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Great graphic novel recommendations from the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite books for children with us. This month’s post is by Lise Dumas, Ottawa Public Library.

May is the month of Free Comic Book Day, the Ottawa Comiccon and best of all the Main Branch of the Library’s first (mini) BiblioCon. Here are some of the recently published graphic novels available at the Ottawa Public Library recommended for 9-12 year olds (Clicking on the title will hyperlink you to the OPL Catalogue page where you can see if the book is available at your local branch, or you can put it on hold and then pick it up at your home branch when it is ready for you!):

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The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks.

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This second book in a planned trilogy, takes place in the Nameless City currently ruled by the Dao clan. The main characters are Kaidu, a young Dao soldier, more interested in books than battles, and Rat, a young orphan and native of the city. The city natives are considered less than human by the Dao conquerors. After Kaidu and Rat foil an assassination attempt on the Dao general at the end of the first book, the Dao general agrees to create a council of representatives from each of the diverse groups living in the city. In The Stone Heart, the reader learns more about the histories of the main characters, there is betrayal, and a war is imminent. This second book of the Stone Heart series sets up the groundwork for an exciting conclusion.

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

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Avani Patel is the new kid in school and all is not well. She does not fit in and to make matters worse, her father has signed her up for the local Flower Scout Troupe at which instead of adventure and excitement, all the  girls want to do is put on makeup, gossip and drool over boys. Fortunately for Avani, she is abducted by an enthusiastic blue alien named Mabel, who is working on her Star Scouts "collection badge”. Avani happily spends time in space with Mabel and her troupe. Avani faces many challenges during a week at Camp Andromeda and learns skills such as jet pack racing, teleporting and herding monsters, all while keeping her dad from discovering that she has left planet earth.

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

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11-year-old homeschooler Imogene (Impy) Vega is now set to embark on the great adventure of going to a middle school. She is excited to go but is unprepared for the trials and tribulations of cranky teachers, boys and frenemies, while still trying to understand her own identity. Imogene aspires to become a knight at the Renaissance Faire, where both her parents work. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will also enjoy this book.

If your family enjoys graphic novels and a celebration of all things comic and geek culture, come and join us May 5 and May 6 for free activities at BiblioCon located at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. No registration is required; come in a costume and join the fun!

Worm composting made easy

About a year ago a friend of mine asked if I would like to start a worm compost (vermicompost) in my basement. At first I was reluctant because… worms in my basement. But since I am an avid vegetable gardener who uses compost, the idea of making it myself was appealing. Worm composting is not nearly as difficult or time consuming as one may think – and the result… well, just wait until you see this year’s seedlings!

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What is vermicomposting?

In it’s simplest form, vermicomposting or worm composting, transforms food waste into nutrient-rich compost using worms (in particular, red wigglers).

How to get started with worm composting

First things first:

1)   No. Worm composting does not smell.
2)   No. You do not have to touch the worms if you do not want to.

Thanks to my friend, Doreen, who owns Smart As Poop, a business that focuses on bringing vermicomposting to classrooms, I started composting inside last winter. Here is what we used to kick start my indoor worm compost:

1. Container: Doreen started me off with a plastic container that was about eight inches high. She had drilled holes in the bottom for ventilation and raised the bin on bricks to let excess liquid run out. She then put a tray underneath to capture the liquid, which you can use for fertilizer (think of it as high octane fertilizer!). The container also had a tight lid to not only keep light out, but also keep the worms in.

 top half of compost bin with screened breathing wholes

top half of compost bin with screened breathing wholes

2. Bedding: We then filled the bin three-quarters full with finely shredded newspaper, broken up eggshells and a bit of soil. We then moistened this with a bit of water and mixed it all up loosely to allow for good air flow.

3. Worms: Doreen then dumped in about a pound of red wriggler worms. Red wrigglers are low maintenance forgiving and like to eat! So, no, you do not use earthworms for composting purposes.

4. Where to keep your worm bin: I keep my bin in my unfinished basement, where it is cool, not cold and not too warm either. It is also not in direct sunlight (worms hate direct light).

 My counter compost container (it has an air tight lid)

My counter compost container (it has an air tight lid)

5. Feeding and caring for your worms: I keep a compost container on my kitchen counter (as well as a larger one under my sink). When it is full, I “feed it to the worms,” which is about once a week. I simply go down, open the lid, pick a corner, dig a little hole, dump the food waste, cover it up and go. Admittedly, I also love looking around to see how the worms are doing. I look for eggs (they’re usually in avocado shells) and worm clusters (this way I can tell what they really like to eat). Note: I leave a little marker of some kind (a lid or something small) that I place on top of the corner that is next for me to put food in. This way the food is evenly distributed.

If the bin starts to give off an unpleasant odour or if your worms are trying to escape (you will see lots on the lid), the bedding may be too wet. Stop feeding them until the worms catch up and gently stir the contents to increase airflow.

 Worms working hard to break down waste; you can still see some of the original paper in here

Worms working hard to break down waste; you can still see some of the original paper in here

 Weeks later the compost is looking good!

Weeks later the compost is looking good!

6. When and how to use your compost: In a couple of months you will start to see all the paper and dirt turn into compost. It’s quite miraculous, really. You can then mix your worm compost with potting soil for potted plants, add it to your garden soil, and use it when transplanting seedling from indoors to outdoors for a little extra nutrients to ease the stress of the climate change.

I now have both an indoor and outdoor worm compost. I upgraded my indoor worm compost to a Worm Factory because my worms outgrew my starter bin, and my husband built our outside worm compost. I dump food in our outdoor worm compost all year long (of course, it doesn’t break down in the winter, but come spring – it breaks down really fast!). And no, our outdoor compost bin does not smell! The worms do a great job of breaking down the enzymes responsible for odours and if it does start to smell, I just go in with a pitch fork and mix up the compost to allow for more air to get in.

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worm factory

Can I move my outdoor worms inside and vice versa?

Yes, when it is time to bring your worms inside, you can spread out the compost on a tarp on a sunny day and move it around until you see the worms scramble to find darkness. Take those worms and put them in an inside worm compost (you can start your indoor compost again, starting with step one). We did this last fall when it was time for our indoor worms that we put outside for the summer to come back inside. This year I think we will continue to have an outdoor and indoor compost.

Worm composting is educational and fun

As I mentioned my friend, Doreen, owns Smart As Poop, a vermicomposting business that introduces the process to classrooms. She introduces the magical world of worms (red wigglers) in a creative, fun and educational way that not only teaches children how composting works, but also what happens to their food – from seed to soil!

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Worm composting at home is just as fun and educational. A part of my daughter’s chores involves feeding the worms and giving me a status check, which is usually a “they’re fine” or “one was on the lid, but I just put it back in.”  She has also learned the ins and outs of composting – a skill I hope she will come to appreciate as an adult.

If you’re not convinced that vermiculture is for you, just remember that worm composting reduces your garbage and your reliance on city composting. There is also something gratifying about managing your own organic waste, making your own compost and watching your worms grow and multiply. Honestly though – it’s fun!

If you would like more information on vermicomposting, check out Smart As Poop. You will find valuable information as well as all the equipment you need to get started with your very own vermicompost - for yourself or a school classroom!

Let's get N.U.T.S!!

We all know that kids need more physical activity. The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows that only 9% of Canadian kids ages 5 - 17 are getting 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day (did that statistic shock you? It shocked me!!)

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When recess and phys ed are so restricted in public schools these days, how can parents take initiative to get their kids moving? I know for me, it's hard to find the motivation to get the kiddos out after a long day at school, especially when we have to get dinner made and bedtime routine started early (we prioritize an early bedtime in our house!) In the warmer months we always get out for a post-dinner walk or bike ride....but the winter months are HARD!!

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Just when I was despairing that winter would never end, I got a cool invitation from a new activity in Ottawa called N.U.T.S. The name stands for "Neuron Upgrade and Training Station." The facility is located near St. Laurent and Industrial Rd, and last week the Kids in the Capital team and friends got to check out this obstacle course where both your mind and body are challenged.

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When we arrived we walked into a huge dark room with glowing black lights and upbeat music. Friday and Saturday nights at N.U.T.S are glow-in-the-dark, courtesy of Glow Sport.

The first order of business is the waiver form. You then get to choose which type of trivia you would like, and I mistakenly chose Rock 'n Roll (mental note: I do not know ANYTHING about rock 'n roll.) When you give the staff your email address, all of your scores on the trivia portion of the obstacle are averaged out and you're emailed a score  - so you can go back and try to beat your last score!

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The premise of N.U.T.S is to run through an obstacle course, while stopping along the way to challenge your brain with trivia. The instructors showed us the entire course once, and explained how to move through it. The trivia is on small screens, and the passcode you have on your bracelet is entered into the computer so that your specific trivia questions pop up (my daughter chose Canadian History, which was a fun one to do together!)

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The obstacle course is not a race, but of course, some kids loved to see how fast they could do it! There is a lot of jumping, crawling and climbing. Most of the challenges along the way can be modified, so that older/stronger kids can choose the harder options on the obstacle, while younger kids can do something a bit easier. Anytime an obstacle is too much, we were instructed to do 10 jumping jacks instead!

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Have you ever gone for a walk and then had some brilliant breakthrough in your work or at school? Well, that's because physical activity is good for our brains! It gets all those fancy synapses firing in there, and answering the trivia questions was super fun.

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N.U.T.S is not just for kids. The idea is to run through the obstacle course three times, and I made it through it once. It was TOUGH (but of course, you can make it easier on yourself!!) I joked that this was clearly a mommy boot camp activity (and funny enough, N.U.T.S just introduced a mom and child fitness class!!)

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All the kids in our group declared it an amazing success, and were sad to have finished after three rounds. My daughter has already planned to hold her ninth birthday party there (and I got word that they supply a completely vegan cake, which is apparently out of this world!)

N.U.T.S is available for specific drop-in times, and they also tour all around the city visiting schools and having children take part in the obstacle course. They regularly host groups in their space, ranging from school-aged kids to workplace team building activities with adults.

This place is on our "must-return" list, and I can't wait to challenge myself again.

Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas in Ottawa

Sunday, May 13th 2018 is Mother’s Day! To help you plan ahead, we're listing some go-to Mother's Day brunch spots in Ottawa. We'll post more information about each as it becomes available, but in the meantime, simply click on the highlighted name to be redirected to their website and plan ahead!

If you have one you would like to add, leave a comment and let us know.

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Mother's Day Brunches at Museums

Numerous museums and historic spots in Ottawa host brunches or teas for Mother’s Day, including:

Billings Estate National Historic Site
The Fairfield’s Heritage House

Be sure to check out the City of Ottawa website for more details on these unique events. They usually run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mother’s Day.

Canadian Museum of Nature
For the price of Museum admission plus the cost of brunch for each guest, you can treat the special moms in your life to delectable breakfast fare, followed by a tour around the museum’s galleries. For more information and to book your spot, click here!

Local Restaurants

Aquatopia Water Garden Conservatory - Ottawa West
Bathe in warm spring sunlight surrounded by tropical water garden oasis and floral centrepieces!

Brookstreet Hotel – Kanata
Have brunch in the hotel’s ballroom with live music by Lucas Haneman or book at Perspectives and be accompanied by the musical talents of Pablo Samuel Castro.

Lago - Dows Lake Pavillion
Hosted upstairs in the Riviera Ballroom and the Veranda at Lago Custom Events! Mimosas and brunch!

NEXT - Stittsville
Known for their gourmet brunches, this Mother's Day brunch is not to be missed!

Le Café - National Arts Centre (NAC)
The famous brunch at the NAC gets creative for Mother’s Day with some innovative Canadian cuisine presented buffet style. There’s also a second buffet at dinner time. Details, menus and reservations available here.

The Herb Garden - Almonte
Brunch will be held Sunday, May 13th with catering is provided by the Mixing Bowl. 

Les Fougères – Chelsea, Quebec
Take a short road trip to this charming spot in Chelsea, Quebec. Order the three-or four-course special Mother’s Day table d’hote for a tour through some of Quebec’s amazing cuisine! 

Stoneface Dolly’s – Preston Street
Named after an actual mom, Stoneface Dolly’s offers patrons a home-style brunch that perfect for families! 

Fraser Café – New Edinburgh
Fresh food at reasonable prices, this is a gem of a spot to bring mom for Mother’s Day – but don’t wait too long to book, it will book up quickly!

Gezellig - Westboro
Treat mom to mother's day brunch at Gezellig on Saturday, May 12th and Sunday, May 13th

The Tea Party Café – Glebe or Byward Market
Make your mom feel like royalty with this special treat later in the afternoon! They offer delicious vegetarian dishes and home baked treats that are baked in-house, daily!

Children's Books about Spring from the Ottawa Public Library

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite books for children with us. This month’s post is by Andrea Gowing, Centennial Branch, Ottawa Public Library.

Spring is here! Time to dust out the cobwebs, open the windows, and look at our fresh new world! 

Spring facts, baby birds, an April Fools’ mystery and a loveable little fox are sure to keep young readers entertained until they too can get out to play in the spring weather.

Clicking on the title will hyperlink you to the OPL Catalogue page where you can see if the book is available at your local branch, or you can put it on hold and then pick it up at your home branch when it is ready for you!

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Spectacular Spring: All Kinds of Spring Facts and Fun / Bruce Goldstone

At the end of a long winter, spring brings a new beginning to the world.  Plants start to poke their new selves through the cold ground, and buds begin to pump out on trees.  Sleeping animals awaken again, all around are having babies.  How does spring feel?  What are the sounds of spring? What is the shape of spring?  All these questions are answered in this is a perfect, fact-filled book about spring for all ages.  The photography is spectacular, vivid, and engaging.  Includes a short section of spring crafts!

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Egg / Kevin Henkes

A pink egg, a yellow egg, a blue egg, and a green egg.  Pink egg hatches, yellow egg hatches, blue egg hatches.  What is happening to green egg?  Why is green egg not hatching?  Three little birds wait and wait, finally green egg hatches.  Who is their new friend?   This is a lovely, softly coloured graphic novel for preschoolers from long loved author Kevin Henkes.                  

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April Fools’ Fiasco / Ron Roy

The kids of Green Lawn are back in this A to Z Mysteries 9th Super Edition.  It is April 1st and Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose have been pranked by the local bookstore owner.  Is it a prank?  The bookstore has just been robbed!  Dink and friends are on the case in this mystery for ages 6 plus.  It is a great read a loud first chapter book.  

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Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms / Julia Rawlinson

Singing birds, chasing butterflies, smelling new flowers – Fletcher, the little red fox, loves everything about spring.   As he wanders through the newly green and lush meadow, he sees snow falling in the distance.  Oh no!  A spring snow!  Off he rushes to warn his friends, who all come to see.  It is not snow; it is flower blossoms falling from the tees, covering everything in white!  Children will love how Fletcher’s friends forgive his mistake, and all join in the fun of playing in the blossoms.  This is a lovely book to curl up with and share with a little one.