A familiar view

Here is A summertime view of the east-side of downtown Edmonton’s river valley area, including the purple palace – CanadaPlace, where I call home from 8:30 to 4:30 (at least), once again.

This snap-shot on the walk home captures the summer sky and high-waters from the steady evening rains in the prairies. I’ve noticed a theme – clear and hot days with plenty of moisture at night, with little humidity, and everything is lush and green – the exact opposite of poor parched Ontario at the moment.

We are reeeeeaaaaaaalllly enjoying the sublime weather as well as being back in good old Edmonchuck. What an August. That said, Alistair and I have the distinct pleasure of heading to Cape Breton Thursday morning for my grandma’s 90th birthday party and pseudo family reunion.

MF and Fin will be holding the fort here and settling in after being away for so long.

Although we had a marvelous year away in Ottawa, we are all genuinely pleased to be back.


Folk Fest and Visiting Winston

We arrived back in Edmonton just in time to take in Sunday afternoon and evening of the Folk Festival thereby keeping the streak alive for both Alistair and Fin for attending a folk fest each year since they were born. (Last year they we were at the Ottawa folk fest).

I was quickly reminded of how the festival is as much about seeing old friends as it is about the music – especially for two little boys who were thrilled to see some of their neighborhood buddies.

Yesterday we had a very nice visit with friends up the street who had adopted our family dog. Obviously the boys were overjoyed to see their old canine pal. (the feeling was mutual as Winston clearly recognized us and showered us all with puppy kisses galore).




Storm views

Great to be home and see my folks and many neighbors. Arrived at 4:00 am last night after stopping just outside Edmonton for a power-nap. Truck was unloaded and returned by noon. Phew!

I drove into an intense weather system near the Alberta/Saskatchewan border last night. The light show was impressive and the dark clouds were quite foreboding. The large inukshuk-like cloud in the middle looked like a partially formed tornado but although it had lightning inside it and there was some swirling at the top, it was
not a funnel cloud. The wind and rain made driving a cube-truck a little tricky for a few moments.






That’s a Wrap – and Rideau Hall

This may be the last post that captures details of our highly enjoyable 13 months in Ottawa. We head west very soon!

In addition to another post from tonight about an interesting tour of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block, below are photos from our recent trip to Rideau Hall – which was one of the last places we wanted to be sure to explore. (There is short video clip of the Changing of the Guard at the bottom).

I have definitely tailed off on blogging in recent weeks/months, but I did a bit of recap of the year a few weeks ago here. and here is a link to a post on the powerful War Museum and a post on some sights and sounds of Ottawa on Canada Day here.

We are down now to our last hours and we are feeling most fortunate to have had such a wonderful year with our family. Things have been a total blur these past days as I finished up my last paper and as we packed up our condo. We also squeezed a few last minute treks to some lakes around the region (Chelsea, and Pink Lake areas).

We are sad to leave our family and friends in Ottawa but are hopeful we will return for visits or possible extended stays again.

Voici a few photos (which were taken sans flash as always) and a short clip at the bottom. Time now to grab some shut-eye before heading west!

I’ll try tweeting from gerardmaclellan@twitter.com along the drive – just for giggles. MF and the boys will be flying out.

This blog will likely continue, in some form, much as a little family-diary of sorts, as it was this past year.

-Stay well.

Front view of Rideau Hall
The Tent Room – which has portraits of earlier GGs, including the Lord Stanley and an Earl Grey
The living room, including Glen Gould’s old piano at the back of the room.
The ceremony hall where the GG awards and the Order of Canada etc are presented.
The original throne from the very first speech from the throne.
Across the street at 24 Sussex – if you look closely you can see the PM do the Macarena
Fin outside 24 Sussex, pointing to dead squirrel.
The current GG and his wife – classy folks.

Inside Parliament

Here’s a quick post from a tour of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block from a couple/few weeks ago.

I was lucky to have my friend Carlos, (who works on the Hill) give me a behind-the-scenes tour, which was a fair bit more interesting than the official tour open to the public.

One isn’t really supposed to take many photos, especially in certain areas, it seems to depend on who you ask, so I snapped only a few quick shots here and there – flash free of course so as not to affect any artifacts or draw the ire of any burly bouncers.

Top of the PeaceTower facing South – “Canada Day” Stage Set up Below
Top of the Peace Tower – Facing North (Quebec)


East Block and Chateau Laurier
Book of Remembrance – from WWI Located in the Hall of Honour
An old-fashioned style lounge for the press gallery members
Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lucazyk who arrived for his infamous luncheon at the same time as I was at the Hill. I joked with him for a few moments before later coincidentally seeing the actual lunch meeting (from a far) that took place in the MP’s Cafeteria.
The MP’s (Swanky) Cafeteria Entrance
Centre Block Committee Room and some unknown (MP?) leaving the room as we enter.
“The Stairs” which lead up to the Prime Minister’s office. We walked past his office and were eyeballed by three serious looking security officers standing on guard for he.
The sign outside the Press Gallery offices.
Ancient tiny old rooms that used to house telephones but still serve as little booths to enter to have a private conversation.
Side entrance where, I believe, the PM enters.
A sneaky, hip pocket (flash free) photo from inside the beautiful Library of Parliament
Shot of the interesting masonry for inside the Centre Block just behind the famous rotunda.

Calypso with the Keenans

The Calypso waterpark is our boys’ favourite spot on earth.

There are about four other waterslide towers in addition to the one shown below. The place is pure heaven for children, and nor bad for adults too.

The conditions were perfect today – not too hot, save for a brief period in the afternoon, and the lineups were not crazy-long like they can be.

Super glad we were able to hang with the Keenan gang. I flubbed on getting any group shots or action photos but here is a lovely one of my sis Gillian and her little man David G. Keenan.

Now to go put something on my Calypso toe.ūüôā (Which is caused by walking barefoot on a texturized concrete for a whole day).



Up Close and Personal with History – At The Canadian War Museum

Wow. What a place. The Canadian War Museum is truly something to see. I am very glad we finally had a chance to explore it (twice actually) before leaving Ottawa.

The massive collection of artifacts and striking (often emotional) portrayals of war tells the story of Canada’s involvement in many different military struggles – including those early in our country’s formative history, all the way up to more recent campaigns.

The boys standing with museum guide Mr. Joe Brown who had served with the Canadian Navy in WWII patrolling the English Channel and fending off German bombers heading to England.

The museum manages to pull off the none-too-easy task of dealing with war in a balanced way – i.e. in such a way that does not romanticize it, nor trivialize it. They also show the unvarnished truth about war, as evidenced by some of the videos they display, a few of which I filmed portions of and have included at the bottom of this post.

Obviously the museum is different from your typical museum in that its core subject matter is something most of us abhor – war.

The notion of going to see a museum dedicated to “war” stirs mixed feelings. We want to honour and learn, pay tribute and appreciate, but we’d also rather turn away from certain aspects of war, such as the stark reminders of millions of lives lost or damaged.

Like almost everyone, I am philosophically opposed to war, yet I appreciate that there are times when sacrifice and resistance is required. In recent years I have grown to better appreciate the sacrifices that were made for our country, not only by our military in general, but also my own relatives, including my grandpa (whom I’ve written about before here) who had lost his leg during World War 1 and who barely survived, thanks in no small part to the famous poet John McCrae who was a field surgeon in the Canadian army.

John McCrae display at the Canadian War Museum:

Out of respect for my grandpa, and McCrae himself, I made sure to point out to our young boys that if it were not for McCrae performing a skillful emergency surgery, that it is theoretically possible that we would not be alive.

John McCrae – soldier, surgeon, and poet.
Write up on John McCrae
The actual pistol carried by John McCrae – interesting thinking that the hands that held that gun operated on my mom’s dad, saving his life after an explosion mangled his leg.
A picture of a field surgery kit – perhaps similar to the one used while operating on my grandfather – yikes!

Here is a clip of the surgery kit used during world war one:

Emotional Heaviness:

Obviously there is a certain heaviness to the Canadian War Museum. It is not a place where you leave feeling especially exuberant, nor should you. It is, however, a place where you gain a feeling of gratitude, not only for the sacrifice of lives lost, but also for life itself.

As you would expect, there is ample weaponry; there are swords, clubs, grenades and bayonets, and there are tanks and guns, and guns, and more guns.

Aside from the hardware of destruction however, there are also touching personal items that remind us of the human side of war – such as a small teddy bear that one Canadian soldier kept in his chest pocket as a reminder of his little daughter back home while he fought and ultimately died in the muddy and murderous trenches of northern France. (See picture of teddy bear and the letter that his 7-year-old son mailed him, which he never got to read).

The teddy-bear, sent to a father (soldier) from his daughter in Canada, which was found on him when he died in the trenches during WWI. Behind that is a letter sent to him from his seven-year old son – a letter he never received, and which choked up this father/blogger who has sons of similar age.

For good reason, the museum focuses considerably on the two World Wars.
Somehow, over a thirty year span, starting not quite 100 years ago, we entered into a period of worldwide struggle that would result in over 85 million deaths (when you factor in civilian deaths in the Soviet Union and China). This I find hard to grasp. Approximately 30 million people were killed in WWI and 55 million in WWII. This story needs to be told and retold.

(While feeling the heaviness of war at the museum I thought of two excellent and highly moving books on war: Three Day Road by Canadian Joseph Boyden, and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks).

A bottle that would hold the “rum-ration” allowing for liquid courage and the necessary numbing effect, both before and after battles.

Canadians paid a steep sacrifice for a young, far away country during WWI.
The Canadian sacrifice during WWI

History up Close – Billy Bishop

It was fascinating to see components of the actual airplane flown by the legendary flying ace Billy Bishop, including his windshield, propeller, one of his guns, and his medallions.

The windshield of Billy Bishop’s airplane he first used to officially establish himself as a flying ace – note the bullet hole that missed but nearly killed him during one of his dogfights.
The windshield, propeller, and the gun from Billy Bishop’s airplane.
The medals won by Canadian Ace Billy Bishop – including the Victoria Cross for valour (the highest honour) on the far left.
Close-up of the Victoria Cross Won by Billy Bishop

Hitler’s Car and World War II:

Even though it is hard to imagine a more heinous person, nor a better example of how charismatic and egomaniacal “leaders” can lead people to ruin – from a historical perspective it was nonetheless interesting to see the car (although there may have been more than one) that Hitler actually used during parades throughout Europe during WWII.

Hitler’s Car – Captured at the end of WWII by Americans and Transported to Canada
Notice the handle at the top that Hitler would hold on to while standing in the passenger side during political / military parades
Canada Enters the Frey
The costly results of a poorly supported assault.



The Canadian contribution during WWII – much too large, but thankfully a pittance compared to the world-wide total of lives lost.

Heavy Equipment and Playing Soldier:

Finley posing with a WW1 helmet worn by Canadians – the halo effect is fitting, but purely coincidental.
UN Peace Keeping Vehicle

The War of 1812:

In addition to detailing the World Wars and other smaller international wars, the Museum has exhibits on the ancient struggle between France and England for control of Canada (and North America).

This being 2012, it is the bicentennial of the war of 1812 and so the museum has a very thought provoking large-scale exhibit on the war that involved the British, the Americans, the Canadians and various north American native tribes. It is fascinating to see the different perspectives on this two-hundred year old struggle that was obviously defining for Canada’s continued existence.

A Canadian Officer’s Uniform During the War of 1812


Alistair the American and Fin the Canadian – Dress up 1812 Style

Here is a brief clip from the First World War which gives an indication of the grim reality of war:

A clip from a Nazi propaganda film shown during the war throughout Europe showing Canadian and British troops killed or captured after the disaster at Dieppe.

Footage from inside a transporter boat as the Allied troops land on D-Day:

A Few Video Clips of Ottawa on Canada Day Weekend 2012

Continuing to try and capture memories our time in Ottawa through this wee blog, here are three short videos from Canada Day Weekend Рthe Snow Bird fly by on Parliament Hill, fireworks as viewed from the top of the canal between the East Block and Chateau Laurier, and a leisurely tour cruise down the canal with our friends Kathleen, Darcy, Raine and Liam. (And here again is a link to a summary blog post about  this past year).

The One Year Mark – Anniversary of Our Year in Ottawa.

Exactly one year ago, almost to this very hour, our family landed in Ottawa the night before the big Canada Day celebrations. We were excited and eager to have just embarked on a one-year family adventure of living in Ottawa.

As we look back on the year that was, we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to live here and to create many memories that will last a lifetime. (As a bit of recap, for anyone who is interested, I’ve included links to some previous posts below).

Our Son Alistair on Canada Day 2011 – Our 1st Morning

Sometime around December of 2010 my wife asked me if I would be interested in moving to Ottawa for a year. It didn’t take me more than a few moments to say that I was. After working for the feds for more than a decade, I had been to Ottawa a few times for work and also a couple of times for pleasure. I was familiar enough with the city to know that we would likely enjoy our time here, and that we would also gain interesting work experience.

Shortly after arriving we started to fall for the city. After only a couple months we began contemplating staying longer than a year, possibly indefinitely. For a young family that enjoys getting out and doing things, Ottawa is simply a great community. In addition, we were fortune early on to meet some great folks, as well as get re-acquainted with many wonderful people, especially my sister Gillian and her lovely family, and several of my wife’s old friends.

The Finster at Meech Lake

The decision to return to Edmonton (which still feels a lot like home in many ways) was not easy. To be honest, the decision remains a bit difficult, and we do ¬†wonder once in a while if we shouldn’t stay. However, there are many factors to consider when planning long-term with a young family and we are sticking to our original plans in returning later this summer.

For me, aside from spending a year in heart of a beautiful city, I will remember this year mostly as a chance to spend tons of time with our young boys and to have a fantastic year-long family adventure. It was an entirely different pace from the past several years for me and I loved it. I can tell that years from now I will look back on this time as a special opportunity to spend time with family.

We intentionally chose to live in a central location close to amenities and striking distance by foot for most necessities. Our living quarters was a bit small for a family however we are glad we made the decision to live centrally and to experience the benefits associated with super quick access to things like groceries, cafes, restaurants, museums, pubs, and the canal.

Mary Frances and Finley on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude

I also intentionally worked part-time (well, most weeks), and as a result I was able to meet the boys after school every day in the mid-afternoon and to spend hour after hour just hanging out (and also regaining some of my long-lost culinary skills from my bachelor days since for the first time in a long time I cooked super almost every night).

Without the usual long hours of work and the various volunteering gigs and the normal ¬†social commitments in Edmonton, we had much more time on our hands to get out and about and explore the area. During the winter, much of this time was spent in arenas as Alistair started hockey this year (I don’t think we missed a game or a practice), but we made a point of seeing and doing as much as possible whenever we had the chance.

After School Skate

It was sincerely a huge pleasure to hang out so much as a family and I already cherish many of the memories, some of which are captured through these blog entries. I am also fortunate I was able to work with a great group of people at my work and also that they accommodated my need for part-time work and the completion of courses at both Carleton and the University of Ottawa.

Trip to Algonquin Park in the Fall.

As great as the year was, of course it was not all roses. We had water damage in our condo when we arrived, our youngest fell and broke his arm, I’m pretty sure I had pneumonia for about two weeks in the winter, there were some challenges with sending our boys to a french school (although we are glad we did), my rickety but prized 40-year-old-bike was brazenly stolen from in-front of our place, and, oddly, I was almost in my first ever fist-fight, not once, but twice.

We also missed family and friends out west, and periodically struggled with the classic work-life (school-life) balance challenges that afflict all young families, especially those that are new to a community and working intense jobs.

On the whole however the year was amazing and I can say without exaggeration that it has been the best year of my life.

Alistair and the Canadian Museum of Nature
Alistair and the Canadian Museum of Nature

We are glad that I kept this little blog. Although I did not do our stay justice with it (since I am not that consistent of a blogger, nor did I have sufficient time to capture many of the nuances of living in Ottawa for a year), I am still glad that I kept running record of many of our outings and some of the notable experiences.  It was fun to encounter people who had read and enjoyed the odd post and to share with grandparents out west.

To me the main purpose of this blog was/is to simply capture some memories that would otherwise be forgotten in the busy hustle-bustle life of young families, to have a little fun, and also to share slices of life with family and friends. I also hope our boys will enjoy looking back on some of the fun at some point in the future. ¬†Most little ones don’t remember a heck of a lot before they are seven or eight so this should help job their memories later, especially for Fin.

For those that might be interested, here, in no particular order, is a grouping of some highlights from this past year. You can click on the bold links to see older posts if you wish.

Canada Day 2011:

We landed at night on June 30th – (which happens to be our anniversary), and when we awoke the next day the sky was brilliant blue (see top photo above) and the heat was rising fast. The crisp colours of the flag were everywhere and stood in contrast to the deep blue sky. It was Canada Day in Ottawa and the mercury would hit 32 degrees. The city was buzzing. Over three hundred thousand people were crammed into downtown Ottawa to see Prince William and his new bride Kate. Here is a link to some photos and fireworks of that day.

A view of the packed Parliament Hill – July 1, 2011

Parliament Hill:

Apart from our first trip on Canada Day 2011, because we lived quite close, and since it is intriguing coming from Western Canada, I made my way to Parliament Hill a number of times this past year. Once for Question Period in the fall, as well as a quick visit to pay tribute to Jack Layton.

I also took the boys for what I thought might be a nerdy but memorable trip to the Hill to see the 2012 Budget be delivered in the House of Commons. We also swung by the Hill on New Year’s Eve. Finally, I had the good fortune of having a behind-the-scenes-tour from a kind friend a week or so ago and I will likely post something on that soon.

New Years Eve at Parliament Hill

Living in Ottawa this year did not exactly increase my interest in following politics, (I think it did the opposite), however it was interesting to see how the city operates as a government town.

Museums and More Museums:

As the capital city, Ottawa is renowned for its national museums. These are not rinky-dink museums, these are world-class destinations. Yes it might be uber nerdy to be museum hounds, but we enjoy it.ūüôā

Here are links to our visits to the: Museum of Nature (which was our first museum visit), the Aviation Museum (with my pop), the National Art Gallery, and the Museum of Civilization, (A post on the War Museum is forthcoming). In addition, Mary Frances took the boys to a few other museum throughout the year, and revisited the ones above more than once.

Aviation Museum with Grampa Mac and the Avro Arrow

Around the Rideau Canal:

We absolutely loved living so close to the wonderful Rideau Canal where we spent many an hour  skating with the boys, we even skated to work during the short time it was open. The canal area is easily one of the best things about Ottawa (here are some summer-time views), and it is sooooo wonderful in the winter (here is a link to Winterlude). 

It was fun to spring my boys a bit early from school one day to see the Stanley Cup being skated down the canal during the NHL All Star festivities. And just today we took a quick boat trip down the canal with some friends.

View from the Hood

Outings Out of Town:

Winterlude Snow Sculpture – Jacques Cartier Park, Gatineau

Not only is Ottawa itself quite beautiful, especially in the core areas, but the surrounding country side is awesome too. We enjoyed summer outings to the famous Meech Lake, and a nice trip to the Quebec Countryside. The boys loved loved loved their trip to Calypso (and so did I!). And later we did a winter skiing excursion at Nakkertok, just outside Gatineau, QC.

In the fall we took a canoe trip to the haunting Algonquin Park , and also had fun during an apple-picking excursion just outside of Ottawa,

Apple Pickers

Perhaps the most memorable trip however was a little farther away – our quick trip to New York for my wife’s 40th B-day. There was also a quick fall trip to see my grandma and other family, including my folks, in Nova Scotia. (Living in Ottawa makes it much easier to hit the coast!)

Other Random Highlights of the past 12 months:

Seeing the Paul McCartney concert in Montreal with my son Alistair (his first concert ever) was a highlight. And while on the topic of music, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the Ottawa Folk Festival last year.

At Ottawa Folk Fest
At Ottawa Folk Fest

It was also a highlight seeing the Oilers beat the Sens in Overtime with Alistair and Finley at their first ever NHL hockey. And speaking of hockey, another highlight was to later take Alistair to see his favourite hockey player, Sidney Crosby play at Scotia Bank Place.

Finally, three other notable excursions include our¬†recent ¬†tour of some Foreign Embassies.¬†an outing to ¬†the Ottawa Arboretum on mother’s day, and last but certainly not least was the trip to the stunning Niagara Falls¬†just last week.

Niagara Falls

As you can tell, on this anniversary marking one year we are very happy for the time we’ve had here. Obviously I am very glad my wife suggested that we go for it!

A few more posts will be added before we head west, likely including some sights and sounds of Canada Day 2012.

Have a great Canada Day everyone!

Baseball Wrap Up

The Glebe little league ball wrapped last night.

The league was very fortunate to have the excellent guidance from coach Larry, who is the head coach of the University of Ottawa squad. Larry was out twice a week for the past couple months to help guide the boys and girls through 45 mins of skill development before their games.

Alistair’s team (the appropriately named “Stingers”) was also fortunate to be guided by team head-coach, (and ace-on-the-mound) Tom Korski, who was always a pleasure to be around and who I will remember not only for his nightly rides to the park, but also for his funny, but effective down-home sayings, such as: “Get in the ready position boys, like you are a coiled spring or a jungled cat!”, or, my favorite, “Swing level, like you are sliding the bat across your ma’s kitchen table”.ūüôā

Good community!

A few shots from the diamond:





Sights and Sounds of Niagara Falls

Years ago I went to the falls on a work-related outing, at the time the weather was not so great and I found the scenery a little less impressive than imagined. What a difference it was yesterday – sooooo much better on a clear sunny day, and it’s much more fun to take it all in with family!

Here are a dozen or so pictures and some video clips of the Niagara Falls from my trusty iPhone.

Some of the views are a bit misty as you tend to get a bit soaked, especially below the falls on the classic Maid of the Mist.

(In the second video you can see a nifty double rainbow)

After the falls we drove to the beautiful and historic Niagara on the Lake district before heading over to New York state for the night.

View from the top of the falls – before the big drop.
Edge of the horseshoe.
Looking towards the USA
Watching dad walk across the falls on the tight-rope
Maid of the Mist entering the horseshoe
Gang checks out the view
The Boat Below
View from boat
View of American Falls
Wide view of both waterfalls
View from below the falls from the Maid of the Mist
Side bottom view of the falls
Inniskillin winery
Laura Secord Homestead