Author Archive

TASTING NOTES: Celebrate World Malbec Day with four fine wines

1272062_74634759BY DAVID LAWRASON

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

April 17 is World Malbec Day. Just what every grape needs — its own day! Given that there are 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world, I suggest we call a halt to this idea.

Malbec, meanwhile, gets its day in the sun. Indeed, it is the marvellously sunny growing season in the high deserts of eastern Argentina that has brought this grape to prominence. It has become the face of red wine — the brand. It creates an expectation that one will be opening a bottle of full-bodied, fairly soft, rich, and plummy red wine that pairs nicely with beef in all its incarnations.

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REASON TO LOVE: Because the city breeds actors, professional athletes, and literary icons

BY DI GOLDING

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

The one thing that stars of our favourite comics, novels, and movies have in common? A compelling origin story. But how many of us picture that journey including the Rideau Canal? A peak in the success of Ottawa natives reminds us that stars aren’t necessarily training in some fictional Gotham — they might be sitting beside you on the O-train.

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WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of April 17 to 19

BY KYLA CLARKE

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Steven Page, stripped down

Canadian musical icon Steven Page performs at the National Arts Centre this Friday, April 17, with a little help from his friend, Craig Northey (of The Odds). We all remember Steven Page as the witty former frontman of the Barenaked Ladies, and now that he’s forging his own path as a solo artist, he’s doing things a little bit differently. Collaborating with Northey on guitar and vocals, Page will also perform solo material from his album Page One and, never to disappoint his unyielding fans, there will be plenty of Barenaked Ladies hits too. Tickets start at $57 and can be purchased at www.nac-cna.ca.
The National Arts Centre is located at 53 Elgin Street.

Twilight stars’ ‘best movie yet’

cloud-of-sils-mariaIndie movie buffs might want to check out Clouds of Sils Maria, which debuts this Friday, April 17 at the Bytowne Cinema. It’s the story of a successful actress who agrees to take part in the revival of the play that made her famous 20 years prior. She must now face an uncomfortable reflection of herself, playing the role of an older character instead of the young temptress she once portrayed. A layered, character-driven film, Clouds of Sils Maria stars Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloe Grace Moretz. The film is said to be Stewart’s best work yet – though, at this point, anything is better than Twilight. The film runs at the Bytowne Cinema until Thursday, April 23. For ticket info and showtimes, visit www.bytowne.ca.
The Bytowne Cinema is located at 325 Rideau Street.

Wax on, wax off

Also on Friday, April 17th, The Raw Sugar Café hosts Record “Swap” Day. It’s completely FREE – all you have to do is show up in your best bartering shoes with a bag of cherished vinyls – that you’ve deemed ready to pass on to the next worthy listener. With a DJ on the ones and twos, it’s time to swap your trash for someone else’s treasure. Don’t have any vinyls to trade? Don’t sweat it – there will be free giveaways and good food too, so anyone can show up and still have a good time. 8 p.m. to 1 p.m.
The Raw Sugar Café is located at 692 Somerset Street West.

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Record “Swap” Day is a pre-emptive celebration for International Record Store Day on Saturday, April 18th. Local record shops across town will be participating in the yearly event (such as Compact Music, Vertigo Records, The Record Centre, and many more), which supports the resurgence of vinyl in the hearts and hands of music fans. Not only can you find cool discounts on countless records, there will also be exclusive special releases just for the day. Over a hundred artists, from A-Ha to the Wu-Tang Clan, will release special edition vinyls or first releases on Record Store Day.
Check out the full list of artist releases, along with a list of participating stores, recordstoreday.com.

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 … Plus wearable vintage

If all the vintage vinyl wasn’t enough, maybe a little vintage fashion will satiate your hungry hipster pocketbook. On Sunday, April 19th, the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show sets up shop in the Shaw Centre for Canada’s largest vintage clothing event. $10 gets you in the door for a day of hunting for clothing, handbags, accessories, and designer goods, from the ‘20s all the way to the ‘80s. Groovy.
The Shaw Centre (formerly the Ottawa Convention Centre) is located at 55 Colonel By Drive. 

PARTY PLANNERS’ GUIDE: Ottawa Magazine’s guide to today’s birthday parties, proms, weddings, and more

This article was first published in the April 2015 edition of Ottawa Magazine.

Call them rites of passage, milestone celebrations, or just a big bash with friends and family, parties can be amazing — and stressful — occasions. In this five-part series, Ottawa Magazine looks at today’s birthday parties, proms, weddings, retirement send-offs, and funerals; sources the best caterers, venues, flowers, and more from across the city; and offers tips on modern party etiquette

WITH FILES FROM Amy Allen, Cindy Deachman, Matt Harrison, and Dayanti Karunaratne
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BY Christian Lalonde (PhotoluxStudio.com)
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jessica Deeks


THE BIRTHDAY

WITH PARTY PRO Danielle Soucy

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Jennifer Mostrey, left, plays the part of Belle in Danielle Soucy’s party company. Photo by Jessica Deeks

Danielle Soucy is the owner of Fêtes en Boîtes – The Sparkling Party Company, a local business with stores in Gatineau and Ottawa. The business works on two levels: parties can be held in the store in one of the themed party rooms (Captain’s Cabin for pirate-themed birthdays, Royal Tea Room for budding princesses, etc.). Or, if you’re keen on hosting the party in your home, Soucy can send princesses, pirates, and other characters on house calls. Either way, the bash comes complete with invitations, costume rental, and 1½ hours of games and other entertainment with your special guest. (Drinks and tableware are provided for in-store parties.) She got into the business in 2004 when her daughter turned five. “I wanted to make it very special. I couldn’t be a princess — I was 40 years old at the time — so I was a beautiful witch called Chlorophylle.” Her green dress, magic potions, and suitcase filled with surprises were a hit with the kids, and she started to get requests to visit other birthday parties. Soon parents wanted other characters, and Soucy found a charismatic young man at a local gas station to be a pirate. And though she tried to resist offering Disney characters, the demand for Cinderella, Jasmine, and Ariel was huge, and by 2010, the troupe had ballooned to around 30 — including Jennifer Mostrey, above, who acts as Belle. She specializes in igniting children’s imagination, keeping young creative people employed, and making sure your house doesn’t get trashed. Her top tip is to give her a call. “I can help organize a scavenger hunt or give tips for games and crafts. I do it all the time. It is free and I do it with pleasure!”

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Cards by JeweleighaB offers custom paper decorations. Photo courtesy Julia Badgley

 

Celebrating the Years

The Gifts If the invitation says “no gifts,” don’t show up at the bash with a brightly wrapped present. Some party hosts shun gift-giving entirely, while others get creative by asking guests to donate to a charity that’s special to the birthday girl/boy. Karen Wood of Knock on Wood Communications & Events recalls a “puppy party” that saw friends of the 10-year-old birthday girl donating to Loyal Rescue. The local foster-based rescue brought a few of the adoptable dogs in their care to the party and told the children how each one came to be a part of the Loyal family. The Ottawa Humane Society also offers birthday party packages. (So if your kid is asking for a dog, this could be a good compromise.)

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Photo courtesy FunHaven

The Decor Got time? Got money? Whether you prefer the more time-consuming DIY approach or the click-and-buy option, decor is a big part of children’s birthday parties today. Streamers and balloons? Nope. Think pennants and pinwheels (in the party’s theme colours, of course). For harried parents too busy for crafts, check out local Etsy paper artist Julia Badgley of Cards by JeweleighaB. In business for almost five years, Badgley produces cards and banners with a rustic vibe, but she is open to working with people to create paper products tailored to their theme. She will also provide materials for DIYers. All Badgley’s items can be mailed within three days after ordering or picked up at Badgley’s home.

The Venue More and more often, birthday parties are held outside of the home. The reason is simple: kids make a mess. Top choices for Ottawa kids include Cosmic Adventures, for the super-active preteen set, and Funhaven, which is perfect for keeping everyone happy because it offers rock climbing, laser tag, and bumper cars in addition to bowling and arcade games. The Canadian Museum of Nature has great flexible options for nature lovers.

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Photo courtesy Clownatec

The Entertainment Send in the clowns! (Or the crocodiles, if you prefer getting up close and personal with cold-blooded creatures and/or are afraid of clowns). Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo has become renowned for its educational, hands-on kiddie events. Clownatec offers a range of age-specific birthday packages (“artistic animations” for those under three years of age, magic shows for older kids) that engage and entertain. For a high-energy event that will amaze and astound, check out the guys at Busker Birthdays. They also offer circus-training sessions — what better way to show your support of their big-top dreams?

 

The Rules Loot bags are curated creations. Invitations are volatile. (Did you hear about the British kid fined £15 for failing to show up after he had RSVPed?) And at what age can parents leave their kids at the door? As birthday parties become more fussed-over events, etiquette and programming creep into the mix. For example, if the party is held at a venue that has been booked for two hours, you might not want to stop the action to open presents. Some say guests will be disappointed if their present isn’t opened in front of a captive crowd. We say: you’re in charge. If you’d rather keep the party going and open the gifts at home after the sugar rush has subsided, then do so.

EXPERT EDIBLES from Winchelsea Events

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Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

 

Tired of serving hotdogs and pizza? Gently branch out with kid-friendly (and healthy!) ingredients combined in exciting ways.

  • Spanish sliders. Mashed potatoes and ground beef with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and crumbled feta
  • Volavanes. Light, flaky pastries filled with tuna, mayo, corn, and peas, with radish garnish
  • Mini tres leches cakes. Light cake crowned with whipped cream and fresh berries

Winchelsea Events, 157 County Rd. 31., 613-808-9258 thewinchelsea.com

PROFILE: Ottawa’s Villain-Next-Door discusses Marathons, The Flash, and Cherry’s Reaction to a Gay Maple Leaf

BY: DI GOLDING

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Photo: Daniel Pancotto

Even though he’s spent much of his life and livelihood globe-hopping, Tom Cavanagh is still the quintessential Ottawa boy next door. He charmed us on shows like Scrubs, Providence, and as the star of Ed. Now he’s playing against type as the villainous scientist Dr. Harrison Wells on the hit show The Flash. Though he splits his time between work in Vancouver and home in New York City, Tom still gets back to the Nation’s Capital as often as possible. Di Golding caught up with Tom about his leap into the superhero genre, and the benefit of embracing and overcoming stereotypes. He even shares some advice for the Ottawa marathoners.

Di Golding: You’re an Ottawa-native but you moved around a lot didn’t you?

Tom Cavanagh: I was born in Ottawa and spent the first few years of my life in a house on Willard Street. We moved to British Columbia, and then from there we moved to Africa. So there’s a few classic Canadian memories of a rink in the backyard in Ottawa, and then the snow of Trail B.C., and then off we went to Africa.

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WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of April 9 – 12

BY KYLA CLARKE

The ballet Alice's Adventures in Wonderland takes the NAC stage this Thursday

The ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes the NAC stage this Thursday

Adventures in Wonderland

Ballet fans will delight in this weekend-long run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Starting Thursday, April 9 and showing until Sunday, April 12, British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon brings the classic Carroll novel to life in an inventive new way. With entertaining choreography, vivid costumes, and surreal production, the show is sure to entertain even those who aren’t so schooled in dance. Just don’t get trapped down the rabbit hole.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will show at the National Arts Centre, 53 Elgin Street. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased here.

 EFT-Up Improv

The Experiment Farm Theatre, an Ottawa improv comedy collective, presents their monthly show at Pressed Café this Thursday, April 9th. The troupe performs long-form comedic storytelling – and it’s all entirely made up on the spot. Standup comedian Greg Houston will open the show. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are (only) $5. Think you’ve got some comedic chops yourself? EFT-Up also offers improv workshops for the bold and bright.

Pressed Café is located at 750 Gladstone. For more information, click here.

Feeling crafty?

Try something new this weekend with Spins & Needles’ silkscreening workshop. Hosted at Possible Worlds (a nifty little project space and shop in Chinatown) on the afternoon of Saturday, April 11th, Silkscreening 101 teaches participants how to create original handmade gifts, merchandise for a new business, or spoil themselves with the fruits of their creativity. If all goes well, take it to the next level with Silkscreening 201.

Possible Worlds is at 708G Somerset Street. Tickets are $145. For more information click here.

Music for Social Justice

Erin Saoirse Adair performs at the Blacksheep Inn this weekend. Photo by Jonathan Lorange

Erin Saoirse Adair performs at the Blacksheep Inn this weekend. Photo by Jonathan Lorange

The Blacksheep Inn hosts Erin Saoirse Adair’s new single and video release party this Saturday, April 11th. The new track, “I Want Drugs” discusses the urge to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to escape. Erin’s lyrics, accompanied by piano or acoustic guitar, typically cover social justice issues, such as violence against women and mental health. Her music is catchy, entertaining, and, at times, cringeworthy – not because it’s bad, but because it’s so uncomfortably honest. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 3:00 p.m.

The Blacksheep Inn is located at 753 Riverside Drive, Wakefield, QC. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.theblacksheepinn.com

Dark Heart Brings Light to NAC

Valery Gore hits the NAC Fourth Stage this Saturday. Photo: Valery Gore

Valery Gore hits the NAC Fourth Stage this Saturday. Photo: Valery Gore

Valery Gore hits the NAC Fourth Stage this Saturday, April 11th in support of her highly acclaimed third album, Idols in the Dark Heart. Like many others in current Canadian music, Gore experiments with electronic elements in her newest project. But she remains a standout, blending synth and bass with her signature throaty vocals and layered harmonies, and her lyrics intricately recount love, loss, and doubt as she comes of age. Tickets are $20 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

The National Arts Centre is at 53 Elgin Street. Tickets are available here.

GREAT SPACE: Luskville couple builds dream home out of shipping containers

This article was first published in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

An imaginative couple turns a series of shipping containers into a home that’s at once industrial and inviting, envisioning it as a welcoming space for family, friends, and anybody looking to get away from it all

By MELANIE SCOTT
Photos by CHRISTIAN LALONDE – PHOTOLUXSTUDIO.COM

Natalie Fraser and Kirk Finken stroll the grounds behind their house. Photo by Christian Lalonde

Natalie Fraser and Kirk Finken stroll the grounds behind their house. Photo by Christian Lalonde

The vista from the road leading to Kirk Finken and Natalie Fraser’s Luskville-area house is one of those breathtaking scenes that could have been painted by famed British landscape artist J.M.W. Turner — the countryside, rich with green, set against a moody, uncertain sky that threatens to burst. Without much warning, a farmhouse, which has seen better days, appears on the right. But it’s not the farmhouse that Kirk and Natalie occupy: they live in the building a bit further back from the road.

The lofty dining is open to the second storey. Photo by Christian Lalonde

The lofty dining is open to the second storey. Photo by Christian Lalonde

Created from four shipping containers (once used to transport produce from the Bahamas) that the couple purchased from the Port of Montreal, the 2,300-square-foot structure doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be much different from many custom-designed houses. Once inside, though, the skeleton of the house quickly becomes apparent: some of the ceilings — the floors of containers flipped upside down — are hardwood, while a wall inside one closet has serial numbers stuck to its surface.

Though Kirk purchased the property in 2007, they did not start building until 2013. In the interim, Kirk did some designing, using 3-D software, and the couple created a maquette. They played around with foam shapes and made numerous drawings, sketching ideas as they came to them. What eventually emerged was a concept that would make intelligent use of the strength and shape of the rectangular steel boxes that occupy shipping ports the world over.

The upper components of the house are connected by a catwalk of the kind that might be found on an ocean-going vessel. Photo by Christian Lalonde

The upper components of the house are connected by a catwalk of the kind that might be found on an ocean-going vessel. Photo by Christian Lalonde

 

Theirs is a blended family (both Kirk and Natalie have children from previous relationships), so they also kept in mind that they were creating a unique space where their kids could come and go in an environment that overlooks that Turneresque landscape. “I’m obsessed with the idea that a space affects your ideas and your mind,” says Kirk. “Our houses are an extension of our souls.”

Before tackling the actual construction, Kirk and Natalie needed a mortgage, as well as a building permit. And the concept of a house made with steel containers isn’t everyone’s idea of a good investment. “We had a contractor who had some courage,” says Kirk, “and the municipality had courage, and the bank that approved us had courage.” Adds Natalie: “We went to seven branches of the same bank and found one that would make this happen.”

The living area is flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Photo by Christian Lalonde

The living area is flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Photo by Christian Lalonde

Having already built a straw bale house in Aylmer, Kirk was no stranger to the concept of using alternative materials. Plenty of builders are jumping onto the “green building” bandwagon, but he isn’t much interested in the current buzz that’s feeding the dialogue. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he says. “I just want to do it.” That ability to get on with it is evident in the progress the couple has made since the concrete slab on which the house sits was poured in 2013.

They used the nearby farmhouse as a temporary home from which to supervise the construction process. Once the containers were delivered, they were joined together with the help of local contractors, including one with a background in welding. The building began to take shape. Individual rooms emerged — some are the exact size and shape of the containers, while others were created by slicing through the steel walls. The overall result is a house with an atrium at its centre — a staircase leads to a kind of catwalk that overlooks the open living area below.

Off this are five bedrooms, including an idyllic private space for Kirk and Natalie that, like much of the house, looks over the natural beauty outside. Lighting casts shadows through the steel-and-wire banister onto a massive white wall. The effect is one of being in a city at night. This was intentional, says Natalie, and you would almost think you were looking at a painting.

A nod to luxury:  A massive soaker tub in the master bedroom boasts gorgeous views, while glass doors lead onto a private balcony. Photo by Christian Lalonde

A nod to luxury:
A massive soaker tub in the master bedroom boasts gorgeous views, while glass doors lead onto a private balcony. Photo by Christian Lalonde

The containers aren’t the only previously owned components that went into the building. Aged wooden walls that form a pantry off the kitchen were rescued from another house, while the pantry door came from a nearby farmhouse. A re-enamelled claw-foot tub in the main bathroom was removed from “some guy’s basement in the Glebe,” says Kirk, adding that scouring garage sales resulted in plenty of finds. The kitchen, especially, is an eye-catcher: it came from a Zellers’ luncheonette and was purchased at a barn sale in Aylmer. The temptation is to sit down at the counter and order a burger and fries.

Everything in this house spells efficiency. Being somewhat restricted by the dimensions of the containers encourages inventive use of space. Washbasins in the bathrooms are designed for small spaces (although accommodation has been made for a giant soaker tub in the master bathroom), and closets are minimal, reflecting the couple’s notion that accumulation leads to clutter.

 

The exterior of the house, meanwhile, reflects a penchant for simplicity — it’s faced with pine board and batten, and the couple will allow the surface to age with the seasons. Under this is sprayed foam insulation; the roof is finished with polyresin membrane to fend off the elements.

There’s still much to accomplish: Kirk and Natalie intend to build separate structures on the property in order to offer all kinds of activities to visitors. They plan to set up a recording studio and provide acting and singing lessons (Natalie is a voice teacher as well as a yoga instructor; she is already hosting yoga classes in the house). This will mean investing in more containers and refashioning them into multi-use spaces and studios. Also in the works is a plan to go off-grid — eventually wind and solar power will keep things humming. The farmhouse will be removed, but its foundation will be repurposed into a “living pool,” as Kirk describes it, rife with aquatic flora and fauna.

An island fabricated from repurposed wood offers visitors a spot to sit and chat. The kitchen components were, in a previous life, part of a Zellers’ luncheonette. Photo by Christian Lalonde

An island fabricated from repurposed wood offers visitors a spot to sit and chat. The kitchen components were, in a previous life, part of a Zellers’ luncheonette. Photo by Christian Lalonde

Behind the house is a mountain that plays backdrop to a horse pasture. Walking trails go for miles; Kirk and Natalie hike there often and realize that the outdoor space can also contribute to a get-away-from-it-all experience when it comes time to start welcoming visitors.

The discussion turns to the fact that how we live and work is changing dramatically: technology offers us the freedom to break free from the confines of the nine-to-five tradition, but it also shackles us. We’re losing the ability to communicate one-on-one, in person, and are tied to our electronic gadgets. “We want to be part of building a community,” says Natalie, who sees her home as being a place of tranquility. “It will be the perfect place for healing.”

WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of April 2 – 6

BY KYLA CLARKE

An image from Mark Strandquist's collection "Windows in Prison"

An image from Mark Strandquist’s collection “Windows from Prison”

“If you could have a window in your cell, what place from your past would it look out to?”

A new photo exhibit opens this weekend at La Petite Mort Gallery and the content is very moving, not only for the images, but also for the text associated with each photo. Artist Mark Strandquist’s latest project bridges the distance between average individuals and incarcerated persons, in a way that incites photography as a means for social change.

The question above was posed to participating inmates from Washington, D.C., and students from George Mason University and Duke Ellington High School fulfilled the photo requests and mailed them back to the prisons. “Windows from Prison” is a photography project that creates a more humanistic approach to the discussion of issues with mass incarceration.

On Thursday, April 2, the artist Mark Strandquist will host a FREE public artist talk about his work, followed by a workshop for at-risk youth.
On Friday, April 3, the exhibit officially opens at La Petite Mort Gallery and will run until April 26.

The public artist talk will be at University of Ottawa, 100 Laurier Building, Room 219 at 1:30 p.m. The exhibit opens at La Petite Mort Gallery,  306 Cumberland Street.

Turn Down for Brunch!

It’s going to be a busy weekend at Hintonburg Public House.

First of all, there’s gonna be brunch – four days of it. They’ll be serving everything from French toast to hamburgers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Friday, April 3 through Monday, April 6. I’m already full and I’ve only been reading the menu.

On Saturday, April 4, they’ll be hosting the Bring on Spring Craft Show. Your favourite local vendors will be selling their handmade jewelry, art, home décor items, and more. Featured vendors include Top Shelf Preserves, My Vintage Retreat, and Darling Yes.

On Sunday, April 5, HPH hosts their monthly trivia night. Sign up as an individual or bring a team and show your friends who’s smartest. It’s only $5 and the next day is a holiday, so you know what that means: local craft beer, and lots of it.

Hintonburg Public House is at 1020 Wellington St West. Check out their website for more details.

Love, Handmade

Love_Handmade_026On Saturday, April 4, The Handmade Bride is hosting an alternative wedding show, featuring thirty local vendors and the unique opportunity to actually meet some of them. If stressed out brides can pry themselves away from Pinterest for a few hours, they may find everything they’ve been pinning online for their bohemian dream wedding – all in one place. Plus – the first 100 couples through the door will get swag bags full of wedding goodies. The Handmade Bride boasts delicate, vintage-inspired dresses from Canadian designers, or their own brand of dresses which can be custom-designed to suit any bride’s body and wedding theme.

The Love, Handmade Wedding Show is at Memorial Hall in New Edinburgh from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Spring Pop-Up

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Strut Jewelry’s spring/summer collection features shells collected from all around the world.

Still feeling spendy? Strut your stuff over to Flock Boutique for Strut Jewelry’s pop-up shop this Saturday, April 4. Designer Alyssa Spaxman will be in-store to unveil her new collection, including handpicked shells acquired from her travels in Ecuador, Brazil, Thailand, and Nicaragua. Travelers (and those who wish they could) will love the spring/summer collection, which symbolizes the spirit of wanderlust and love of freedom.

Flock Boutique is located at 1275 Wellington St. West.

Easter at the Farm

This little bunny is looking forward to spring

This little bunny is looking forward to spring

Kids and kids-at-heart can enjoy some fun on the farm this weekend at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum as they’ll be hosting an assortment of Easter activities. Visitors will get the chance to meet newly hatched chicks and ducklings, baby rabbits and lambs, and the kiddies can participate in an Easter egg hunt. There will also be a the chance to take part in some egg-citing egg-xperiments, lessons in the hatching process, Easter trivia, and probably a few more bad puns too.

The Easter activities go on all weekend, from Friday, April 3 to Monday, April 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The entry is included with museum admission: $10 for adults, children 3-12 are $7, children under 3 are free.

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is located at 901 Prince of Wales Drive.

GREAT SPACE: Stunning vistas, unconventional design create unique Cantley retreat

This article was first published in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

An artist designs a hilltop retreat that takes advantage of grand vistas across the Gatineau Hills and intimate views into the woods

BY DANIEL DROLET
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOUBLESPACE PHOTOGRAPHY

 

The main living area of the house faces south/southwest and offers a stunning vista, with the Gatineau River in the foreground and Ottawa's skyline off in the distance. The view is all the more commanding because the house is so high up above the river. Photo by Doublespace Photography

The main living area of the house faces south/southwest and offers a stunning vista, with the Gatineau River in the foreground and Ottawa’s skyline off in the distance. The view is all the more commanding because the house is so high up above the river. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Because of the home's location on the crest of a hill, yard space is limited. But who needs a yard when you have a spacious wrap-around deck offering unobstructed views? The deck is also designed to take advantage of the sun. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Because of the home’s location on the crest of a hill, yard space is limited. But who needs a yard when you have a spacious wrap-around deck offering unobstructed views? The deck is also designed to take advantage of the sun. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Every city has its scenic gems in the form of spectacular vistas or little-known places of beauty. In Toronto, a visitor might come across a quiet wooded ravine hidden from the bustle of downtown. In Montreal, there are parks, complete with lakes, that are islands of wilderness in a sea of houses and highways. In the national capital, the Champlain Lookout is one such delight: it is impossible to tire of the view that awaits at the very top of the winding Champlain Parkway.

I felt that same sense of amazement when I first arrived at the Cantley home of artist Diane Lacaille and her husband, Pierre Charles Généreux. Suddenly, as I reached the top of the ridge where the house sits, a vista opened up before me. In one sweep, I was able to take in the Gatineau Hills, a wide swath of the Gatineau River, and the skyline of downtown Ottawa in the distance. It was both unexpected and stunning.

“It’s all about the view,” says Diane, who designed the house without the help of an architect. Every room in this airy, open home was conceived to take advantage of the tremendous views and to let light flood in. Indeed, the house is so open that it’s sometimes difficult to know where inside ends and outside begins.

The second-floor guest bedroom and the master bathroom (visible from the guest suite) are both situated to take advantage of spectacular views over the river. Photo by Doublespace Photography

The second-floor guest bedroom and the master bathroom (visible from the guest suite) are both situated to take advantage of spectacular views over the river. Photo by Doublespace Photography

An artist's home must contain art, and the owners have strategically placed favourite pieces to show them off. But nowhere does the art overwhelm. Because the colour scheme is so neutral, the art can shine. Photo by Doublespace Photography

An artist’s home must contain art, and the owners have strategically placed favourite pieces to show them off. But nowhere does the art overwhelm. Because the colour scheme is so neutral, the art can shine. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Diane and Pierre Charles moved in last spring, about three years after they first laid eyes on the plot of land on which their house now sits. They had been living in a large, comfortable home in a suburban neighbourhood. And though Pierre Charles, a professional who grew up in the suburbs, was happy with the arrangement, Diane was restive. She had grown up in the wilder surroundings of the country and longed to live in a place where there were no neighbours in sight. When a contractor told her about the land — a farmer was selling off some property — Diane went to take a look and was immediately smitten. She returned with Pierre Charles, who also fell in love with the spot.

For two years, Diane set aside her usual creative work to focus on the design and construction of their house. To get it built, she put together her own team of four key professionals: Anne René de Cotret, an architectural technologist with ARConstruction, drew up the plans; Nathan Kyle, a designer with Astro Design Centre, was instrumental in helping with layouts and finishings (“We had an excellent collaboration,” she says); local contractor Claude Prud’homme of Rénovations Prud’homme in Cantley was in charge of construction; and Diane’s son-in-law, Winnipeg contractor Cameron Dobie of Dobie Properties Ltd., helped at all levels. “I had an extraordinary contractor,” she says of Prud’homme. “There’s nothing that we did that didn’t work. We even came in under budget — and that’s rare!”

The kitchen island combines prep area with seating and informal dining space to allow socializing and food prep to happen simultaneously. A glass door leads to the pantry behind the kitchen and allows the bright red painting in the pantry to be visible. Photo by Doublespace Photography

The kitchen island combines prep area with seating and informal dining space to allow socializing and food prep to happen simultaneously. A glass door leads to the pantry behind the kitchen and allows the bright red painting in the pantry to be visible. Photo by Doublespace Photography

When asked about the stresses of designing a house and managing a construction project of this magnitude, Diane says it wasn’t as difficult as she had expected. Her background as an artist helped. For example, she used her knowledge of composition and proportion to guide her choices. She points proudly to the open staircase up to the bedroom level as just one example of a design that worked. The main support for the stairs does not sit in the middle of each step; instead, it is positioned off-centre in the more pleasing proportion of one-third, two-thirds. Diane says she was very disciplined throughout the project, spending a lot of time researching, shopping, and comparing prices, all of which helped keep costs in check.

Artist and homeowner Diane Lacaille at work in the spacious, light-filled studio that is an integral part of the house. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Artist and homeowner Diane Lacaille at work in the spacious, light-filled studio that is an integral part of the house. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Given that Diane is an artist, there is surprisingly little colour within the house. The home’s few walls are painted a warm off-white, and the fittings, fixtures, and furniture are almost all neutral in tone, with a pop of red — Diane’s favourite accent colour — here and there. There is nothing jarring, nothing that demands attention or detracts from the view. “I don’t like colour on walls,” she explains. “I work with colour all day; maybe that’s why. I like the Scandinavian look — you know, simple lines.”

The house sits at the end of a long, steep driveway atop a wooded ridge not much wider than the house itself. Beyond the house and its decks, the ridge drops away sharply. Visitors don’t really have time to notice the home’s exterior, because the moment they reach the front door, their gaze is drawn to the view, which looks south and southwest toward Ottawa. To take advantage of the enviable sightlines, Diane designed the space not as the more usual rectangle but as a series of one-room wings off a central corridor. That means many of the rooms have three exterior walls with windows that stretch from floor to ceiling.

 

The owner was not content to take a standard approach to design. She used her knowledge of form and proportion to create unique architectural statements like the staircase leading up to the second level. The customized staircase was made according to her design. Photo by Doublespace Photography

The owner was not content to take a standard approach to design. She used her knowledge of form and proportion to create unique architectural statements like the staircase leading up to the second level. The customized staircase was made according to her design. Photo by Doublespace Photography

 

The house sits on two levels. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms. In the large, airy master bedroom, the bed is oriented so that the couple can enjoy views through windows to the front, left, and right, with the Ottawa skyline dead centre. The bed in the second-floor guest bedroom is also oriented toward a view, in this case of the forest and — in winter, when the trees are bare — of the Gatineau River far below. The ground floor covers much more surface area. In addition to the main living space (a combination kitchen/living room/dining room), there’s a large open foyer, an office, a second guest suite, a sizable exercise room, and Diane’s 800-square-foot art studio.

Throughout, Diane very consciously took the concept of open plan and ran with it. In addition to the expansive central living space that faces the main view toward the city, Diane came up with the idea of installing glass walls and glass doors in several “interior” rooms. Together, the large windows and the interior glass walls open up the space in such a way that even someone deep inside the house can enjoy the vistas. And even on the cloudiest of days, light floods in.

Every morning, Diane turns her red leather easy chair toward the view and drinks it in with her morning coffee. And each evening, she and Pierre Charles watch the setting sun reflect off the downtown buildings. “It’s magical,” she says. “My husband and I just look at each other, and say, ‘Can you believe it?’ ”

The bed faces the view through a bank of windows devoid of curtains. That view - forest, sky, river, and city skyline - is never compromised. Photo by Doublespace Photography

The bed faces the view through a bank of windows devoid of curtains. That view – forest, sky, river, and city skyline – is never compromised. Photo by Doublespace Photography

QUEST: Easter Treats — let’s eat our way into spring

BY CINDY DEACHMAN

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Various Chocolates by Cococo & Truffle Treasures. Photo: Christian Lalonde

What with bunnies, hens, and eggs, Easter puts us in very good spirits. Of course, a little chocolate never hurts, right?

Ditch the theory that Easter eggs symbolize new life. Eggs in general might, but Easter time is another story — and a prosaic one. Because eggs aren’t allowed during Lent for the fasting faithful, they have to be gobbled down beforehand. Then, when Easter is at hand, eggs can be eaten to one’s heart’s content.
Special Easter treats are on the menu too. Sicilians sculpt darling little sheep, called pecorelle di pasta reale, sheep of marzipan. Over here in Canada, we can’t get enough hot cross buns. But don’t forget the chocolate!

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