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18 May, 2016

About that stake, part 2

By andrea tomkins in - Ottawa for kids,Misc. life,Ottawa

You can read the first part of this post right here.

There were two reasons why we thought it might be cool to have a wooden stake as part of a Buffy costume at Comicon. Not only is a stake a useful prop (vampire slayers DO often use wooden stakes to kill blood-sucking ghouls) but it was also something that my daughter could have signed. You see, Eliza Dushku of BUFFY fame was scheduled to be signing autographs. Wouldn’t it be fun to get her to sign the stake? Ah, little did we know.

We arrived early on Sunday, but not early enough, because there was already a massive lineup forming, even before the doors even opened. Thankfully, a huge canvas tent spared us from the elements and kept us from freezing. We didn’t mind the wait, in fact, it was actually fun to people watch. For a Comicon newbie, this is one of the best parts of Comicon.

We finally got in, had our tickets scanned, and asked where the autographs were going on. We were rushing because Eliza’s autograph session was supposed to be underway. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I probably should have made a point of investigating the giant “WEAPONS CHECK” sign that was near the front entrance, or at least, asking about it, but we didn’t. Instead, we hightailed it to the far far end of the EY Centre where all of the autograph sessions were happening in one smaller area.

We knew this autograph was going to cost $60, what we didn’t know that it was cash-only. Doh. So the girls got in line while Mark went to the bank machine.

It only took a few minutes before security noticed my 17-year-old daughter was carrying a stake. It was promptly confiscated. Apparently they were going to hold it until the girls got to the front of the line. Afterwards, we found out the stake was kept on the table during the autograph session. It was up to my eldest to claim it when she got there. Which she did.

After a brief chat with Eliza, and the promised autograph, we were escorted to the aforementioned Weapon’s Check Area by a security guard. I asked him, half-jokingly, who was going to assess the stake. He wasn’t sure. I assumed that they’d have some kind of police officer or security guard on staff, someone who had some degree of experience in the area of weaponry and public safety, but guess what, there wasn’t. It was just a bunch of young people I can only assume are regular Comicon or EY Centre Staff.

Happily, they gave us the green light and marked her stake with a plastic band, you know, so everyone could easily identify that it was not actually the kind of wooden stake that may be a danger to someone:


Later on, a vendor spotted my eldest with her stake and asked us about “all the fuss.” Apparently she saw the turmoil our wooden stake had caused with security when it was first confiscated. There was a lot of discussion and worry behind the scenes which we did not witness.

This whole thing strikes me as very ironic. I can’t begin to tell you how many booths at Comicon were selling pocketknives and swords of varying degrees of fakeness: foam, plastic, metal. And as Mark pointed out, the pointy stick from the ice-cream bar would have made a better weapon than our garden stake.

Regardless of this small bother, Comicon was actually a lot of fun and I would definitely go again. I say this, even though I have very little geek cred and embarrassed myself at least a dozen times. e.g. “Hey it’s Dumbledore!” “Er, that’s GANDALF, MOM.”

Did you go to Comicon? And if so, did you get your weapon checked? ;)

17 May, 2016

About that stake, part one

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent at Home Depot over my lifetime. The vast majority of those hours was during our home renovation back in 2012. The length and quality of our visits varied widely. We’d either be dropping by to pick something up on a whim, like grass seed, or spending a grueling marathon of time – not to mention brain cells – trying to figure out what shade of white we wanted for the blinds in our master bedroom.

This particular visit was different, and it happened last week. Emma had mentioned that she wanted to dress up as Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Comicon; wouldn’t it be cool to have a wooden stake? This was what I was thinking about as I pulled into the parking lot, slurping an iced-coffee I had just picked up at Timothy’s. I parked, got out, and made a bee-line to the garden centre. As I walked through the parking lot I could feel the caffeine seeping into my bloodstream. The sun was shining, I was on a mission, I was feeling pretty good.

I found a staff member in the garden centre, thinking this had to be the obvious place to find a wooden garden stake. Apparently this was not the case. He redirected me to Lumber, which was on the very opposite end of the football-field-sized building. I marched through the doors, with a renewed sense of purpose now that I was Actually Heading in the Right Direction.

The smell of rough lumber brings me back to my childhood, and it makes me happy. I walked past the stacks of lumber with coffee and happy smells fueling the bounce in my step. I actually checked my pedometer at one point because I felt like I was really racking ‘em up. The farther I walked, the more I thought about how I was going to frame this particular request. Hmm. This might be awkward.

I spotted the Lumber Department fellow next to the giant Staff Only saw. He was younger, maybe university age. Maybe I could trust him with an honest request?

“Can I help you?”

“Er, yesssss. I have a very strange request.”

He gave me a look that I chose to interpret as, hey, this might be interesting.

I asked him if he was familiar with Comicon. He responded in the affirmative. Ok! We’re heading in the right direction! I explained my daughter’s penchant for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her costume plans and asked whether Home Depot had any wooden stakes that might fit the bill.

He showed me a stack of stakes that were way too wide and too long. I shook my head, no, not quite. He then pointed out some bundles of wooden stakes. They were perfect – ideal for vampire killing! – but I only needed two. I think Young Home Depot Man sensed my disappointment. I definitely did not need a whole bundle of stakes for mass vampire murder.

How about that, he said, as he pointed with his finger. I followed the imaginary line to a jumble of rough-looking stakes that had come unbundled. Home Depot had a reject pile! He picked out two and showed them to me. That’ll do, I said. Perfect. He wrote a receipt for the find: scrap wood, free. And with that, I went merrily on my way home. Little did I know, this was not going to be the end of the story of the stake.

Part two of this post is here.

14 May, 2016

Weekend reading: May 14 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

If you were to ask me what my favourite season is here in Ottawa, I’d say:

SPRING: because of the tulips and the explosion of green and happy people everywhere.

SUMMER: because there is so much to see and do: festivals, music, beaches, patios!

FALL: because of the fall foliage and excellent hiking.

WINTER: because winter is so beautiful, and the skiing and skating, and I LOVE SWEATERS.

Every season has lovable things about it, but because I’m trying to live more in the present I will say that I am especially happy to see spring this year. Perhaps spring is the most fleeting of seasons. One day the crabapple trees are in full throttle, and the next day the sidewalks are full of petals. There are years that we forget to take in the tulips: hey, we were busy that weekend etc. etc. 

Well, this week we decided to get up, go out, and fill our eyeballs to the brim at Dow’s Lake.

Parking was easy (hello Booth Street!). We wandered until our hearts were full and our feet were aching.

Ottawa tulip festival at Dow's Lake



Do note that dogs aren’t allowed amid the festivities at Dow’s Lake for the duration of the Tulip Festival. (We were visiting before it all started.) Piper is good at posing, don’t you think?

Piper at Dow's Lake

Piper amid the daffodils

On the way home we stopped for bubble tea on Somerset. The perfect ending to a lovely outing.

There is some fun stuff planned for the Tulip Festival this year. Will you be checking it out? Some highlights:

May 14-15: Heritage WWII Display on the Great Lawn outside Aberdeen Pavillion
Vintage WWII vehicles, re-enactors and encampment depicting the life and equipment of Canadian liberators in the Netherlands, including a dynamic display of action during the Liberation at 2 p.m May 14.

May 14: Tulip Relay Rowing Regatta on the Historic Rideau Canal at Lansdowne
Hosted by Ottawa Rowing Club, Canada’s oldest rowing club established in 1867. Rowers racing over a 250m distance of the historic Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, between Fifth Avenue and Lansdowne Park. 10 a.m.-noon

May 13-23: Floral sculpture garden experience, including the “Princess Tulip Sculpture,” commemorating the birth of Dutch Princess Margriet in Ottawa, the only royal personage ever born in North America, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. inside the Aberdeen Pavilion. Also, children’s entertainment, with “Doo Doo” the clown and street performers, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Continuous performances of international dance and music on the International Friendship Stage, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily.


We’ve been trying to focus more on Doing Things As A Family, which was easier said than done over the winter. Well, the weather is better now (er, sort of) so it was time to get off the couch and press the pause button on Netflix. Literally.

Sidebar: the girls are older now, and much more independent. It’s easy to assume that they don’t want to hang out with us – they have so much on the go – but they do still enjoy a family outing. (!) I am pleased and surprised and I hope that it lasts.

Last week we decided to catch the Jungle Book at Lansdowne Park. We’ve been through the area a couple of times as a family, but dropping by in the middle of winter isn’t quite the same as seeing it when it’s alive with people. And it really was alive! We arrived early with plenty of time to wander. I was surprised to see patios were packed with people, the playground full of families young and old, and kids of all ages on the skateboard ramps or just hanging around.

Lansdowne park skateboard and scootering

Lansdowne Park

The sun was setting so we made our way back to the theatre, where we played a four-person game of Pac-Man (I lost)…


… and the girls did a virtual high-speed tour of Spain on a motorcycle:

At the arcade

As for the movie? It was great. I definitely recommend Jungle Book and I am actually looking forward to seeing it again. And Lansdowne? I feel like this is a place I can get used to again.


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (16) and Sarah (14). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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