Surviving Winter: February Fun

January felt like a looong month. It always does, but in particular, this winter has been brutally cold. Our dog is depressed, our girls have cabin fever, and we're drooling over vacation catalogues. Alas, no warm vacation for us this year, as we blew that budget in 2013. So 2014 will be a stay-cation kind of year, with a week of family camping thrown in for fun.

Camping in August is a long way off, though, so I'm trying to come up with ways to make February a Fantabulous Month! Here are some ideas we have for making it through until March:

1. Create an indoor "park" - we'll set up cushions to make slides, and our rocking chair will serve as a swing. We might get really brave and create an indoor sand box!

2. Make homemade pina coladas (virgin for the wee ones, but a splash of rum for the adults!), and decorate them with fun drink umbrellas. Play Bob Marley while drinking the coladas.

3. Build a quinzee! Find the courage to sleep in there overnight? (highly unlikely)

4. Take part in all things Winterlude, and eat a copious amount of Beaver Tails.

5. Indulge in a warm, comforting meal with my partner to celebrate Valentine's Day - we're thinking tacos at El Camino!

6. Pull out the seed catalogues, and make 2014 garden plans. Can't wait to try new vegetables we've never grown before, including potatoes, onions and strawberries.

7. Welcome family guests to come check out the Capital in full winter swing! Which means extra play partners for the girls, and a chance for hubby and I to  escape for #5.

8. Declare Family Day to be annual Stay-cation day. Acting like tourists in our own town, we will head out to see Parliament, take in one of our kid-friendly museums and catch a bite to eat.

9. Put some of my New Year's resolutions into effect, and participate in a Wellness Program. I'm excited to cut back on processed foods, and meet some of my fitness goals....which leads me to:

10. The Olympics! Not only will we take in some of the Olympics as couch potatoes, but I also plan to involve my girls in fitness goals, and create our own Family Olympics.

What are you going to do to make February a Fantabulous Month?


Winter fun: blowing bubbles

by Kamerine

When the temperature drops, and I mean when it gets REALLY cold, playing outside isn't fun. With the threat of frostbite a very real thing in Ottawa these days, it's hard to get out with the kids. But being locked inside all day every day is no fun either. What to do. There will always be indoor playgrounds, the mall, libraries, and playdates, but what about braving the cold for a little outdoor fun?

All those bottles of bubbles that you have left over from the summer just sitting in the garage? Use them! Bubbles do something really fun in super cold weather, -15C and below: they freeze! Blow bubbles using the wand just like always, but because it's so cold the bubbles freeze. When the kids go to pop them, they'll be amazed at the paper-thin, feathery bubble shell that floats to the ground.

And if you don't have any store-bought bubbles you can make your own

So find those bubbles and take ten or fifteen minutes and go play. Bonus points if you can get photographic evidence to share.. I know I couldn't! But check out these amazing pictures of bubbles in cold weather!

Kamerine documents her life with two children, a husband and a cat at The Life of K.

Winter Soups: Chicken Tortilla

One of my favorite winter meals is soup. There is something warm and comforting about sipping a hot bowl of soup while the temperatures drop outside. I like to make big batches and freeze some for later. This makes it easier on the days that I just don’t feel like cooking (which, if I’m honest, is most days). One of my favorite (and easiest) soups to make is chicken tortilla soup. I love the slight spiciness and the crunch of the tortilla strips on top. I've found recipes that need you to mix all the spices together but one of my tricks is to use the canned tomatoes with the chili spices already mixed in.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can of chili spiced diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8.5-ounce) can of corn, drained
3 raw chicken breasts, boneless and skinless cut into bite sized pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk of green onion for garnish
1 (8-inch) flour tortilla, grilled, cut into thin strips (or for us lazy ones, use the store bought tortilla chips, crushed)
1 cup shredded Monterrey cheese (optional - we aren't a cheese family here)


In a large saucepan heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Once the onions have softened add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour the chicken broth, tomatoes, beans and corn into the pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil lower heat to simmer and add your chicken breasts. Simmer soup for about 2-3 hours. The chicken will be nice and tender.

When you’re ready to serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and sprinkle the chopped onions and tortilla strips on top. If you’d like, you can add the cheese (or not).

What's your favourite winter soup recipe?

The Rideau Hall Winter Celebration

By Stéphanie

It can be challenging sometimes to find interesting and entertaining activities to for both my kids, and not die of exhaustion in the process. While I have a very energetic young boy, I am lucky to have a really easy girl who's happy to be carried around almost everywhere.

On January 26th, I decided to participate in the Winter Celebration day hosted by the Governor General of Canada at Rideau Hall. It was the weekend after that crazy freezing -40 celsius week we had in January and while the temperature was a bit warmer, I found it was still a bit too cold to bring the baby. My friend was just as happy (happier) to stay at home babysitting, while my boy and I headed to Rideau Hall well dressed, with our skates on my shoulders.

We had a blast! Embassies of Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the National Capital Commission (NCC) had kiosks where they distributed taffy, cookies, candies, hot chocolate and other hot beverages. We did some crafts at the Netherlands kiosk, we participated in an obstacle course organized by young reservists, took a horse-drawn wagon ride, skated - for a good 2 minutes! (my son is learning to skate this winter...) - on the beautiful historic Rideau Hall skating rink, and enjoyed Inuit dancing and throat singing in their beautiful cultural costumes.

Inuit Throat Singing

Inuit Throat Singing

There were a lot of other activities for all ages, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and a visit of the residence. The event was well attended but not crowded and the only activity with serious wait time was the dog sled rides (which we didn't do). Very well-organized day, all activities were bilingual, and there was something for all ages. And the Rideau Hall grounds are just beautiful!

The governer general often organizes days of activities like this one, so it is a good idea to monitor their website. Also, all winter weekends, and on family day, the outdoor skating rink is open to the public from noon to 5 and there is even a possibility for groups to reserve the rink during the week.

English: Skating is open to the general public...

My son still carries around his little Norway flag that was given to him on that day! This annual event is definitely on my agenda.

Stéphanie moved to Ottawa about 10 years ago from the south shore of Montréal. She usually works as an analyst for the federal government but is currently on maternity leave to take care of a 3 1/2 boy (Paul) and 4 month baby girl (Emy).