Survival of the warmest

January 20, 2009

So it was cold last week – damn cold. -37 windchills ain’t going to make any trip outside pleasant, especially if you’re still part of the walking masses who are bitterly cursing the continued lack of transit.

The question then becomes: where to get the gear that will protect you from the elements?

Get bundled up, find a comfy snowbank, and have yourself a tasty snowy treat!

Get bundled up, find a comfy snowbank, and have yourself a tasty snowy treat!

1. MEC – yes, it’s quickly becoming standard-issue Canadian clothing. But they’ve got good quality, reasonably priced winter wear that will last you for the next few bitter winters to come. Plus, you’ll match at least half of the people in Ottawa!

2. Bushtukah – a little more upscale, Bushtukah has a good range of brands – but don’t be afraid to ask one of the knowledgeable staff for help. You might need it to understand the outdoorsy lingo that permeates the conversations in this store.

3. Tommy and Lefebvre – with six stores across Ottawa, this chain will have what you need (or one of the other locations will). They can also have pretty good sales – keep an eye out for these so you can stock up on the essentials!

4. Mark’s Work Wearhouse – sure, we’re not all lumberjacks. But we all still could use a trip to Mark’s for a good pair of wool socks and half-mitten/half-gloves. Plus, they’ve got boots that will keep your feet nice and toasty.

5. The Expedition Shoppe – with a good selection of travel gear (heading down to somewhere warm? get your travel backpack here!), they’ve also got a fair showing of parkas, boots and other warm wear.

Remember: layer up! This is the only time of year when wearing longjohns can be considered fashionable (and even then, it may be a stretch for some), so take advantage of it!

You dissin my costume Pussycat?

You dissin my costume Pussycat?

Not much to celebrate now that New Year’s has passed…you’re waiting for Valentine’s Day. But let’s be honest, in the dead of winter, you are just looking for an excuse to host an awesome party. Theme parties are pretty awesome if you’ve got the right hosts and fun people that buy into your theme. Last year, we hosted a pirate party and it was awesome. This summer, my friend hosted a make your own powerpoint party and he said that was awesome. The other day, we hosted a chichi party and it was awesome. Tomorrow, I’m hosting a NASCAR hillbilly party and that’s gonna be awesome too.

Just look at your friends or your friends friends pictures on Facebook and you’ll find awesome themes for your own party.Party hard and send us your theme ideas….and your photos!

Rideau CanalWinter in Ottawa is cold. The weather office just informed me that the wind chill over the next day will bring temperatures down to a frightening -35 degrees. But we’ve all learned to dress for the worst. And the people at City Hall and the NCC appear to be doing what they can to distract us from bitterly cold truth.

This weekend I took advantage of their most well-known winter diversion — skating on the canal. I know it’s not exactly a hidden gem, but there are few things I love more about Ottawa than those 7.8km of ice.

Word to the wise — save a couple bucks by getting your skates sharpened before on your way to the canal at a shop like Foster’s Sports on Bank & MacLaren ($5+tax). You’ll also avoid competing for attention with those renting skates on the canal (which, incidentally, cost $16/2hours).

But the canal isn’t the only winter fun to be had on the government’s dime. The City runs hundreds of outdoor ice rinks all across Greater Ottawa where you can play a game of shinny or just go for a leisurely skate under the stars with your beau or belle, New York City-style. These rinks vary from small ponds to full outdoor rinks and are all maintained by the city. You can find out where your closest rink is here and get updates on its ice conditions here.

If you’re looking to join a game of pickup hockey near Centretown, your best bet seems to be the rinks at Brewer Park near Dow’s Lake at 210 Hopewell. You might also check out Jack Purcell Park on Frank St. between Metcalfe and Elgin (by the Elgin Street Diner), Plouffe Park on Preston south of Somerset, and McNabb Park at 160 Percy. All of these rinks have full boards and lights.

The City also maintains a clutch of sledding hills.

And if you’re looking to do some cross-country skiing (and, for whatever reason, you can’t get up to Gatineau Park) you can check out the Mooney’s Bay Ski Center. It’s not free, but at $2.50, it might as well be.

Just don’t forget your toque. Minus 35 is no joke.

Problem Solever

January 7, 2009

BootsEvery October the search begins.

No matter what’s in my closet – what state my current pairs are in or how much I spent on last year’s purchases – I set out to buy a new pair of winter boots.

Sometimes, I don’t quite find what I’m looking for and end up purchasing a few “almost right but not quite right” pairs before I find just what I’m looking for. (If I ever find it).
It can be a pretty costly venture. Especially, if you don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing so you look outside the Montreal – Ottawa – Toronto limits.

My two main criteria for winter booths are style and warmth – usually, in that order. Since I don’t drive/have a parking spot/a car/a bus pass and my boots are my winter vehicle, I’ve smartly given up on boots with four inch heels. Flat boots are a winter necessity.

But Flat boots are often problematic; their soles are too thin. This causes two problems: 1) you feel the cold earth under your feet; 2) the soft soles get used up pretty quickly and your fancy leather boots are rendered useless after a few long walks.

Solution: re-soling.

It’s cheap, about $30. And not only solves problems 1 and 2 but also 3) Stops you from slipping when walking on dangerous surfaces like grids, ceramic floors (what’s up with the EQ3 entrance?) and mall entrances.

Here are a few places to try:

Capital Shoe Clinic, 203 Queen Street (corner Bank)
Bytown Shoe Repair, 341 Dalhousie St
Earth Watch Shoe Service, 427 Laurier Ave. W

Damned Dollies

Saturday, December 6, 2008 – Jack Purcell Community Centre

Saturday mornings on Elgin Street are typically filled with post-Friday night brunchers. This Saturday, though, there was an unusual amount of people streaming towards the Jack Purcell Community Centre at Gilmour Street. The reason? LadyFest Ottawa’s annual “This is not your Grandma’s craft show.”

Walking up the stairs, there’s a sense of anticipation – what sort of indie crafty delights will we stumble upon in this adventure? With this event only happening once a year, and happening at a time when gift-buying is at the forefront of one’s mind, the possibilities seem endless.

Walking into the first room after being labelled with a purple “I paid a toonie to get in” heart, the heat is overwhelming – as are the colours and crafty fare. Everywhere we look there are small crowds around colourfully adorned tables, spread with each crafter’s handiwork.

We make our way around the room, trying to get a peek at each station. The coolness factor in the room is high – lots of young hipsters in handmade clothing. We secretly know we bring that factor down, but pretend otherwise.

The items on each table – the art on each table – is proudly displayed. Jewellery – onesies – scarves – stuffed animals – pottery – screen prints – the list goes on. We wander, intrigued, in search of the perfect gift.

I stumble upon Frash Femme, a local Ottawa jeweler. Delicate earrings and necklaces are displayed on a metal palm tree photo stand, with a clever quote embellishing each tag. There’s a pair of earrings that would be ideal for Ali – but they have pink stones, and Ali’s not much of a girly-girl.


”I can do it in a different colour,” says Frash. “Maybe clear? Or brown? Just give me, say, 20 minutes.” I jump at the chance, delighted with the fact that I’ll have custom-made earrings in just a short passing.

Heading back to the side room, we stop at a table with retro-themed clocks and an assortment of what looks like framed National Geographic photos. Talking with Buster Louie, we discover they are pages taken from 1920 editions of Lands and Peoples textbooks. The photos depict peoples of various countries in typical dress, sometimes in action, mostly just looking out seriously.

The captions, though, are the killer. “Irish women are typically found in a variety of unusual occupations” reads one. “The Irish stock have provided an important racial element to the composition of the United States of America. Irish women have been celebrated in much prose and song.”

Each photo has a similar, almost shocking and sometimes borderline offensive caption. “I took out the ones that were particularly racist,” says Buster. “But some of these are outrageously funny.”

We rifle through the photos, chuckling at the various captions. “Danish children are unusually fair and sturdy.” “Learning to master the art of eating is more difficult for this young Chinese boy than his small Western contemporaries.”

“Not a lot of people get it,” Buster admits. “I explain the textbooks to them and people just usually smile weakly and walk away.” We, however, find them to be hilarious – so much so that we pick out a few, shell out the necessary cash, and take our delightful purchases back to Frash Femme.

She’s done the earrings – “She does them super fast,” her partner says proudly and matter-of-factly. “I’m just the eye candy.” Frash Femme just shrugs with a hint of a smile. We thank her profusely for being so accommodating and squeeze our way out of the growing crowd, down the stairs, back into the bright snowy sunlight.