Category Archives: Columns

CP Social Notes – HOMETOWN NEWS – July 2017

Well parents – it’s finally here – summer vacation and if you’re like me then you’re starting to think what on earth these little people are going to do for the next 2 months! Whether you have the whole clan kicking around the house every day this summer or you just have a day off here and there I thought it might be fun to start a list of some things to do. Consider it like Cole’s Notes for summer – the moment someone utters the words “I’m bored” or you just have to get out of the house – grab the list and have the littles pick a number from 1-10 and GO! Whether these are classics in your parental play book or new twists I hope that you enjoy some of my personal favourites:

  1. Road Trip – This is our go to summer day idea, in fact we keep the van pre-packed in the summer with a bag of spare clothes for everyone, towels, swim suits and a bucket of random outdoor toys. We pack a cooler with drinks and snacks and sometimes add the little propane grill and we head out. This is where it gets fun – we just drive. You never know where you might end up or what cool new hang out you might discover. We sample new chip trucks, enjoy hidden beaches, fish at different lock stations, hike the many area trails and try every playground along the way.
  2. Eat Your Heart Out – Summer in Lanark County is a mine field of Farmer’s Markets, Pick your own Farms and Country Farm Stores. Head out and pick up lunch on the way. A great way for the family to explore where their food comes from and help out local food producers at the same time. An added bonus is an impromptu petting zoo if you find one with animals.
  3. Backyard Camp Out – Not a camper? Not to worry – have all the fun of novice camping with a backyard camp out. Put the tent up next to the sand box or kiddie pool for the true campsite feel. Most towns allow small enclosed fire pits so you can even have a proper campfire and let’s not forget SMORES! Add some dollar store glow sticks and keep the party going after lights out.
  4. Fair Days Ahead – It’s the season of the county fair! Pair that with countless area Canada 150 celebrations and annual festivals, car shows and concerts and it’s hard to have a boring weekend. Pull out the Hometown News Event Calendar for the month and pin it to the fridge for ideas.
  5. Paperback Writer – Nurture your inner Shakespeare by helping your budding novelist write their first book, short story or poem. Too young? Create a summer reading list theme or record your little one’s masterpiece as they dictate. Get to know your local library! They have free activities throughout the summer so check out their websites to find out about story times, dress up days, Lego drop ins and more!
  6. Budding Entrepreneurs – Do something nice for others and have the kids raise a little money for a local charity through hosting a Lemonade Stand, Yard Sale, Bake Sale or Art Show. Not only is it fun, it is a great way for kids to amp up their math and counting skills, customer service know how and of course be charitable. If your children are older why not start a summer business – mowing lawns, weeding gardens or helping clean out a shed or two.
  7. Take a Walk Down Memory Lane – History comes alive in the small communities dotting Lanark County. You may think “my kid isn’t going to be interested” but often you’d be surprised. Learning about the heritage buildings, doing the Carleton Place Mural Tour or visiting small local museums (like Heritage House in Smiths Falls or The Carleton Place & Beckwith Heritage Museum) are a great way to spend a few hours. There are no better stories then the real ones and our communities are full of tales of intrigue and mystery, and they can even learn about their own ancestors along the way. If you’re looking to explore some larger museums then visit your local library to check out the free family passes for most of the most popular ones in the National Capital region.
  8. Lights, Camera, Action! – Make it a movie night by visiting the Port Elmsely Drive In, complete with onsite food this is an affordable way to spend a warm summer evening (Fun tip – bring a quick pop up tent or screen to ward off any bugs and a few chairs and enjoy the movie outside the car). If the Drive in isn’t your scene, most of our area communities have Movies in the Park throughout the summer – Movies under the Stars starts on June 29th in Smiths Falls and includes snacks and special themed activities too! If home is more your speed hang a sheet or use the back wall of your house to set up your own drive in. A simple projector and some plug and play speakers and your set for a summer of movie nights at home.
  9. Art in the Park– Summer is my favourite time of year for arts and crafts, mostly because the mess can stay outside but also because there is a wealth of new material to create with. Art journaling is great and your kids can start a scrap book of summer adventures. Have them dedicate a page to each day out and fill it with drawings, memories and bits collected on the way.
  10. Hunt On – Summer is the season of Auction Sales, Flea Markets and Garage Sales. Why not spend a Saturday on a special kind of treasure hunt. Have everyone in your house take $5-$10 and see what they can find for their budget. Have a little Show N Tell at the end of the day to see what deals everyone found and why they choose them. I snagged a 200 year old Family bible last Saturday at an auction for $2.00!! It really is fun for all ages!







Carleton Place Social Notes – May 2017

Ah May….April’s manic weather with its last bite of frost and torrential rains is behind us and its blue skies and sunshine ahead. The world is buzzing again – the bugs are back (groan) but the birds are singing, the perennials are sprouting and we can pack away all the dreaded snowsuit gear! Suddenly the time it takes us to leave the house is reduced in half as the kids can grab their ball caps and sneakers and go. May is a month of action. Well rejoice fellow Carleton Place natives – our town does May right. Patio tables are appearing street side, the Annual Pitch In volunteers have worked diligently to clean up the parks and roadsides and neighbours are raking lawns and cleaning out their garden beds.  Suddenly there is colour and a bustle downtown as folks emerge from their long hibernation. Some of our favourite annual events are back too! Free Comic Day returns to downtown Carleton Place on May 6th at 10am. Bridge St will be transformed as fans big and small visit shops for Comic Book themed activities, special guests and of course a free comic! Wine’d Around Downtown is the annual footnote to May. Buy your T-shirt ($25) and participate in the fun on May 28th from 1pm-5pm.  This annual wine and food tasting extravaganza raises funds for the CP Sister City Committee to help youth from our community and our sister cities (Comrie, Scotland and Franklin, Tennessee) participate in student exchange opportunities. Another popular fundraiser is the Community BOGO dinner for the Lanark County Food Bank happening at St James Anglican church on May 16th at 4:30pm. Enjoy a fabulous meal and every dinner ticket purchased allows a Food Bank client to attend the dinner as well. On May 26th and 27th enjoy the beautiful Mississippi from the Carleton Place Canoe Club while you browse the annual spring art Show & Sale. There are also some new traditions beginning this year. The Teen Expo comes to Notre Dame Catholic High School on May 2nd from 11:30am-4:30pm. Free Admission and open to all, this event is a showcase of community groups, resources and vendors geared to youths 12-19 years and their parents and educators. The newly formed Hometown Hearts is kicking off their calendar of community events with their May 11th Night on the Town. Starting at 5pm get on your retro gear and head downtown for live entertainment, food and drinks. While the Mississippi Mudds are no strangers to Carleton Place, they do has a new performance May 1st-6th. Head over to the beautiful Town Hall Auditorium and enjoy the classic HMS Pinafore reimagined by the creative team at the Mudds. As part of Canada’s 150th celebrations in Carleton Place you can take part in the “Paint the Town Red” Tulip Tour from May 14th -20th which launches the May 20th opening of a new exhibit at the Carleton Place & Beckwith Heritage Museum, “A Valley Town at Confederation”. On May 26th, pack up the family and grab a picnic and join your neighbours at Riverside Park for the Family Fun Fair.  Let’s not forget friends about the ample green space our fair town offers. Trails, parks and playgrounds are open and ready for visitors to enjoy them. Spend the day fishing or boating, head out on a bike ride with the kids or kite flying in the park. There will be sidewalk chalk and bubbles and oh so much sand. As usual there is never a dull moment here in the busiest town in the valley.

Carleton Place Social Notes – April 2017

There’s a lot of talk of late about well…talk. Who talks to whom about what and where and how and on and on it goes. It’s hard not to talk about things you care about. Passion is hard to reign in, it’s what makes it such an explosive force. It’s a strong, uncontrollable urge to act or in this case speak. My mother raised me (as many mothers of that generation did) to live by the motto, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all”. I try to adhere. I’m not always successful but then the truth is I’m just a mom living in a small town and who the heck listens to me. The trouble when someone in a position of authority doesn’t hold their tongue the word, like a tide can suddenly become a tsunami. Now it’s easy to justify one word or another. Intent and result often don’t coincide but what of accountability? Just because the tsunami is caused by good intentions doesn’t mean it won’t level your house. Growing up in a small town there’s another rule I heard a lot “Don’t air your dirty laundry in the front yard if you don’t want the neighbours to see your panties”. Truth is – the people enjoying the read are not so concerned with what’s happening in your house. They like the drama perhaps but in the end no benefit comes from it. The people doing the talking look petty, the people they’re talking about look scandalous and the rest of the clan at the table looks a little less put together. The way I see it (and it is just my opinion as a part of the table) are we any further ahead? Has a great injustice been righted? Now I say this not to throw stones or lay blame. I understand passion. So with the melting snow I’m ready to move on. The fact that it all caused such a stir in the first place proves that everyone was having a really dull New Year. I am not a politician – thank goodness. I haven’t the stomach for it. I will only say one thing – for the record – I do not think any of the people I asked to represent me handled any of this very well. But you know what – they’re human…passionate humans and I’m ok with that.

With spring in the air a sense of new beginnings always seems to bloom. Let’s shake off the winter grumps and get ready for an exciting year of events and special activities in our pretty little town. It’s Canada’s 150th and Carleton Place has outdone itself! This year is going to be amazing from updates at Riverside Park to special events and what I’m sure will be an unforgettable Canada Day long weekend – our CP Canada 150 committee is setting the bar sky high! Let’s brush off those sidewalks, shake hands and tear down some fences. Post, write and talk about how great our community is. Share your favourite business, the best picnic spot or give a nod to a neighbour who’s doing something truly amazing for others and while we’re at it – let’s do something amazing ourselves.

Hometown News – December 2017 – CP Social Notes

As I sit starring at my screen tonight the first winter storm of the year blasts outside – snow and wind howl by my window and it dawns on me that there will be no more winter reprieve. The ice and snow is here to stay (at least until the Spring). I’m not a huge “winter person”. I hate cold wind blowing snow in my face – I hate layers…I am flip flops and sun dresses all the way. Yet, today I spent cozy in the house with my family – baking cookies, putting a few Christmas decorations out on shelves and thinking about what a blur the next month will be in a house with 3 kids under 6! I may not like the cold but I do love holiday festivities and we have enough happening around Carleton Place to make even Santa fly out of his way. After all “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind”. The fun kicks off with the Santa Claus parade on November 26th but in December Christmas really comes to town! On December 3rd the annual Downtown Christmas Open House is sure to get you in the spirit. All day there are special events in town from meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus at Moore House, hanging with Zip-E the Elf at Carambeck, crafting a gift for grandma and grandpa at the Civitan’s “Santa’s Workshop” also at Carambeck or visiting the many downtown retailers on the horse-drawn trolley to check out sales samples and special guests. There is holiday shopping and what could be better than strolling to the unique shops in town with all the Christmas lights a glow and grabbing a cup of hot chocolate at the Owl Café on the way by. With the white stuff here to say there’s no better way to enjoy it then a wintery stroll in Downtown Carleton Place -the peaks of snow on our beautiful Townhall overlooking the Mississippi, the Christmas lights glowing along Bridge St. However, “unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it white.” So remember to keep your hearts full and give to those in need throughout the holidays. Why not swing by the Christmas Hut at 355 Moffatt and let the kids “shop” for gifts using donations to the food bank? They can pick out something from the hundreds of donated items and have it gift wrapped to go! Volunteer, donate or just attend the annual free Community Christmas Dinner returning this year to the legion. There will of course be a free meal with all the trimmings, live music, gifts and of course Santa. Bud’s Taxi is offering free transportation to and from the dinner from 11am-4pm. There are plenty of events happening to help get you into the Christmas spirit between concerts and caroling and holiday bazaars.  Head over to Carambeck Community Centre on December 10th for an afternoon of carols from 12:30-3:30 with the CP Town Singers. There will also be a puppet show, crafts, snacks and a Family Photo Booth! Admission is free of charge, however donations to the Lanark County Food Bank would be greatly appreciated. December 10th you can visit the Mill of Kintail for their annual Country Christmas celebrations. A beautiful day of wagon rides, a nature scavenger hunt, campfire stories, carols and photos with Father Christmas from 11am-3pm. Only $15 per vehicle to join in the fun! St James Church is also offering an olde time celebration of their own on December 11th from 2pm-4pm you can join George Chenier Sr., Christopher Jones, Joe Million and special guests Brownie, Kevin Topping and Anita Lafrance-Topping. Only $10 per person for an afternoon of classic country Christmas music. You can head over to the Prospect United Church on December 18th from 6-7:30pm for an evening of Olde Time Community Caroling to get your Christmas juices flowing. After all, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear”. The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum invites you to their annual Christmas open house on December 10th from 1pm-4pm for live music, hot apple cider, cookies and check out their Carleton Place Christmas Photo garland. December is seems is full to the brim in holiday excitement! “First will make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can and then we’ll snuggle”. And when we’re done all that, we can skate with Santa himself on December 18th from 1-2pm at the Beckwith Recreation Complex. However you end up spending this month make sure to spend it with family and friends, be gracious and generous to others, spread kindness wherever you go and ring a lot of bells….Merry Christmas Carleton Place!

Hometown News – January 2017 – CP Winter Carnival returns

For a 5th year the Carleton Place Winter Carnival returns to our community on February 25th from 10am-4pm at Riverside Park, Carleton Place High School and the Canoe Club. This free day of family fun is made possible each year by a dedicated team of volunteers and community sponsors. The entire community gathers to welcome back Chilly the Penguin and with him a new year of entertainment, games and did I mention trolley rides?! 2017 marks the 5th anniversary for the Carnival and they’re celebrating in unison with Canada’s 150th by throwing an epic birthday party for Chilly!

There will be many of the familiar favorites – games, balloon twisting, face painting, an interactive Photo booth, the Winter Market and some new surprises. Chilly has sent out invites to all his friends in the mascot world and RSVPs are already rolling in. Jolo the Wolf, some super hero friends, a handful of princesses and maybe even Olaf and a Patrol Pup will be popping in to wish Chilly well. There will be furry friends to learn about and visit with all day and did I mention free candy and cake?! And loot bags!! There will be train and trolley rides, music, wood carving, the ever-popular mascot tug of war and snow painting.

Save in your favourites because you’re not going to want to miss new attractions and contests being announced. It’s hard to believe that just 4.5 years ago this annual tradition was just an idea sparked by a survey posted on a Facebook group. It’s a wonderful example of what like-minded people can accomplish when they take on a project together.

Each year this event welcomes over 700 people to come out and enjoy time with friends and neighbours and break up the monotony of winter. It’s a chance to go play outside all day and start thinking ahead to spring, not to mention enjoy the natural beauty that Riverside Park and the Mississippi have to offer. The Carleton Place Winter Carnival Committee hope that each year this event continues to grow and welcome new friends from other communities to come and join in the fun (and show off our town). Residents and businesses are invited to be a part of the event by volunteering for the committee board, as a Carnival day helper (running games and activities, set up and clean up) or by sponsoring various activities and entertainers.

For more information or to find out how you can help contact the Carleton Place Winter Carnival Organizing Committee at or visit the website at

CP Social Notes – August Hometown News

I started off writing this month’s column about the top 20 things to do for free or cheap in Carleton Place. I started a list, a very long list….things like visiting our 16 local parks, hiking or biking hundreds of kilometers of local trails, boating, theatre, live music, walking the labyrinth, learning the fascinating tales of our local history, treasure hunting for antiques, not to mention the shopping and food scene. You know what though – writing about weekly Cruise Nights, the Farmer’s Market and the umpteen weekly events made me feel like a broken record. Whether it’s in friendly conversation, heated debate, online, in person or in print you’ve all heard me say all of this a million times before. I don’t need to tell you about the hidden treasures we have. What goes unsaid, or unheard perhaps is the message behind it all. The urgency behind it all. Carleton Place is sitting poised on a precipice; perched atop of hill ready to plummet at light speed in one direction or another. I’m not usually one for doom and gloom dramatics and quite honestly no matter which way we end up going life will go on. There will be businesses and houses and school and cars….the difference is in the details. The vision that you or I or anyone has when we think about the community we want. The community we want our families to have.

The textbook definition of community is very vague – “…a set of people living in a particular space or region”. So rest assured unless we all decide to pack up and move we’ll still be a community and life will still go on. Here’s the thing though. I have a white picket fence-rose coloured glasses – Stars Hallow view of community. A little naïve perhaps and a little ambitious but hey what’s life without ambition?

Those who know me know I’m not one for the status quo. When I moved back to the area and started a family I started thinking quite a lot about community. My definition includes things like living authentically without fear of being judged or condemned, working together towards common goals, accepting that conflict occurs but can be resolved quickly and without drama, where forgiveness is offered freely and people feel safe to try and even fail chasing big dreams, and where there is a sense of comradery or even family among neighbours. As I said – ambitious. Here’s the thing though ambitious is not synonymous with impossible. Truth be told we have a lot of these things already. Perhaps some concepts need to be nurtured a bit better but in general Carleton Place we have good bones. Nothing proves that more than how passionately people debate about our strengths and weaknesses, how unified we become in crisis or to help one of our own or how this community has spawned some of the most tireless cheerleaders I think any town has ever known. But here we are – on this hill – teetering and ready for the ride of our lives.

So friends, neighbours, strangers…what’s your vision? If you could dream big and Carleton Place was just another round of SimCity with unlimited budget and you at the helm…where would you fall? Highways, box stores, Multi-plex cinemas and factories. Unique shops, a local art scene, a pedestrian downtown core….can we not have both? Can we find the balance? Work together for a common vision? Can we have our cake and eat it too? I would like to think that we can with a strong enough core community can’t we survive the sometimes dark shadow cast by urban sprawl? I mean if communities like the Glebe and Westboro can survive in the nation’s capital and still maintain a unique identity why can’t we? Can’t we decide as a unified group what we want to be? Set aside personal agendas and past slights to come together? Can we pave half of paradise and leave the rest? I think we can. I think we’re half way there.

So here’s my war cry Carleton Place – “Come Together”! Stop focusing on the problems, stop the landslide of negativity – realize that as a community we are on the same boat – let’s not start punching holes in the hull. Understand that what is good for one of us is good for all of us. Be encouraging, be supportive and no that doesn’t mean that you have to do all your shopping downtown or eat out five nights a week or agree with everything that the mayor and council does. It does mean that you have to accept that nothing is going to go all your way. It means embracing your community and capitalizing on what it is to you. If you like fine dining then by all means check out the Chesswood or Generations Inn. If you have three screaming kids maybe chip truck once a week. If you enjoy theatre and the arts then make sure to add something local to your rotation. Like shopping? Commit to spending even $50 month somewhere other than the city or Walmart. No one person can change the world and no one person should be made to feel responsible for the job.

The only certainty (aside from death and taxes) is that progress happens. All the arguing and pettiness and complaining does is take control out of our hands.  Wouldn’t a boat with two oars rowing in a direction (any direction) be better than one where we’ve tossed the second one because it wasn’t up to snuff?  I know, I know – cut it out with the water analogies Cavanagh…but we do after all ask people to come and “Meet us on the Mississippi”…should we all not be better at rowing the damn boat?!

Column – April – Hometown News

Yoko Ono once said that winter reminds us of our perseverance and spring of our innocence. As Spring sprouts around us here in Carleton Place I look back fondly on a month of running with bunnies, chocolate surprises, tipping maple martinis, welcoming new faces on Bridge St and saying a fond farewell to those who have walked on. What I am left with in my recollection is a renewed sense of hometown pride. I see (and use) the #cpproud hashtag on social media often and in this month of transition, of reflection and new beginnings there is indeed so much that we as a community can be proud of.

We are the town of the Murphy’s and Moore’s, of flying ace Captain Roy Brown, NHL alum Shean Donovan and the man behind some of the Hardy Boy adventures, Leslie McFarlane. Indeed we also have a new generation of talented young people to make us proud. In sports already in this year, our Jr A Carleton Place Canadians are in the semi-finals (again on the road to the Bogart Cup!) and Goalie, Colton Point is the leading net minder in the league. The Carleton Place Vipers Cheer Athletics finished 2nd at the Canadian Cheer Evolution Competition and the Carleton Place Skating Club’s own, Jaclynn Pye qualified for the Skate Ontario Championships. Not to mention the CP Water Dragons who are tearing up the swimming lanes and the Canoe Club rowers haven’t even begun yet but are already destined for great things!

And the talent doesn’t stop there. Jordan McIntosh wowed the crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre on March 19th with his rendition of our National Anthem. He continues to tour with George Canyon and is making his mark on the Canadian country music scene. Brock Zeman has been named as a Folk Singer/Songwriter finalist in the International Songwriting Competition for Pulling Your Sword Out of the Devil’s Back. He continues to tour and write and garner popular and critical acclaim for his work. Breaking out into the Country Music scene, Brea Lawrenson can be seen next at the Law & Orders benefit dance at the Carleton Place arena on April 17th from 2-5pm. She was recently nominated for Female Artist of the Year, Single of the Year (Canadian Pearl), Songwriter of the year (Canadian Pearl) and Album of the Year (#Brealieve) in round 2 of the 2016 CMAO Awards. Both Jordan and Brea will be hitting the stage at the annual Boots & Hearts Music Festival in Burls Creek Ontario from August 4th-7th sharing the spotlight with Country greats like Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw.

Coming up in April we also welcome two new businesses to Bridge St – Giardino Lifestyle Salon and Education Centre and Stiletto Custom Barbering and I hear a new restaurant is due any time! April 17th-24th is Pitch In week. Contact the Carambeck Community Centre for information on how you can “Pitch In” and make Carleton Place a cleaner place to live. April 14th you can join her Excellency, Sharon Johnston at the Carleton Place Library as she debuts her novel Matrons & Madams and finally, why not celebrate Earth Day with a sunrise labyrinth walk at the Carleton Place Labyrinth on April 22nd? Keep up the good work friends and neighbours. You all make me #cpproud.