everything cycling in ottawa and beyond

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Cool Communicator, Zara Ansar photographed in Confederation Park.

As summer unfolds and we get anxious to enjoy Ottawa’s great outdoors and summer festivals, we’re very excited to share this post, highlighting our city’s preeminent bicycle/fashion blogger, Zara Ansar. Zara curates a very cool blog that features stylish cyclists riding the streets of Ottawa. The blog will be turning 4 this summer and is slowly expanding with a re-brand and a new name, XO VELO, which will enable her to feature people in other cities. Zara’s great answers to our loveOttawa questions have inspired Anita and I to change our format slightly, to allow for more of Zara’s voice to come through. Thanks, Zara for sharing so many great reasons why you loveOttawa!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

What do you love about the Ottawa region?

“I love Ottawa because it’s a great city for focusing on creative endeavours, it has a great cycling scene and we are very close to beautiful parks. We’ve got some great restaurants some of which I frequent a little too often. There is also a major creative movement happening in Ottawa right now, so that’s also nice.”

What do you love to do in Ottawa?

“My main love is cycling. There are so many great paths and quiet streets. I also love to just wander around Ottawa looking for bright coloured buildings (this is hard to find) or objects and take photos. I also really love scoping out and taking photos of people dressed really well on their bicycles. I enjoy attending local art shows and going to the ballet/musicals at the NAC.”

Do you have any favourite restaurants, bars and/or cafés in Ottawa?

“I have a few favourites!”

Oz Kafe – I love eating at Oz because the menu is small, creative and seasonal but packed full of options. Staff is like family – caring, accommodating and welcoming. Best Martinis and Caesars in town.

El Camino – Best fish tacos and guacamole to die for.  Also, I can eat dozens of those tasty scallops in a day.

Café My House – The menu here changes seasonally as well. Great drinks, very creative and a well curated menu incorporating fresh, local organic and seasonal ingredients. They even offer a bicycle discount :D

Whalesbone – The oysters…holy moly!

town & fauna – I love the atmosphere and the food!

Ben Ben – have the hot and sour soup…it’s probably the best one in Ottawa.

Dolsot Café – Great Bimbimbap, and probably the best kimchee I’ve ever had.

Chahaya Malaysia – Located on Montreal Rd., this family run business has been around for quite some time. They have the best spring rolls in the WORLD. Try their bali beef and chili chicken too.

Mercury Lounge – Best curated house music in Ottawa. Every time I go to the Merc, I feel at home.

Babylon – Great theme nights.

Raw Sugar Café – The kitschy atmosphere.

Ministry of Coffee, on Elgin and Bridgehead, on Preston.

House of Targ – Perogies and pinball.

Do you have any favourite music venues or local musicians you really love?

“I enjoy Mercury Lounge and I really love the Souljazz Orchestra and NOAH. I also am proud of my friend Tariq Anwar for challenging the music scene in Ottawa. Found out about some new artists that don’t get much exposure through him. He rocks!”

How do you see Ottawa progressing as a city, and/or what are the region’s qualities that you feel are evolving, bike and/or fashion related?

“There is so much stuff happening in Ottawa right now that I am having trouble keeping track. While social media has helped to spread the word about various events happening in the community, I just can’t seem to keep up. There are times where I have to flutter from one event to the other. Who says Ottawa is boring? The arts and culture scene is emerging and more people are aware of it and are embracing it. I’m enjoying seeing new artists, musicians and other creative folks pop up that don’t get the attention they deserve in Ottawa.”

“Fashion-wise, Ottawa has its pockets of stylish individuals. It’s great that we are seeing more unique stores popping up and online shopping has really helped to style some of the city’s best dressed. I am also enjoying more people embracing vintage fashion. Great way to look good, save money and change your wardrobe often!”

“Cycling-wise, there is a huge cycling scene which has been increasing every year. I’ve seen a surge in winter cyclists too. People are realizing that cars are expensive and owning a bike is much cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment. Ottawa definitely needs protected and extensive bike lanes to encourage more cycling. I know a lot of people that would love to bike in from outside the downtown core but are unable to do so because of a lack of protected lanes. The more we can protect cyclists, the more cyclists we will see on the road.”

Are there any special things about Ottawa and the region you’d like to share (hidden gems)?

“There is a really great trampoline school called Spring Action and everyone should have their birthday party there, or at least join a class. It’s too much fun! Artengine is a great collective where artists and technologists intersect. Foobz is a bubble soccer organization that holds private and public games. It’s a great way to show your friends how much you love them by bumping them and watching them roll in what looks like a hamster ball, across the field. Across the bridge in Hull you should check out Axneo 7. A friend of mine, Sasha Vreca (a very talented artist), produced a brilliant installation that still resonates with me. Honestly, some cool art coming out of there and some cool artists I’ve never heard of, but who are very talented and humble.”

Do you have a special non-profit or initiative that’s close to your heart right now in Ottawa? 

“I have a few… I’m really loving the 1 square foot project and all the events they are running to help build Ottawa’s only downtown skateboard park. I also love Bicycles for Humanity and Trips for Kids.”

Thanks so much to Zara for sharing so many cool things she loves about Ottawa! For more information about XO VELO:

people helping people

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

United Way award recipients photographed tonight at The Shaw Centre.

We were very pleased to be invited to the United Way Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala that took place tonight at the Shaw Centre. Photographing a handful of its very special recipients was an honour, since we truly believe that Ottawa is a city of generous and kind people, always looking to lend a hand to those less fortunate.

Congratulations to Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau for the “Ambassador Award”, Mike Bulthuis of Alliance to End Homelessness for the “Turning Lives Around” award, Cindy Simpson and Nancy MacNider of Youville Centre and St. Mary’s Home, for the “Growing up Great” award and to the ladies at Dress for Success for the “Belonging to Community” award.

You truly make a difference in the lives of others and are a great reason why we loveOttawa!

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© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

building software and making friends around the world

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

The Tattoo Hero team, photographed in their downtown Ottawa studio.

We finally had the opportunity to photograph the cool and awesome Tattoo Hero team the other week. We’d been trying to get them all in one city long enough for a photo for quite some time, but these lads have been busy traveling, sharing their custom software with tattoo studios around the world. We love how they sell their made in Ottawa’ software internationally, as well as how they connect the tattoo community. We so appreciate them taking time to sit for a loveOttawa portrait and answering questions about what they love about Ottawa and why they choose our city as their homebase for continuing to build their software business.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Tattoo Hero is doing great work for folks much further afield than Ottawa, and you’ve been forging relationships internationally – so what is it about Ottawa that you love, to make it your base?

“Ottawa is home. Brandon, Steve and Minh are all born and raised here. We’ve met so many interesting people here by serendipity, including each other. We’re big on giving back to the community and pushing Ottawa to become a great international city.”

How would you describe Ottawa to one of your international clients?

“It’s great! I find we need to describe where we live less and less these days. I usually say something like “It’s cold here, we also skate on canals and eat beaver tails.” (that usually throws them off – lol). But usually we say we’re smack dab between Toronto and Montreal since those are two well known tattoo/art cities for our clients.”

What are your favourite places in Ottawa, that you and your team love to eat or drink at?

“We usually have brunch meetings at Bramasole Diner, and go to Bread and Sons or Artisan Bakery for a quick lunch. We love El Camino for tacos, Smoke House for ribs and Ministry of Coffee or Bridgehead for some java.”

How do you see Ottawa evolving as a positive place to do business in and/or incubate innovative initiatives?

“Ottawa is definitely going through exciting times. As the workforce changes from predominantly public sector jobs to private small business owners, we’ll start seeing massive changes in the culture of this city. More entrepreneurs, more small shops, more innovation!”

Thanks so much to Brandon Waselnuk, Minh Dao, Steve Tannahill, Henri Kuschkowitz and Paulo Arruda! For more information about Tattoo Hero: and/or follow them on Instagram at @tattoohero

friends with benefits – fundraising for mental health

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Laura Hammond photographed at the Parkdale Market, in Hintonburg.

We were contacted a few weeks ago by Laura Hammond, a very enthusiastic woman raising awareness for the fundraising event ‘Friends With Benefits’, with proceeds going to the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Association. Although she now resides in Toronto, this Ottawan still has deep roots in the community and runs this event, now in its 4th year, in order to raise much needed money for life-saving mental health research.

When we met with Laura this afternoon, she emphasized how the event is a great way to show that there are people in the Ottawa community who are living  and thriving, despite having a mental illness. We are honoured to have Laura share some of her story, below.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

“I have struggled with recurrent depression since my early 20’s. You might not think it to look at me: I have a great job, a wonderful family and friends and have accomplished much.  Despite this, I often struggle with my mood and feeling good.”

“When I was in my early 20’s and was first diagnosed, I lost my second year at university and was hospitalized. What people don’t know is that depression and other mental health crises are much like a major injury or surgery: it can take months to get back to feeling normal or discovering your new normal.”

“During my treatment at the Royal, I met a woman named Jennie. Jennie was ten years older and she was everything: gorgeous, smart, accomplished, well travelled, adored by friends and family.  I could go on!  But she too was struggling and couldn’t see how amazing she was and all of the skills she had to overcome her depression.  In 2005, at the age of 33 Jennie took her own life.  She described depression as being like a familiar friend that kept coming back.”

“In 2012 I decided that I had to turn my daily thoughts of Jennie and mourning the loss of her into something productive. I partnered Jennie’s family and a group of my friends to crest Friends With Benefits in support of the Jennie James Depression Research Fund at the Royal Ottawa.”

“Our first event in 2012 started with a goal of raising $5000. We sold out and raised over $12,000.  Since then, we continue to raise more money every year. We have now raised close to $50,000 in three years and we are hoping to make it even more.”

“Ottawa will always be home. My family and friends are here and I love coming back to visit whenever I can. To me a perfect Ottawa day is a run along the canal, a coffee from one of our amazing local coffee shops with CBC Ottawa Morning on the radio and visits with family and friends. Toronto may be bigger but Ottawa has heart and it has my heart – amazing people doing amazing things to put it on the map as a cultural destination.”

Tonight’s event at Lago starts at 7:30 pm. There are over 40 silent auction items from amazing local businesses, 2 trips and a signed Alfresson jersey up for live auction. There will be dancing, food and conversation about living and thriving despite being challenged by a mental health issue.

Tickets for tonight’s event are still available! $25 available on their event blog as well as other great information:, or at the door for $30. You can also follow them on Twitter at @FWBOttawa

helping the youville centre grow for mother’s day

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

A young mom and her son, photographed at The Youville Centre.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to shed some light on the courageous young moms who are attending high school at Ottawa’s Youville Centre. Youville is a non-profit centre which helps teen moms complete their high school, while having their babies and toddlers safely cared for in the on-site daycare. The centre also offers the girls valuable resources and support in this very important stage of their lives, allowing them to reach graduation, raise their children with dignity and learn valuable life skills.

In the month of May, Youville reaches out to the community and asks for help to raise funds for the much needed resources they require to keep the centre strong and growing. With the partnership of five Ottawa businesses, they will provide fun, spring events and promotions in celebration of Mother’s Day while raising money for Youville. These very generous partners include Flowers Talk Tivoli, Ottawa Fit, Shepherds, Urban Element and Whole Foods. We want to share this lovely opportunity with our followers and ask anyone interested to lend a hand to this most generous organization. For more information or to to donate directly to The Youville Centre, please visit:


© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project