the National Gallery. The passes cover a family of 4-5 (the OPL catalogue has the specifics for each pass). At the time of writing, about half a dozen of each were checked-in at various branches throughout the city. So why not play museum roulette: pick a pass that’s available at a branch near you, and off you go! Just search for ‘Museum Pass’ in the online catalogue.

2) Admission to the Museum of Civilization, including the Children’s Museum, is free every Thursday from 4 until 8pm. It is also free on Canada Day (July 1) and Remembrance Day (November 11).

3) The Museum of Nature is also free on Thursday afternoons (from 5 to 8 pm), as well as on Earth Day (April 22), International Museum Day (May 18), and Canada Day (July 1).

4) The Museum of Science and Technology doesn’t have a weekly freebie, but it does offer free admission on International Museum Day (May 18), and Canada Day (July 1).

5) The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is free from 4 to 5pm. Every day. How cool is that?

6) The National Gallery (including the Museum of Contemporary Photography) is free on Thursdays after 5, and for children under 12 all the time.

These are the big ones, but there are also smaller community museums scattered throughout the region. What is in your neighbourhood? Which museums are your kids’ favourites? Where do you like to go on a rainy day?

Want to keep tabs on Ottawa’s museums?
Follow ramblingstrollr’s Ottawa Museums list on Twitter

* This account of a sneaky back door into the Museum of Civilization is a work of fiction. It is a product of the writer’s imagination and is not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual apertures, ingresses, entryways or portals into the Museum of Civilization, it’s related properties or outbuildings is entirely coincidental. But if you know of any real ones, let me know, ‘cuz Thursdays don’t always work for me.

Mom-to-Mom Giving

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Barely a month into blogging and I’m already off topic! Clearly, the stroller isn’t the only thing rambling around here. Actually, I’m not as far off as you might think: giving feels good, and that ties nicely into the original goal of this blog. And so, with a little bit of leftover Thanksgiving spirit, here is a list of mom-to-mom giving ideas:

The Diaper Bag Project

It’s one of those brilliantly simple, gee-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that ideas: collect gently used diaper bags, and the stuff that goes in ‘em, and deliver the stocked bags to women’s shelters, teen mom centres, and anywhere else you might find new moms in need. Brainchild of a Kanata mom, since it’s inception a mere 6 weeks ago the project has already collected enough sleepers and blankets to overtax the organizer’s storage space, and has delivered 4 bags to a local women’s shelter.

Items needed:

  • diaper bags
  • receiving blankets
  • empty travel wipes cases
  • travel size vaseline/diaper cream
  • newborn/size 1 disposable diapers (perfect for those partial bags that are leftover when baby grows into the next size)
  • empty travel size hand sanitizer bottles
  • newborn size sleepers 

For more information or to donate, contact Erin at diaperbagproject@gmail.com. Erin also blogs at https://mysuburbanadventure.wordpress.com/.

The Food Bank

The Food Bank – it’s not just about the food. The food bank also accepts baby care items, such as diapers and wipes. Something I like to do around Christmas time is pass the hat at work and then a bunch of us go on a shopping spree in the baby aisle. And it doubles as a team building exercise: the folks with older children reminisce, and we tease the young single guys who have no idea what babies need. All Good.

The Snowsuit Fund

It’s that time of year, and if you’ve dusted off last year’s snowsuit and can see 3 inches of ankle between boot and suit, then consider donating it to the Snowsuit Fund. Gently used winter outerwear can be dropped off at any local Canadian Tire or Brown’s Cleaners, or at the Snowsuit Fund depot (225 Donald Street, Unit 134).

Getting Crafty

For those with a crafty side, Yarn Forward accepts new, hand-knit or crocheted hats, mitts and scarves for the Snowsuit Fund. They also keep a stash of customer-donated yarn that you can use for this purpose. Similarly, Wool Tyme keeps a yarn stash and collects blankets for Project Linus.

So, that’s what I was able to come up with, but I’m sure there’s more! If you know of any other mom-to-mom giving opportunities, or have been involved with any of these (as a giver or recipient), please leave details in the comments: I’m planning on updating this information once or twice a year, and I’d love to add your ideas.

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