Attention Ottawa Parents: We want to hear your stories!

For nearly two and a half years, contributors to Kids in the Capital have been sharing their stories about what's going on in their families and around Canada's capital. We're proud of the community we've built here. We have our Facebook Page where we share information about local businesses, events and occasional parenting commiserations. ;) Twitter is our playdate planning and discussion spot, along with the Kids in the Capital Facebook Group where we can ask things in a more private, safe environment.

As great as each of those places are, the core of the Kids in the Capital community is the flow of blog posts that never fail to give ideas to so many families in Ottawa. This is a place where you can read new ideas and family-oriented information about about photography, arts and crafts, safety, cooking, technology and most importantly - everything there is to do around Ottawa.

We want to continue growing this community  and keep it thriving. Now that we're back into the swing of things with school, we want to provide the opportunity for each of you to join in our KIC community in a more active role.

The KIC blog runs content Monday through Friday and we need regular contributors. We show our appreciation for contributors every chance we get and each month, all contributors who submit two posts or more will be entered into a draw to receive a gift. Our October giveaway will be a set of tickets to see Beauty and the Beast!

If you're interested in contributing, please email us at We look forward to reading your stories!

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A few awesome iPhone apps for fun family pictures!

by Karen Lara mentioned a while back that her DSLR camera is broken (and I am really sad about that for her!) but all is not lost. As she mentioned, her iPhone has a pretty awesome camera - and it's true; she and I have the same phone. But, in addition to the great camera, there are some pretty awesome apps that can enhance your pictures and make fun collages right on your phone. Easy peasy! (Though I use an iPhone, some of these may also be available on other phones also.)

I have recently aquired a number of said apps that go far beyond the filters of Instagram. (Not that Instagram isn't a great app, but its uses are definitely limited.) Some are free. Some are paid. All of them combined will not cost you as much as a new point and shoot, let alone a new DSLR.

Before we start, though, a quick phoneography pro tip for you: Take your shots and save them to your photo library unfiltered and uncropped first. Use either the native camera app or something like Camera+ (which I honestly haven't gotten into like some, but I hear people rave about it) that allows you to go unfiltered. That will give you lots of opportunities to play with your pictures and you'll have one image that isn't going to be dated by a filter too.

I think most people know about Instagram, but just in case you don't yet, it's like a mini social network. You can connect with Facebook friends and  share photos to Twitter and Facebook. Followers can like or comment on your photos and you on theirs. It's great for quick sharing.

If you want more pizazz in your photos, here are a few other apps I'd suggest:

Snapseed - I've heard it called the Photoshop of the iPhone. It's pretty good. Nice filters and control with how intense you make them, as well as a few basic editing options. You can give your photos a nice little touch up on the fly without downloading to your photo editing software on your computer.

100 Cameras - This one was built by Trey Ratcliff, a photographer I've followed for a while now. It's my fun app to play with. There are so many filters and they're quite unique to anything else you'll find in other apps and it gives you full control over the intensity. You can even apply some funky textures to photos. It's not always ideal for photos of people, but you can have a lot of fun with objects and landscape photos.

Once you've edited and applied any filters your photo(s), you may want to have more fun with it! There are some great apps to create collages and add text to your photos right on your phone.

Diptic - This is a basic collage app with all square/rectangular layouts. You can manipulate the layouts to an extent and you can reposition pictures so that it the portion of the image showing is what you want.

Over - Have you ever wanted to add some text to a photo rather than just providing context in a status update with it? Over is fun for adding in text. There are a multitude of fun and funky fonts to choose from, as well as lots of colours and control over size. You can adjust the tint of the photo so your text pops more or to achieve a certain effect, but it's best to pull in the photo as you want it. Over is not an editing tool.

FuzelPro - This is my current favorite collage/text overlay tool. The collage layouts are super funky. You get a lot more than Diptic provides, but it can be a bigger time suck to use, so it really depends on what you want to do. FuzelPro also provides some frames and some text options (not as many as Over, though). It's like a combination of the two tools in one!

All of these apps will allow you to share to various social networks once you've finished editing.

Do you use your smartphone to take photos as you go through each day? What are some of your favourite apps?

Happy phoneography!


Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Karen is also committed to doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive, because who needs sleep?

Flash Back: It's Maple Syrup Time

by Natasha

Spring is just around the corner, I can almost see the sunshine at the end of this icy winter.

One of my favourite things to do when the snow begins to melt is visit a sugar bush.  Maple syrup season “officially” starts in late February, and I’m just going to wait a little bit before heading out with my family.

We love visiting Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm.  It is a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day, and is short distance from Ottawa. Parking is free too!

If you head down early, you can enjoy a delicious all-you-can-eat-pancake brunch before you start exploring the farm.  The brunch is nothing short of a feast that includes pancakes, french toast, beans and sausages served. They have a few other items on their menu as well for those looking for some variety.

My favourite part about Stanley’s Olde Farm - besides brunch- is the number of activities available to help pass the day and enjoy the outing.

For example, you can ride in a horse-drawn sleigh through the farm to see all of the maple trees. This is an especially enjoyable activity around the last few days of snow, as you get to see the trees and hills covered in white. The ride will set you back $4.75 per person.

Stanley’s farm is of course, still a farm. So it’s natural that they have animals around for little children to visit and see. The barns are filled with horses, pigs, cow and sheep and is free to visitors.

And of course the point of visiting a sugar bush is to see how the sap turns into syrup, and eventually ends up on your pancakes. Stanley’s not only let’s you see the the process, but also has some delicious taffy in snow for you to try at $2.50 per serving.

Don’t sit too long on the idea of visiting the sugar bush, as maple syrup season ends in early April. You have just over a month to get your fill of winter-fresh maple!

Details: Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm 2452 Yorks Corners Road Edwards, Ontario K0A 1V0 613-821-2751

It’s open on weekends from 9am to 3pm and they are open most of March Break (closed Monday) from 10am to 2pm.

Moving abroad

by Krista Our family recently marked the end of our third month living in India. It has been quite the journey for us, especially for our little people. It continues to be an adventure, that both rewards and challenges our family on an ongoing basis. While it is in many ways just as we expected, there have also been a number of curves thrown our way. This move has certainly presented a number of instances where I have been extremely proud of my children and how well they have adapted, along with a few unanticipated parenting challenges.

We are really lucky, in that Woo, age four, and Goose, age three, never really balked at the idea of moving do far away from home. From the start, we made it seem like a great adventure to them. We made them feel like they were a part of the process by giving them "options" about what flights that we would take to get here, having them "help" us decide how long we were to live here, and where we might visit while we were on the other side of the world. They took to the idea of India when they felt that they were involved in the process. It helped to make the actual lead-up to, and the flights here pretty painless.

This involvement carried through packing for both the shipment and the airplane. They were each given some containers that they were allowed to pack on their own. I didn't try to help, nor did I vet what they put in them. Sure, some crazy stuff landed in there, like cloth books they haven't touched in years, or random drawings made on scrap paper, but it was deemed important for them to have, so it all came. Some things made me shake my head, like Woo's ice hockey shin pads. I was certain they would never get used, and almost broke my rule and suggest that he take them out. I would have been wrong, as he uses them often playing road hockey when he is the goalie (yes we all brought hockey sticks. We are Canadian, after all)!

They took really well to their new house, their rooms and their school, better than we anticipated. It helps that we were able to show them pictures of the places before we arrived, and that we have found ways to make the new places unique. Their rooms here have a small shared playroom between them, where they can meet in the morning and play if they want. There is even a patio that they are allowed to go on, WITHOUT ASKING. We don't have any regular old Canadian trees in our back yard, we have a PAPAYA tree. It doesn't matter that none of us like papaya, there is a tree in our yard, so it is COOL. The new school is big and there are lots of new people there, but there is a SWIMMING POOL. We have become the masters at selling it to the lils, and this has helped us greatly.

Monkey faces! My monkeys, making monkey faces. Excited for the first day of school

They are now extremely good travellers. We have endured several long flights and many long drives (more than I anticipated). It is fairly slow going getting anywhere in Bangalore, or travelling by car to other cities. Driving, even on the highways, is very slow and there is much construction to cause snarls and slow you down even further. Woo and Goose have taken this all in stride. Even the car trips that are ten hours long!

Adapting to the new and wonderful creatures we meet has also been a pleasant surprise. They had no qualms about having geckos living in their rooms, aren't scared of the bugs that are the size of Goose's fist, and report a cobra sighting with a nonchalence that would be inspiring if it wasn't a wee bit bothersome. Both leapt at the chance to touch an elephant when it was offered, even though it was huge. They are also so enamoured with the monkeys that roam freely in the hills near our house that they want one as a pet. I was worried that some of these creatures would bother them, but presented them all (except the cobra) as new and interesting, and they were.

We are very proud of how well they have handled all the change they have faced and the culture-shock that comes with moving from a multi-cultural society where you are part of the visible majority to one where you are in the very small minority. They have been curious but respectful, and very eager to learn about all aspects of Indian culture and the children of other ethnicities that they meet at school. Language and accent have been the biggest barriers for them, but they have been able to catch on very quickly, and are now learning words in Hindi, Spanish, French, German, and Afrikaans!

Holding hands Exploring at the zoo

What has gone well for us has gone really well, thankfully. We have experienced a number of rough patches too, and my next post will talk about those.

Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 4 year old son, Woo, and 3 year old daughter, Goose. A capital family, they are currently living in Bangalore, India for a year.  You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald

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Technology and kids - what age is a cell phone appropriate? {Hot Topic}

With technology advancing at the amazing pace that it is, it seems like kids are getting technology younger and younger.  This made me curious about cell phones and what kind of practices parents put into place for cell phone usage and how old their kids were when they let them have cell phones.

I put the question out on Twitter and got a lot of really interesting feedback!

- Some parents let their toddlers play with their cell phones (I do) but mostly for the smart phone features or to talk to people I have phoned on their behalf.  Kids are clearly going to know what to do with a phone at a very young age.

- A fairly common age I heard for getting a cell was 12.  The rules that apply to this are that the phone is owned by the parent and can be monitored at any time.

- Many people require their children's phones to stay on the main floor at bedtime for charging, preventing them from all night texting habits (that definitely would have been me!)

- Some kids have regular phones, not smart, and also have iPods. I've heard of the internet being automated to turn off at 10 or 11 pm to prevent all night usage but still allowing kids to have music in their rooms.

I imagine that my kids will have phones (or whatever they are by then) relatively young.  I'll want to be able to get in touch with them once they're old enough to go out on their own.  I love the idea of spot checks and of them fully understanding that their parents have total rights into their technology. Fortunately I have a few years to figure this out since my oldest is only 5, but I feel like it's an interesting conversation to start having now anyways :)

What do you do? What do you think you'll do? Would love to get some discussion going!