Category Archives: Sandy Hill


In October 2011, the multimedia team for Capital News Online developed a look at low voter turnout and what it means for Canadians.

My work on this segment was in collaboration with Richard Coelho, Jeff Hamilton, Hilary Roberts, and our producer Marika Washchyshyn.

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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Sandy Hill


Co-op for Cat Food

Check out my audio slideshow of Sandy Hill Pet Food Co-op!

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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Sandy Hill


Toastmaster to Compete in Divisional Competition

A member of the Sandy Hill Toastmasters Club has qualified to compete in a contest at the end of the month to represent her region, but don’t raise a glass just yet.

Just ask Clarita Robinson, who says she expects to compete on March 28.  Despite her success in Toastmasters so far, she says she had the wrong idea of what “Toastmasters” was at her first meeting.

“My mother belonged to a wine tasting organization, and when I heard ‘Toastmasters,’ I thought I was coming to some kind of wine tasting,” she says with a laugh.

“And I said, ‘So when are we going to toast?’ and [my colleague] says, ‘No, no, no.  In this particular club, we do it differently.’  And then I realized that, ‘Oh, no, there was no toast!’  It was actually a speaking thing.  And when I was asked to speak, I was caught so unaware that I didn’t even know what to do.”

Toastmasters International is an organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.  The non-profit organization has thousands of clubs teaching workshops in 113 countries, including Sandy Hill, according to their website.  A typical meeting encourages everyone there to practice public speaking while others evaluate their performances and give feedback.

Yet in the face of the confusion, Robinson says she decided to continue with Toastmasters.  She began working on an “Advanced Communication” manual, which consists of five public speaking projects.  Robinson says she had been working on the manual called “Storytelling” when she met a project that required her to do what’s called a “touching story.”

The “touching story” asks for a six- to eight-minute speech.  The manual says the objective is “to understand the techniques available to arouse emotion [and] to become skilled in arousing emotions while telling a story.”

Robinson says she chose to talk about her mother’s current battle with Alzheimer’s, which she says has been “very, very difficult.”

A member gives a speech at a Sandy Hill Toastmasters Club meeting.


Toastmasters International hosts several competitions a year to showcase a variety of speaking styles, and Robinson had heard the topic for one of the events featured “positive and inspiring” stories, she says.  That’s when she decided to talk about her mother’s Alzheimer’s with a touch of humour.

Called “In the Wrong Lane,” the speech is a first-person account showing how Robinson has witnessed her once strong and capable mother decline into memory loss and confusion.  The title is a reference to how Robinson’s mother instructs her to change lanes during her frequent “backseat driving,” even when she doesn’t understand where she’s going.

Robinson’s story of grief is peppered with anecdotes about her mother’s innocent enthusiasm to everyday life.  In one story, she jokes her mother could write a cookbook with the new recipes she comes up with, such as dumping butter in her coffee or other drinks into her cereal.  Still, she says her mother beams when she finishes preparing her food, and Robinson says it’s this excitement which she finds positive and inspiring for herself.

With this speech, she competed at the club level against about six clubs and won.  Then, she continued to the area level, where she won again.  Now she says she’s looking forward to the divisional competition this month, and has been practicing by using the local Sandy Hill meetings where says she has eagerly asked for feedback.

If all goes well, maybe Robinson can earn that wine tasting after all – as long as her mother doesn’t prepare her drink.

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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Sandy Hill


Can traffic be polite?

Sometimes, when I wander around Sandy Hill looking for stories, I find myself standing and staring up at various landmarks without realizing I’m next to a stop sign or a crosswalk.  I’ve even been known to walk halfway across a street, become inspired by something behind me, and turn around and walk the other way.

There aren’t many cars driving around Sandy Hill at any given time, but when there are, they’ve been unusually patient with me, hesitating to move until I make up my mind.

A Sandy Hill resident keeps her dog close to her on the sidewalk.

Driving speeds are crawling at their fastest; cars actually stop at stop signs and red lights; and drivers put on their turn signals just to pull into their own driveways.

And it’s not just the drivers who have been courteous.  Though they probably don’t need to, pedestrians are actually willing to walk the extra 10 metres to cross the street between the lines of a crosswalk.

Having very little traffic around Sandy Hill probably helps the abnormally prevalent driver/pedestrian etiquette.  Still, as someone who lives on the campus at Carleton University, where stop signs are mild suggestions and taxis push pedestrians and challenge them to walk faster, it’s a refreshing change of pace.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Sandy Hill


Pucks fly at Sandy Hill Park

The Heritage Canada building, Laurier House, period architecture, and cozy location in Canada’s capital might make Sandy Hill a true “Canadian” neighbourhood, but it just wouldn’t feel Canadian enough without an abundance of Canada’s favourite pastime: hockey.

Tucked behind the Sandy Hill Community Centre is a small outdoor rink, caged in by the thin, grayish-brown pieces of wood separated by cheap wooden planks.

Any time I’ve been to Sandy Hill, this meagre rink has been alive with excited shouts from local hockey players — usually 20-something males — and the slick sounds of blades carving ice.

But why this rink?  After all, an  indoor rink boasts the perks of heated seating and more space.  And it’s not as though Sandy Hill can only offer the outdoor rink; Sandy Hill Arena is an eight-minute walk from Sandy Hill Park’s outdoor rink.

Maybe it’s because Sandy Hill Arena already juggles multiple hockey leagues, mostly for a younger set of boys whose parents sip hot chocolate in the stands while watching the game.

Maybe it’s because it’s easier to throw together a pick-up game outside than it is to reserve ice, speaking to the community feel of Sandy Hill.

Whatever the reason, Sandy Hill wouldn’t be complete without a puck, two nets, and a group of players armed with hockey sticks.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Sandy Hill


So who lives in Sandy Hill?

Waiting at a Sandy Hill bus stop are a group of 20-somethings with backpacks and books tucked under their arms.  If you only looked at the people walking around the neighbourhood, you might think Sandy Hill was just an extension of the University of Ottawa’s campus.

That’s because the old-fashioned houses peppering the Hill are mostly filled with students, says Jed Burgelis.  Burgelis is a student at the university himself, and he says he likes living there because of the proximity to the campus and a nearby market.

For these reasons, residents say mostly students have been populating Sandy Hill for as long as they can remember.

But students aren’t the only ones living here.  Trudging up the hill past the bus stops are couples pushing strollers, accompanied by small children in colourful snowsuits trotting alongside to keep up.

“I see a lot of families,” says Burgelis.  And if the neighbourhood’s multiple playgrounds and child care centre are any indication, he’s not the only one.

Yet despite the different demographics, Burgelis says everyone gets along.

“I don’t see [many] problems, if any,” he says.

With only the voices of quiet conversations, a few birds, and a slowly moving car heard every so often, it sounds like the neighbourhood agrees.

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Sandy Hill


What does Sandy Hill look like?

Have a look at my photostory about Sandy Hill.

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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Sandy Hill