Author Archives: Christine S

Photo Contests for Fall

October is an exciting time for kids – winds howl as classroom chatter turns to preparation for Halloween. “What are you going to be this year?” becomes the most-repeated question, though it’s often met with “It’s a secret!” Halloween is a great time to create lasting memories with your children, especially if you’re willing to get crafty and creative and help your child make a great costume. Many little girls may want to dress up as their favourite Disney princess and boys may likewise wish to personify a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or another superhero, but convincing them to spend some time with you to see what costume creations you can come up with together may be easier than you think.  Your child may have their heart set on a store-bought costume; suggest making one together and tell them that if they really don’t like the costume they make themselves you can still go shopping for another one. If that still doesn’t work, it’s time to pull out the big guns: Lenzr‘s fall photo contests provide a lucrative incentive.

Homemade Halloween Costume Photo ContestThe Homemade Halloween Costume photo contest is proud to be your secret Halloween weapon this year. When you tell your child you can win $250 in cash (or candy) by making the best homemade costume it may not be long before you see pipe bending and box collecting going on in your living room as your young robot creates his/her new look. Boxes are versatile costume-building tools–you can make refrigerators, ovens, ‘kid-in-the-showers’–tin foil for sci-fi, burlap for zombies or mummies, or real flowers for Mother Nature. A homemade costume will carry with it the pride of its conception and construction, and the fond memories of making said costume with a parent will last indefinitely. You’ll also save money, and might even win money!

This contest was sponsored by a boutique marketing agency that specializes in social media contests.

The House for Renovation photo contest is another Halloween-themed challenge–this time focusing on that creepiest of buildings, House for Renovation Photo Contestthe infamous haunted house. The contest is titled differently, but haunted houses and houses in need of renovation are one and the same to Lenzr. They are not, however, one and the same to kids–kids wouldn’t give a second thought to a deflating porch or leaky roof, but tell them you suspect the place might be haunted and you’ll have instant interest. There are lots of Haunted House hay rides or neighbourhood walks at this time of year, and possibly even a house in need of renovation, I mean…Ghostbusters, on your own block. Try to include a story in your entry (even if it’s just what you and your kids imagine might be inside scaring people away).

The prize is an Apple iPad, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a Toronto mortgage broker.

Our Daily Bread Photo ContestThe Our Daily Bread photo contest leaves behind the chocolate, chips, pop and sugary candy of Halloween for the wholesome and sustaining taste of bread. Bread is an ancient food source vastly superior to the processed sugars that are soon to be the bane of teachers’ existences across North America. Do you ever bake your own bread at home? Breadmaking is not as difficult as it’s made out to be, and is certainly yet another way to connect with your children, while at the same time teaching them of the importance of making healthy, delicious food, and demonstrating their creative skills by taking a photograph that looks appetizing.

The prize is a breadmaker courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a Natural Artisan Bakery that sells all its organic ingredients online.

The Warehouse Stockpiles photo contest is the most challenging contest of the lot, but rewards the best photograph with a great Warehouse Stockpiles Photo Contestprize. This contest is looking for submissions that depict inventory management and this could include car parts, food supplies and even children’s toys. This could be a great learning exercise for kids; young kids don’t think about things like manufacturing or distribution or production planning, often times they think that the store is where the process begins. If you are able to find a warehouse for you and your child to photograph, it will open their eyes to all the tremendous work that goes into bringing products to the public.

The prize is $250 and a photo licensing agreement with the contest’s sponsor, a manufacturing software making that is looking for warehouse-related photos for its website.

Hot Fun in the Summertime – New Photo Contests on! is Canada’s only serial photo contest website, offering up new photography challenges for budding photographers every month and rewarding the best photos with real prizes. Lenzr photo contests are something you can share with your children, encouraging creativity in them and bonding over camera and photo editing technology–it is the digital age, after all!

Lenzr has just introduced four new contests in the July-August session, and, of course, four great prizes are on the line. Kids have to be at least 13 years of age to enter the contests on their own, but that shouldn’t stop you if you have younger children–just work on the photography together and enter the contest under your own account!

Fireplaces and Furnaces Photo Contest on Lenzr.comLenzr’s Fireplaces and Furnaces photo contest is a bit weird in the middle of summer, we know, but professional photographers and filmmakers do this all the time–you didn’t really think that they wait for rain to fall, did you? Suspend our disbelief! Show our judges your coziest shots of comforting winter scenes–perhaps the kids warming their hands at the fireplace or the dog curled up on the hearth. Teaching your children that what they see in photographs (particularly in mainstream media) is not necessarily a representation of the truth is a good lesson. For example, most of the delicious food photography we salivate over feature motor oil as syrup, hairspray to moisten up a drying piece of cake and white glue instead of milk in cereal ads, etc. Kids should learn early on that photographs can play tricks on our perception, and the best way to learn is to do!Sony Laptop

The prize in this competition is  a Sony laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a furnace installer located in Ontario. Summer is, financially speaking, the best time to think about installing a new high-efficiency furnace, which will save more money in the long run.

Toronto Tourist Attractions Photo Contest on


Lenzr’s Toronto Tourist Attractions is, unlike its predecessor, a perfect summertime challenge. Canada’s largest city has a lot to offer tourists of all types–international visitors will enjoy The ROM and The Hockey Hall of Fame, nature lovers will be pleasantly shocked by the beauty of the Toronto Islands and High Park, music lovers may enjoy a different festival nearly every weekend, architecture buffs will love the designs of the newly restored Art Gallery of Ontario and the colorful activity of the CN Tower, and Toronto’s many and diverse cultural festivals such as Caribana attract millions of visitors every summer.

Head into Toronto with your camera and show us the unique things you discover! The prizeSeaEagle Sport Kayak for this contest is an inflatable sport kayak, courtesy of this contest’s sponsor, a Toronto bed and breakfast that’s literally as downtown as you can get, for it’s a ‘Boatel’ moored at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre!

Haircuts and Hairstyles Photo Contest on’s Haircuts and Hairstyles photo contest wants to see photographic submissions with a hairstyle (or someone having their hair cut) as the focal point of the photograph. Hair is one of the first things we humans notice about one another, and kids have a lot of fun experimenting with hairstyles on their own. Where you don’t want to give your kids total creative freedom is with a pair of shears, for obvious reasons.

Show us funny, unique or beautiful hairstyles. You can definitely get the kids involved, even by allowing them to style your hair and then concluding with a fashion shoot–that photo will probably be filed under the ‘funny’ hairstyles, no?

The prize for this contest is a high-end blow dryer + flat iron, perfect for a gift for mom or an older sister or relative! The contest was generously sponsored by a Yorkville salon in downtown Toronto.

Objects in Motion Photo Contest on’s Objects in Motion photo contest wants to see the trajectory route of an object, person, animal or force of nature. Yes, the photo may contain a motion blur, but our judges only want to see the object, person, animal or force of nature in motion blur, not the rest of the photograph. Show us planes, trains or automobiles, high jumpers, long jumpers, kids on trampolines, squirrels jumping across telephone wires, dogs chasing them, yanking their leash away from their owner’s firm grip. Last summer Canada’s East Coast got hit with some nasty hurricanes; Canadians of intrepid heart may wish to chase a storm in motion, if they dare.Sony Laptop

The prize for this contest is a Sony Laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, an air freight service that’s constantly keeping objects in motion over land, sea and sky.

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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Platform 9 3/4Waiting in line at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto to see the latest (and final) film from the Harry Potter franchise, I was dumbfounded by the number of, well…adults in line to see the summer blockbuster. Granted, I was waiting for the 9:30 PM showing, and you never see too many kids downtown, but the turnout of the more, shall we say, experienced audience confirmed something I’d already known: Harry Potter isn’t just for kids.

Billionaire author J.K. Rowling can attest to that—she said she just wrote about characters she would want to read about; it was her publishing company that marketed her work to children. While in no way am I suggesting she’s a modern day Shakespeare like some fanatics claim, I shall say that the series is a fully realized work, highly imaginative and brimming with lessons for children to learn and for adults to revisit. Given that, and before I write about the film, I highly recommend reading the books prior to seeing the movies, as is usually the case. The books are gripping, funny, full of plot twists and, probably most importantly, concerning the lives of authentic and relatable characters. This is a story where adults err along with the children, where prejudices are passed down with generations, where the idealism of the young is the saving grace when it seems all hope is lost. There is something special, yes, even magical, about these books—there’s a pace to them that makes reading so enjoyable—you don’t want your eyes to leave the page! Just like any book-to-movie adaptation, the Harry Potter films are shallow when compared with their source. If you can, encourage your kids to read the books before seeing the movies, or better yet, read it to them!

As for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II the movie—it’s definitely not for small children. I have a seven year-old brother, and it would have terrified him! I wouldn’t recommend it personally for children under 11, but I suppose every child is different. For a comprehensive guide on the appropriate age for both the Harry Potter books and movies, see this article.

The film itself is excellent—by far the best of the lot. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson return as Harry, Ron and Alan Rickman as Professor Severus SnapeHermione for the final time, and they all do a spectacular job, particularly Radcliffe. Having watched him grow up literally right before my eyes, the pride I felt upon seeing his earnest performance and how much he has grown in his craft, felt like a parent’s.

Backed again by a sublime supporting cast of British actors including Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter and Michael Gambon, among others, the standout performances of the film belong to Radcliffe, Smith, Rickman and Fiennes. As Professor McGonagall, Smith’s line “It’s good to see you, Potter,” was delivered with such skill it simultaneously broke the tension and my heart. Rickman, as Professor Snape, has always been a reason to watch the Potter movies, with his silky diction and nearly-vacant stare acting as blinders over his true motives. Rickman outdoes his other performances with this one; as for whether or not his character is evil, let’s just say he’ll keep you guessing until the very end. Ralph Fiennes plays Lord Voldemort with consummate skill, emphasizing the part of him that is still somewhat human, which oddly makes him almost pitiful, and certainly more frightening–I wouldn’t be surprised if this portrayal ends up on ‘Greatest Film Villain’ lists in the future.

The set pieces and visual effects were top-notch, the music beautiful and haunting and the story mostly true to the book.Lord Voldemort vs. Harry Potter

My only gripe, and it’s a big one, is that the significance of the Deathly Hallows (The Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak and the Resurrection Stone: whoever possesses all three becomes the Master of Death) was missed. The film was the shortest of the entire series at only 2 hours and 10 minutes and missing this very important, titular element.

The Harry Potter story is largely about life and death and about how one bad wizard feared death so much that he ruthlessly inverted the laws of magic in order to live forever. Opposing him was a wizard who would die to save the people he loved, just as his parents had for him. Which one is Death’s Master? The movie, preoccupied with big bangs and explosions, never touched on that, so if you want to know, you’ll have to read the books.


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NEW Summer Photo Safari on! is Canada’s premier serial photo contest website, and a great way to engage yourself and your family in artistic and technological activity. Lenzr has just launched a brand-new website and four new photo contests to challenge you and your kids. Lenzr is a positive and supportive community that rewards great photography with real prizes like computers and cameras. During voting time, participants in photo contests are encouraged to share their work online with their friends and family to get votes and increase their chances of winning.

Participating in contests is a great way to introduce your kids to the world of competition, to show them it’s not always about the outcome, that the process is just as important, and sometimes, even more fun than winning itself! Three of’s latest contests could be great Father’s Day fun next weekend; the fourth contest is certainly fun, but for parents only:

Latest Photo Contests on

Construction Sights Photo Contest on

The Construction Sights photo contest is looking for submissions catching a moment in time through the building of a new structure, roadway or monument. This time of year, especially in the city, construction sites are in abundance. Let your kids pick the site they find the most interesting, and help them with angles and composition–this will give you surprising insight into the unique take on the world your children have. Show us a crane towering above the ground or a bulldozer spreading  a cloud of dust as it delves deeper into the ground. Perhaps your kids will want to show the human aspect of contruction–the people who toil in the heat or the rain to make improvements to the world we see every day.

Sony Laptop

The prize is a Sony laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, an award-winning Ottawa roofing company.

Best Office Staff Party Photo Contest on

This is’s ‘adult only’ contest; the Best Office Staff Party photo contest is looking for submissions illustrating how your office space looks when it’s used for purposes outside of work–partying, to be specific. Have fun with this one! Show us what the gang at work does to let loose and de-stress. Do you bring your significant others along to be subjected to inside jokes about what really happens in the boardroom? Do you use your boardroom to party, transforming it from a sterile meeting place to a dance party complete with disco ball? hopes so, because that would make a great photograph.

The prize is a Sony laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, an IT Staff agency located in downtown Toronto.

A Counting Exercise Photo Contest on

This is the contest where you’ll probably need the creative and open mind of a child in order to come up with the best concept.’s A Counting Exercise photo contest is looking for submissions featuring repeating patterns that may be counted in a photograph. Kids, still new to the world, often immerse themselves in patterns, noticing things adults have forgotten to look for. Show us how many ants are on parade back to the anthill, strips in the hardwood floor or cookies in the cookie jar. You could tell them to pretend they’re the Count from Sesame St., who doesn’t love a vampire with arithmomania?

The prize is a Sony laptop, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a team of web-savvy Toronto accountants.

Shafts of Sunlight Photo Contest on

The final photo contest this session, Shafts of Sunlight, want to see submissions featuring natural light appearing as tangible matter you can hold in your hand. Look at the example above–the shafts of sunlight you see could almost be monkey bars ascending up to the heavens. This is the most specific photo contest this session, but sunlight is readily available this time of year; there’s no reason why you and your kids couldn’t come up with the winning entry, especially because the prize is a perfect one to give a budding young photographer.

Sony Cyber-Shot

The prize is a Sony Cyber-Shot digital camera, courtesy of the contest’s sponsor, a sunrooms installer.

All the contests started on June 1, 2011. Voting starts on July 15, after which the top ten user-ranked photos advance to judging. doesn’t mind, in fact, encourages you to have your friends and family vote on your photos for higher chances of winning. The winning photographs will be announced on August 1, 2011. Good luck!

Letters to my Father – No, I Don’t Think the Universe was an Accident

My dad was always at odds at home—he and my mom had four consecutive daughters before he got a son—and baby bro came along late, after I’d grown up and left the house. My last visit home was a combined Mother’s Day/get my youngest sister (a tomboy) ready for prom visit. With mom on hair, myself on makeup and the other two on hand making helpful comments like “I don’t understand why you didn’t go to a hairdresser—it’s like $30 and that’s for a professional,” it wasn’t long before the blowout turned into a full-on bitchfest. Bobby pins were starting to look like weapons.

A hostile hour later, when my sister emerged looking stunning, it struck me that I hadn’t seen dad, my brother or my boyfriend (who’d been roped into the visit as well) for quite some time. I ventured downstairs and realized my dad (the best cook of the family) had busied himself making soup and sandwiches for lunch. The dining room table had been set with a pretty tablecloth and flowers; I smiled sheepishly at him and he raised his eyebrows, a clear indication he’d heard the goings-on upstairs. My dad’s always had the ability to speak through his eyes—he never really had to yell, he could make us feel sorry for our wrongdoings with a single disappointed look—far worse than a lecture or getting yelled at, although those were sometimes called for depending on the circumstance. When my sister clunked downstairs clumsily in her unfamiliar heels, he joked, “Who are you? Where’s my daughter? What have you done with her?”

My siblings and I at High Park in TorontoIt’s only now that I’m in my twenties that I can fully understand and appreciate what it must have been like for him in a house full of females: tantrums, tampons and taunts. When the girls weren’t ripping into each other we’d sometimes team up on him: “Dad, get some new glasses, you look like a total dork”, “Dad, when are you going to get a new car, ours is so embarrassing”, “Honey, lose some weight why don’t you? Kids, tell your father he needs to start walking to work again.” My boyfriend says my dad is the most patient person he’s ever met.

He’s also one of the wisest. He never succeeded in making hockey players out of any of us (though this remains to be seen in my brother’s case; he currently likes to dance) but he did quote some hockey player (I can’t remember which, sorry) to my sisters and I, to lasting effect. Whoever it was said something like “Pick something you would do for free, then become so good at it that someone will eventually pay you to do what you love.” This was taken literally by my sisters and I, currently still in pursuit of our dreams.

My dad encouraged his daughters to question and to think deeply. I remember coming home from a party once and he was awake, in contemplation over something. “Do you think the universe was an accident?” he asked me in earnest. I sobered up waxing philosophical with my dad into the wee hours of the morning—not the first time, either. He told his girls we didn’t need makeup, holes in our bodies (AKA piercings) and that our opinions were of value. He encouraged our talents, artistic or otherwise. When I used to watch my boyfriend’s band practice in high school he’d ask me “Why don’t you play in your own band?” Eventually, I did.

I had a bad dream when I was little about an oversized black dog on a bicycle falling over and crushing me. Later, on three separate occasions, I scarred my face double riding, my legs when a pedal fell clean off my bike, and my hands when my wheel caught in the streetcar tracks of Toronto. Suddenly fearful of a fixed fate, I became convinced I would die biking and decided to sell my bike and never ride again. I told Dad of my resolve over the telephone. “I understand you’re scared,” he said, “but you love biking.” (It’s true and he would know, he taught me). “Yeah, but I’m going to die biking, I just know it,” I had said. “Well,” he began, and I knew I was about to see the light, “If you’re really destined to die on a bicycle, then fate will arrange it that way, don’t you think? Someday you’ll find yourself in a life-threatening situation where your only option for escape is a bike, and you’ll try your luck riding again before you just succumb to death. You might as well enjoy biking in the meantime, don’t you think?” And just like that, my childish fears were thwarted.

This Father’s Day, I will be celebrating a man who never challenged my femininity, but strengthened it with strength of purpose and passion for living.

Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere!