ottawa is like the “goldilocks” of cities

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Olivia Nixon photographed at Echo Lands Park, on Ottawa’s Rideau River.

One of the wonderful things about loveOttawa is the great people we continuously come across, even as we go about our day to day.  While working on a corporate shoot a few weeks ago, we met communications professional, Olivia Nixon. Her positive energy and good vibes immediately came through as she spoke of having just come back from waterskiing. Waterskiing “in Ottawa”, we asked? Her enthusiasm quickly caught on and, before we knew it, we were pulling up at Echo Lands Park, by the Rideau River, with our camera equipment and white canvas, to photograph Olivia in full gear!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You are Ottawa born and raised. What do you most like about our city (besides being able to waterski!)?

“What I like most about Ottawa is our unprecedented access to the outdoors. We have nature’s playground all around us! There’s lots of water, hills and gorgeous countryside. You can waterski in the morning, go to work for the day and then go cycling in Gatineau Park in the evening. It’s fantastic.”

We love how passionate you are about your hobby and knowing it’s possible to practice it right in the city. Does Ottawa have an active waterskiing community? Besides proximity, why is the Rideau River ideal for this sport?

“Ottawa has a small but pretty passionate waterski community. We are really lucky to have the Gloucester Water Ski Association in Ottawa that offers affordable skiing including access to a tournament boat, a water ski slalom course and a bunch of really great people who are just as wacky about the sport as you are.  The Club is volunteer-driven and everyone has to pitch to keep it running. The Rideau River is actually not the worst place to ski. Boat traffic can be a bit of an issue but that’s one of the reasons I, along with some other early birds, ski at 6 a.m. The water is like glass. There are worse ways to start your day than skiing with your friends at dawn and then heading to work afterwards.”

What are your favourite spots in the city or in your neighbourhood? Is there a “hidden gem” you’d like to share?

“That’s easy. I have three. I work from a “home office” which often is code for my local coffee shop  – my two favourites are Alice’s Village Café in Carp (yes people, that’s in Ottawa) and Quitters Coffee in Stittsville. The coffee is yummy and the vibe is right for creative types. The third “gem” is the Cheshire Cat Pub on Carp Rd. It’s our “local” – literally down the road from where we live. But don’t tell anyone because it’s really hard to get a table there – it’s busy all the time.”

How would you describe Ottawa to a person who’s never been here?
Ottawa is like the “Goldilocks” of cities. We’re not too big. We’re not too small. We’re juuuuust right!  And, I would add, with lots of exclamation marks, we are not a boring government town!!!! There’s so much more to Ottawa than that!”

Thanks so much, Olivia for sharing one of your passions and what you love about Ottawa. For more information about Olivia Nixon and/or to connect with her, you can view her Linkedin profile.

I wish for my family to be here

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Syrian refugee, Rasha, photographed in Dundonald Park.

Rasha was forced to flee her hometown of Damascus, Syria over two years ago. The safe life she once knew, her job as a flight attendant for Air Syria and her loving surroundings changed dramatically when her family came under threat. After her two brothers were murdered, her own life under imminent danger, she fled and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. She had left behind her elderly mother, sister and young nieces.

Rasha’s only wish was to reach safety and help her remaining family members leave Syria. She went directly to the UNHCR office in Beirut to seek help and, while awaiting the results of the commission about her future, she worked endlessly under very difficult circumstances. It was an unwelcoming and scary environment for her. After an eighteen month wait, she was told Canada would welcome her. Rasha initially went to Edmonton. There she faced a few obstacles but eventually, wanting to come to the capital, made her way to Ottawa.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

With many challenges behind her, Rasha has come a very long way. Thanks to our friends at the United Way, we met up and chatted with her. We are reminded of the importance of stopping our busy lives and taking the time to look around to help others.

Rasha has a beautiful, yet sad look to her. In her mid-twenties, she looks older and more worldly than most young women her age. She is soft-spoken yet strong, speaks with conviction but in an at-times broken voice, is determined yet fragile. Her English has been learned quickly, out of the need to survive, to be understood. She pulls out images of her family and nieces and whispers, “I will die if something happens to my mother or sister.” Through the help of a kind-hearted Ottawan, she has found an apartment and a job. She is taking French classes in her free time, on a daily basis. She wants to do many things. Her dream is to become a police officer. In our city, “I feel safe, finally. I love Ottawa. People are so nice, so friendly.”

Although many questions were exchanged in our encounter, the one that we got an immediate answer to pertained to her family.

Now that you are safe, what is your biggest wish, Rasha?
“Please, I need my family. This is my biggest wish.”

Happy Thanksgiving, Rasha. We so admire your courage and strength. May you be reunited with your family very soon.

For more information about how you can help refugees like Rasha, please contact the United Way Centraide: or call (613) 228-6700. For information about Ottawa’s relationship with the refugee crisis please, contact Refugee613:

a city to love for 2017

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Guy Laflamme photographed at the Ottawa Canal Underpass.

We had the opportunity to photograph Guy Laflamme a few months back for an editorial shoot. We were anxious to meet the author of the City of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations but knew that his very tight schedule would only allow for a short amount of time. We were pleased to be introduced to the most charismatic, passionate, respectful and extremely photogenic man!

Laflamme embodies what we love about our city: kindness and generosity. He rewarded us with his time, was enthusiastic to hear about our project and very patiently waited while we set up our loveOttawa canvas. We are so proud to include Monsieur Laflamme in our project and look forward to a very exciting 150th year in our city!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Being the voice behind the 2017 celebrations, what would you like to highlight about Ottawa to the world?

“O2017 will allow people to experience Ottawa like never before and celebrate Canada’s 150th like nowhere else. We are inviting the world to come and enjoy our unique quality of life and be inspired by the unique experiences we can offer.”

How can Ottawans participate actively in making the 2017 celebrations a special event?

“We have and will offer, every citizen, business and organization of our city‎, numerous opportunities to contribute and to participate to Ottawa 2017. Collectively we will transform our city and open new horizons for our future.”

In your free time, how do you enjoy our beautiful city?

“I have cycled, jogged or walked every kilometre of our recreational pathways.  We are blessed by the abundance of our natural surroundings and I love to embrace the variety of our seasons. You can see and experience our city from many different perspectives.”

What message would you like to convey throughout the year leading up to 2017?

“Be ready to experience an exhilarating new Ottawa! Let’s collectively transform our city and give more vibrancy to its ‎heart and soul.”

Thank you very much Guy for sharing your time and your love for Ottawa! For more information about Ottawa 2017:


fitness from the inside out – spirit, mind and body

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Marshall Page photographed in Hintonburg Park.

Marshall Page is the owner of Marshall’s Integrated Fitness, an Ottawa gym that focuses as much on the body as it does on the spirit and the mind. Marshall, a body building champion, martial arts trainer, sports nutrition expert and life coach has been in the health, wellness and fitness fields for over thirty years, helping people gain a better quality of life through physical and personal development programs. His approach to personal improvement is truly all encompassing and his motto simple: “Believe. Persist. Achieve.” loveOttawa caught up with Marshall in the summer as he was busy preparing some clients for the Parapan Am Games.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

How does your positive philosophy of using mind and heart to help the body benefit your clients?

“So many view fitness as a physical thing when in truth the physical is the end result of what first takes place in the heart and mind. Everything we do in life is at first a thought that we infuse with emotion, giving it meaning for us. Total fitness encompasses spirit, mind and body. The proper order of anything we wish to accomplish is from states to conditions. We must create coherence between these components to realize all we can be. Without this coherence we are off balance. Perhaps we could call it fitness from the inside out.”

What do you most love about Ottawa?

“I think Ottawa is one of the most beautiful cities to be in during the summer time. I also love the fact that within 15 minutes from anywhere in the city you can be in the country, where there is so much to explore. I also love the parks, the fact you are able to bicycle anywhere thanks to the extensive bike paths. As well, the fact there is always something happening somewhere – whether it be a concert, supporting one of our sports teams, or any number of activities to enjoy.”

Your gym is in Hintonburg. What is it about this Ottawa community that you love?

“The people of Hintonburg are awesome. They are so supportive of small business and local events. It is definitely one of the friendliest communities in Ottawa.”

What is it about the people in Ottawa that you most enjoy?

“I love the way Ottawans, as a community, pull together in support of many worthy causes, assisting those who may have experienced substantial loss or could be facing a major life challenge.
For the most part I find the people of Ottawa to be friendly, courteous, and easy to talk to.”

Are there any cafes and/or restaurants that support and are there any that share your passion for health and positivity?

“I am not one to go out very often, however Bridgehead, of course – at least one visit per day! One of my favorite places to visit is Sanguiccio on Preston Street. They have real homemade Italian food from scratch – the best sandwiches in town, and that is not just my opinion.”

Thanks so much Marshall for taking the time to share some of your life and fitness philosophies, as well as what you love about Ottawa!

To get more information about Marshall’s Integrated Fitness:

in love with canada’s capital and its diversity

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Christiane Millet-Alexis photographed downtown on Sparks Street Mall.

Christiane Millet-Alexis is an Ottawa businesswoman who, with her contagious and positive energy, spreads enthusiasm to anyone she comes across. Christiane is the founder and director of Interlangues, one of Ottawa’s oldest language schools.

Interlangues has been providing official and foreign language training to thousands of government, federal and city employees, as well as private clients, for almost four decades. The school also offers a wide range of French and English language programs for foreigners, bringing in students of all ages and nationalities year-round. We caught up with Christiane, who is French-born, a few weeks back on Sparks Street Mall, juggling her always very busy travel schedule, and sharing how passionate she is about Ottawa!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

When did you arrive in Ottawa and why did you choose to live here?

“I arrived in Ottawa on September 12th, 1974. I had just accepted a sessional lecturer position at Carleton University. I loved Carleton, my students, all of the infrastructure that was presented to me as an educator and the richness of character of my new co-workers, whom I fondly remember (Alvina, Jean-Jacques, Pat and, of course, Steffi!). My daughter, Barbara, was two years old, and we were so well received. Having come from a small Southern French town, I instantly fell in love with Canada’s capital and its diversity. I felt I had the world at my fingertips!”

How has it changed since you arrived?

“Ottawa has lost some of its green spaces downtown but it is now more vibrant: “terrasses” on the sidewalks, nice restaurants and clubs, festivals, shopping centers. It is no longer the quiet capital where I arrived 40 years ago! And I love it!”

Do you feel Ottawa is a good place to do business in? Is it more than just a government town in your industry?

“Yes, Ottawa is more than a government town and there is a dynamic business community‎. There are vibrant, renowned universities, associations, sports events, and you can work and have fun in both our official languages! It is a great place for language schools like Interlangues to welcome international students, who thrive in Ottawa for many reasons: the quality of the academic community, the great variety of activities the city offers year round, the fun places to visit, the social life and the numerous opportunities to volunteer and to be a part of the community. It’s a fantastic place to practice your language skills. And, of course, the relatively small number of international students in the city guarantees a faster integration and a real immersion in both languages.”

What do you like the most about Ottawa? What are your favourite restaurants, places to go?

“Being a theatre and music lover, of course I will put the National Arts Center as my number one choice, followed by Blues Fest, the Jazz Festival and the Ottawa Little Theater. And since I love seafood, “terrasses” and “ambiance”, Le Métropolitain is my favorite restaurant! If I want a great sushi, Kiko Sushi Bar is my place!”

Thanks so much Christiane for sharing what you love about Ottawa! For more information about Interlangues and the great work that Christiane and her team are doing, please take a look at their site:

a cool entrepreneurial city that I can help move forward

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Yang Li photographed in Hintonburg in front of The Ministry of Coffee.

We photograph such a wide variety of people for loveOttawa, all with different backgrounds and unique stories. Art Director, Yang Li, has a very cool story and perspective. As a new immigrant, he moved to Canada from Bejing, China when he was 18. He attended art school in New Brunswick, then landed his first job as a graphic designer in Ottawa. He quickly fell in love with the city. Yang really enjoys the friendliness, the freedoms that living here offers and he loves how Ottawa is progressing as an entrepreneurial city.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You moved to Canada from Beijing when you were 18 to go to school. You could have moved and lived anywhere after school – why did you choose Ottawa, and why did you stay?

“Serendipity brought me to Ottawa. Little did I know, I’d end up falling in love with the city! In the past 10 years, our city has been going through gentrifications, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and it’s happening at a steady pace. I’m really starting to see a more progressive city and people really do care about supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. I think this is very important, because they shape the commercial landscape and make Ottawa unique.

As a creative person, I love visiting big cities like New York City, Paris and Helsinki…but I always think to myself, “If everybody moves to the ‘cool’ cities, who will be building and adding to the coolness of our own town?”. Most importantly, in Ottawa I have met so many great friends over the years whom I see as my family.”

Are there any specific things about Ottawa that you love the most?

“I love going to art exhibits at the National Gallery of Canada or watching an old movie surrounded by Mayfair Theatre’s old world charm. The Rockcliffe Parkway is my favourite drive in the city. I also love how close I am to nature, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River, city wide trails and paths and Gatineau Park. I adore Lansdowne Park because I believe public spaces play a vital role in creating a sense of community and promote human interaction. We need more urban parks.”

As a creative person, what are your favourite places to spend time? Do you have any favourite restaurants, bars or cafés?
Ministry of Coffee in Hintonburg is my favourite place to have a morning coffee and kick start my day, but I also like Bridgehead as it’s conveniently located in my building. I like Dosa, Streetside Curry, Flapjack’s and Urban Cowboy food trucks for lunch. I love El Camino on Elgin when I get my taco cravings and I go to Local at Lansdowne if a game is on. The newly opened Belmont in Old Ottawa South has a cool menu for food and drinks. For special occasions, I go to Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar. They source fresh local ingredients and prepare them with heart.”

As a relatively new resident of Ottawa, are there any hidden gems that you love, that you’d share with someone new to our city or even just visiting?

“Water Plaza, located at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park, is a nice place to hang out with friends or just to read a book. In future, it will be a reflecting pool with the soothing sounds of cascading water from the “uplift” monument. I was there while it was still under construction, so I can say that I got first dibs on those cool multi-tiered continuous benches.”

You like to get around on your long board. Do you use it to commute or is it more for leisure? Where do you love to take it?

“I do the occasional commute to work on my longboard, but I use it mostly for pleasure, a weekend or evening ride along the canal.”

Thanks Yang for sharing what you love about Ottawa! If you’d like to follow Yang Li on social media, you can find him on twitter at: @hyperdirector and on Instagram at: @hyperdirector

for the love of food and sharing it with ottawa

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Tanya Whelan photographed in front of Ottawa’s War Memorial.

Tanya Whelan is the founder of TW Events, and the host of the Ottawa Street Eats Festival, which takes place tomorrow August 1st, at the Aviation Museum.

This first year event features some of the city´s top culinary food trucks and craft breweries, bringing together food experts and lovers.

The creation of TW Events came about when Tanya, who received her professional training at Algonquin College and has always worked in the industry, was faced with some health challenges, resulting in the loss of her ability to taste food. Her passion for culinary delights sparked the idea of a festival where Ottawans could not only taste new cuisine and sip delicious craft beers, but also connect with chefs and brewmasters directly and share their enthusiasm for local.


© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Please tell us more about your event this weekend.

“Street Eats is about celebrating our local talent from craft beers to homemade pulled pork. Come and hear their stories as we interview each vendor and dance around the outdoor patio!  We are trying to do something different than the regular food festivals and we are really thinking about your experience and the vendors´ experience. For our guests we have set up games, tents, lots of seating, free parking for the first 200 cars, going green with compost stations and partnering with Escape Bike tours, providing live music by the Lionyls, a rock/soul band from 2-7pm and a DJ from Dsound to open and close the night. We are joined by five local craft breweries (Kichesippi, Mill Street, Beaus, Big Rig, Whitewater), seven food trucks (Angry Dragonz, Bytown Bayou, Original Souvlaki, Rico Peru and more), one Caribbean grill (Island Grill restaurant), two dessert booths (Deep fried chocolate and Ice Cream), and one gourmet coffee bar (BrewBar).”

What do you love the most about Ottawa?

“I love the culture, the rising passion for quality food, the huge festivals like Bluesfest and Jazzfest. I love how we preserve the beauty and greenery in this city. There are so many gorgeous places to sit and watch the sunset, lie in a park or beach, or take a windy road drive.”

When you’re not planning your own events, where do you love to eat and/or have a drink?

“I love to eat out so much, even with my new metal mouth (as I call it!) Some of my favourites are Murray Street, Melos and Fraser Cafe.”

Are there any hidden gems you’d love to share with someone new to Ottawa?

Melos is one for sure. It looks like a normal diner but you have to go inside for dinner. It’s delicious and extremely creative. They also have the best burger, I think. It’s like a grilled cheese/burger. We need to get rid of the burger bun and use sandwich bread. This leads me to my other favourite gem off the beaten path, Art Is In bakery. They have the most delicious sandwiches and soups, all homemade!”

Don´t miss out on this unique event, which will run from noon to 8 pm!

For more information about Tanya Whelan and her event marketing company: and/or follow her on twitter at: @tweventsottawa

a helping hand – the loveRailbender initiative

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Alex Néron and Marta Jarzabek photographed in 2014 in their studio.

One of the prevailing themes that Anita and I are always hearing mentioned, when we meet and photograph people for loveOttawa, is kindness. We’re also very proud that many people love the generous and independent nature of businesses in Ottawa. Small business is definitely at the heart of our city.

If you’ve met the newlyweds, Alex Néron and Marta Jarzabek, who own and run Railbender Studio, you would know that they are kind, humble and very community minded individuals. Like many small business owners they are faced with the usual challenges of paying rent, expenses and moving their business forward. Right now, however, Alex and Marta have been presented a very challenging curve ball, in the shape of Alex being diagnosed with colon cancer.

© dwayne brown studio –  Alex and Marta photographed in 2014 in their studio.

Alex has started his sessions with chemotherapy this week, with Marta by his side, and they are doing this with great courage and a positive heart. They are also looking into some integrative naturopathic therapies offered by the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre. Along with the positive support of family and friends, they are doing absolutely everything in their power to face this overwhelming health challenge.

Last weekend I attended Alex and Marta’s small and beautiful wedding reception and I was touched by how loved they are by their family, friends and community. I was also reminded that a few days later they would need to face the challenge of fighting Alex’s cancer. When Anita and I talked about this, we knew that in addition to this, they would also be faced with the financial pinch of extra expenses. In light of this, we wanted to help raise some reserve funds and have created a simple way for others to lend a hand.

After looking into the logistics, we shared the idea with Alex and Marta. They were initially overwhelmed and appreciative yet reluctant, because they’re a proud young couple who take full responsibilities for their lives. After a few days of chemotherapy and all the emotions of the week, they called us late last night to humbly say yes to any help we could offer.

Something that life has taught Anita and I, is that a little love goes a long, long way. It is so important to pull together when things get tough. We have created a simple initiative called loveRailbender. It consists of an e-transfer that will allow funds to go directly into Alex and Marta’s hands. If you wish to help in any way, please do so using Internet banking by directing the to the following e-mail address:

All e-mails, e-transfers and best wishes will be forwarded to Alex and Marta. Thank you in advance for your support and generosity.

showing off ottawa, one canal run at a time

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Westin Ottawa staff participating in the runWESTIN program.

The very best part of our loveOttawa project is meeting great people who love the city. We also love learning about local businesses (big and small), who have unique approaches to taking care of their customers, and in The Westin Ottawa’s case, their guests. The hotel has a really cool program called runWESTIN. The concierge staff offer accompanied morning and afternoon runs along the Rideau Canal for their guests throughout the week. We love this, because in addition to The Westin caring for their guest’s health, they’re also proudly showing off Ottawa!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

smiles, kindness, and all around grooviness

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Sarah and Jessica, photographed in Hintonburg’s Bread By Us.

Anyone who’s stopped in Bread By Us, knows what we mean when we say “it’s Ottawa’s kindest bakery!”. This small, independent Hintonburg bakery exudes humility, friendliness and hard work – not to mention the comforting smell of freshly baked bread! It was lovely for us to have the opportunity to photograph Sarah and Jessica, the owners of Bread By Us. Sarah and Jess are excellent examples of social entrepreneurs, who deeply care about putting out a delicious and honest product, while embracing a slow-food philosophy and also helping the local community. When we asked them about their business, they quoted a recently departed staff member who so eloquently described their bakery. “In this day and age it seems being kind and open-minded is an act of rebellion, which is why Bread By Us will remain in my memory as a safe, inclusive space, where smiles, hard work, and all around grooviness stand strong in the face of adversity and opposition.”

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project


What do each of you love about Ottawa the most?

Sarah: “Ottawa has been my home for several years now. In that time, I have come to appreciate it as a place I can easily learn and navigate. It has all of the amenities of a large city, but conjures the feelings and comfort of a smaller town. It is relatively easy to find and connect with communities. I enjoy the proximity to nature, and the beauty that surrounds Ottawa, especially in the summer when everything and everyone seems to come to life.”

Jess: “Ottawa is, and will forever be home, which is why I cannot properly describe it without emotional bias. It would feel shallow for me to describe my love for Ottawa only in terms of its buildings and waterways, or its festivals and restaurants, although all of those things have their charm. Ottawa conjures up positive feelings of comfort and family. I most love the radical, out-spoken, and open-hearted people that make up this city’s social fabric. I have made my most meaningful human connections in this city.”

What is it about the Hintonburg community that you love?

We cannot say enough how much we ABSOLUTELY LOVE Hintonburg. It was a huge blessing that we found a suitable space for our bakery in this hood. We could go on and on about the abundance of amazing independent businesses that truly are gems, but it really comes down to the people who live here. We see anywhere from 100-200 people come through the store on any given day, and we truly believe this neighbourhood has some of the most loving, open, and creative people in the city. It is dense with artists and community activists, and just generally plugged-in people. We are hard-pressed to think of another place we have come to know where people are as interesting and caring as they are in Hintonburg.”

Have you seen a positive change in Ottawa over the past few years and has it been helpful for your business?

We were fairly in tuned with our intuition that Ottawans were ready for more high-quality, artisan bread. Compared to other major cities, we knew there was room for more bread bakeries in Ottawa, and based on our conversations with people, we knew people’s knowledge and awareness of the importance of “real bread” was growing. The slow-food and artisan bread movement has finally hit our city in the last few years thanks to some pioneer bakeries in the city, and we felt the timing was right for us.”

Are there any cafes, restaurants and/or bars that you love to spend time at when you’re not busy with Bread-By-Us?

Heck yes!! It is hard to narrow it down, but here goes:

We have a ritual on most Mondays (when we are closed at the bakery) to start off the morning slowly with our second-favourite coffee in the city (after ours of course), at the Wild Oat Bakery. Their coffee is seriously spot-on, and their breakfast is a delight.

Our favourite spot for lunch is The Pantry inside the Glebe community centre. Caroline is one of the finest and most creative veggie chefs around.

Take-out is almost always Fairmont Confectionary, which turns out amazing Thai/Laotian dishes. We eat from Fairmont guilt-free at least weekly. When it’s not Fairmont, it is Tennessee Willems for superb pizza and company. The staff there are so kind, and their food is killer. We are thoroughly enjoying their in-house lemonade cocktail right now.

For a special night out it’s The Manx Pub for their delicious pub food, and veggie friendly options. The vibe is always cozy and groovy.

For the most special of evenings, it’s got to be Murray Street Kitchen, which in our minds, is the most ambitious, creative, and consistent restaurant in the city.”

Thanks so much Sarah and Jess for such a great shoot and your thoughtful insights on Ottawa! For more information about Bread By Us, you can take a peek at or better yet, drop in to say hi to the girls, and try one of their delicious sandwiches!