We’ve had our dining room chairs for 15 years now. The summer we got married, we got them from the As-Is bin at Ikea, I know because the words “as is” are still written on the underside of them in indelible sharpie. For the $30 or so we paid for them, they’ve been worth their weight in gold – three moves, two dining room tables, three sloppy kids from high chairs to boosters to toddlers and beyond, and two puppies with the need to gnaw on things.

Back in 2007, when Tristan was five and Simon was three and Lucas was but a twinkle of an idea, the chairs were looking a little rough so I re-upholstered them. (Man, I have been blogging a l-o-o-o-n-g time! Blog is starting to outlast some of the fixtures and furniture!!) Seven years later, they were looking pretty ragged (actually, they started looking pretty ragged at least a year ago, and Bella did not do much to ameliorate the situation) and I’ve been idly thinking about re-re-upholstering them for quite a while.

Beloved and I were running errands in Ikea the other day and we found a pattern we liked, so I picked up three metres’ worth for the princely sum of $30. I vastly overestimated how much I’d need, but I figure I can stash the extras in case of emergency deployment of red wine or other indelible stain. If I were true to form, the bolt of material would sit untouched for months or perhaps years before I actually got around to doing anything with it, but it’s vacation season and my eyes were crossing from editing photos from my latest session, so I thought I’d see if upholstering the chairs would be as painless as I remembered.

Astonishingly, it was. Start to finish, stripping and upholstering five chairs took less than two hours. Here’s one “before” and one “after” chair – you can see why we thought perhaps it was time to re-cover them! I especially like the bit where the entire seam is torn out and you can see the original cushion. It’s only been like that for eight or nine months.

I had considered simply wrapping the new fabric around the earlier re-upholstery job, but decided it would likely be lumpy. The most time-consuming, if not difficult, part of the job was pulling out the staples and de-upholstering the 2007 job. I recruited minions to do that while I worked on the new upholstery.

The actual upholstering is dead easy. I cut the fabric into polygons the same shape as the cushion, leaving a margin of about a hand-width on all sides.

I centered the cushion in the middle and folded up one edge, doubling it over and tucking the raw seam under to make it a little stronger. One staple in the middle, turn 180 degrees and do the same on the opposite side, pulling the fabric taut but not so tight it pulled at the staples on the opposite side, then popped in another staple. At this point, I flipped the works over to make sure I liked where the pattern was centred and, erm, to ensure I was stapling the fabric right side up. (Never assume, my mother taught me.) I specifically chose this pattern because it would be very forgiving – no lines that must be straight, and the print pattern was random enough that it could go just about any which way, and small enough that it didn’t really matter where I centred the cushion. Very forgiving!

Once I was happy with how it was lined up, it was just a matter of doing the same to the other two sides and then stapling about a hundred more staples around each seam. Staples are cheap, don’t be stingy with them!

I didn’t take a close-up of the corners, but I more or less combined the way you tuck in a sheet to make hospital corners (I suck at making beds) with the way you make corners with gift wrap when you’re wrapping a present (I am much better at wrapping gifts.) The fabric is fairly forgiving, so I sort of made it up for each corner, but I did cut a triangle off the end of each corner to reduce the bulk of the fold. Just don’t cut too close to your edge or it will come untucked and fray. And staple the holy snot out of it.

I’m really happy with how they came out, and the fact that I managed to avoid stapling my finger to anything. I figure we’re good for another six or seven years. We’re certainly getting our As-Is money’s worth out of these chairs. :) And then to top off a productive day, I made slow cooker bacon jalapeno beans, roast pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon (thank you Chef Michael Smith!) and roasted Roots and Shoots summer veggies – potatoes, onions, beets and carrots. Damn, I should take a vacation more often!


This sweet family came for portraits on the porch today. Aren’t they lovely – erm, I mean lovely and handsome.


I am so used to chasing toddlers and preschoolers lately, it was a bit of a relief to work with people who actually sit still for more than three seconds at a time. :) Sadly, they weren’t too interested in posing on my little red wagon though. (Actually, they were such a fun and funny group that I am pretty sure that if I pulled out the wagon they would have totally rolled with it!)

Their mom had asked me for advice about how to dress for the session and I loved how she pulled everyone’s outfits together. I always suggest choosing two or three dominant and coordinating colours and dress the family as a unit, in the same way you try to coordinate your own outfit every day. They all had various tones of blues with bits of greys and white for accent, and they all came together so well!

I’ll share more photos from this fun family portrait session soon!


Summer of the fox

by DaniGirl on July 25, 2014 · 2 comments

in Ottawa Family Fun

Summer 2014 is shaping up to be the summer of the fox around here. It started with Tristan adopting the fox as his favourite animal recently. One of his hyphenated surnames sort of looks like the French word for fox, which led to the translation of our family name as “Thunder Fox”, which is a pretty good gamer name. There were foxes in PEI that den in the sand dunes, although despite his best efforts we didn’t see one.

Foxes have been in the media this week, too. There was the real fox found sleeping in an OC Transpo bus:

Funny, I follow Stu Mills on Twitter and listen to CBC Ottawa every morning, but I heard this story when we were out of town in southern Ontario. That’s one little #BusFox who has legs – Stu’s original tweet has been re-tweeted more than 2,000 times!

And I totally got sucked in by this story about a little environmentalist fox who kept breaking into a cafeteria for employees of the tar sands operation in Alberta and pooping on the kitchen fixtures for at least long enough to share it on Facebook – until I realized it was from a satire site similar to the Onion. Oh well. it was still a good story.

The best foxes by far, in my humble opinion, are the two baby foxes that have been adopted by Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo. When we got back from PEI and heard that Little Ray’s had two baby foxes, we hustled out there with the boys. I swear, every time we go to Little Ray’s I wonder why we don’t go more often. Once a year is just not enough! I never leave without learning something, and the boys always enjoy the critters.

Little Ray's Reptile Zoo

Ha, can you see the expression on Beloved’s face in the bottom picture? He does not appreciate the snakes so much.

We enjoyed the reptile show (heh, some of us liked the snake parts more than others), but we LOVED this special guest at the feeding show:

what did the fox say

An 11 week old baby red fox. Isn’t he gorgeous? And the kids got to pet him, too. Such a lovely creature. If you’re looking for something to do with the kids this summer, Little Ray’s is one of the best places in town for a family adventure, whether you’re a fox fan or not.


How often do you get to see FIVE generations in the same room?

Five generations

That’s Beloved’s grandmother, his father, his sister, our niece and our grand-nephew. Isn’t that extraordinary?


I am the first to admit that when I launched my portrait business four years ago this month, there was a lot I didn’t know. I’ve learned so much about using or creating light, posing, interacting with subjects, the effect of various focal lengths, and digital post-processing to name but a few.

In the end, though, sometimes all you have to do is show up and point the camera in the right direction, because the cute speaks for itself. I mean, really, does it get any cuter than these two?

Portrait of sisters on a red wagon by photographer Danielle Donders

Sometimes the hardest part of a photo session is not keeping the adorable kids for myself at the end of the day!

More photos from this fun porch portrait photo session soon – if you think these two are cute, you should see the whole family!


It’s been a week since we left PEI. I think maybe I’m drawing out the blogging of our vacation so I can continue to relive it in real time. We haven’t really left until the blog posts are done, right?

You might remember that through a fluke of good timing our departure was conveniently scheduled for the very day Hurricane Arthur was skimming its way up the Atlantic coast toward the Maritimes. As we regretfully packed up the car and headed back across the Island to the Confederation Bridge and then across the southern boundary of New Brunswick, we kept a wary eye on the (generally benign) summer skies. Interestingly, the temperature plummeted 10C and fog rolled in as we passed through St John, and then just as abruptly burned off again as we continued on toward the border at Saint Stephen.

We’d chosen that route, as opposed to Google Map’s suggestion to cross at Houlton, Maine and zip down the I-95, because I hate to backtrack, and the idea of driving all the way back to Woodstock NB, where we had stayed our first night, and then continuing for two more hours on to Skowhegan Maine down the interstate seemed unnecessary repetition. What I didn’t account for is how desolate the highway is through Maine from Calais to Bangor – yikes! Very little cellular reception, lots of abandoned and derelict properties, and not a soul on the roads. With a hurricane pending. You can imagine our discomfort. Also, while the drive on the New Brunswick side of the border seemed a lot less, um, downtrodden, it was pretty much the same as every NB highway I’ve seen – trees, trees and more trees. No offense to my friends who live in or hail from New Brunswick, but something about the province just makes me itch to be able to get through it more quickly. Maybe that’s why the speed limit is 110 km/h?

Regardless, we made it to Bangor just as the rain started, and made it on to Skowhegan without much more ado. Of course, having arrived on Independence Day made it a bit more challenging to find an open place for dinner, but when we did stumble across the Whit’s End Bar & Grill (thank you Trip Advisor!) we found an excellent family restaurant with fantastic fried haddock. Yum!

With not much else to do, the rain becoming more insistent and a few hours to kill until bedtime, we entertained ourselves in the tiny convenience store appended to a gas station where we marveled over the selection of American candy. No, we don’t get out much. Beloved found candy for grown-ups too: a whole selection of Duck Commander wine! You find all the classiest treats in the gas bar!

Another thing I learned on this trip is that you get better service and a greater willingness to accommodate families of five travelers in smaller motels than in the big chains. The Belmont Motel was cheap, clean and more than willing to offer up a cot for an extra child into a room with two queen beds, and cheaper by half than the Best Western that would officially only accommodate four of us. Plus the owner and his cat were both charmers.

By Saturday morning, we all just wanted to be back home. The soggy remnants of Hurricane Arthur ensured a constant driving rain, although no significant winds in our neck of the woods at least, and the wet grey morning perfectly matched my mood as Tim Horton’s failed to deliver a restaurant in Skowhegan that was clearly indicated on the Timmy Me app. Luckily for everyone but me, there was a WalMart with a Dunkin Donuts directly across from the motel, so our most basic coffee needs were met and Beloved managed to collect some of his favourite American sugar bomb cereals to bring home.

The last lesson we learned on the way home is to be careful when travelling through rural Maine and following a printout of Google Maps because of the spotty cellular coverage that you don’t veer left when you were supposed to forge ahead. Although we had passed a few signs assuring us the Canadian border was less than 50 miles ahead, when we’d driven for more than an hour up and then down and then up again on twisty mountain roads and we suddenly found ourselves in Hillbilly Hills, New Hampshire instead of Canada but still with no cellular signal – well, you can imagine our dismay. This is the route we should have followed.

This is the route we actually followed, which added not the optimistic 30 minutes that Google Maps supposes, but I’m guessing at least 90 minutes to the full trip.

The good news is that our little detour was truly gorgeous – we passed Sugarloaf, the Green Mountaints and the Dixville Notch (population 12) as well as endless hunting and fishing camps, but alarmingly few gas stations and other signs of civilization. And did I mention no cellular signal? Yeah. We did see a moose, though, so that was kind of cool!

My Maine moose

Sadly, he didn’t know the way to Canada, either. Eventually, blessedly, we picked up a signal and oriented ourselves to a small border crossing at Canaan, which may have been in either New Hampshire or Vermont – by that time, I’d lost track. We pointed ourselves in that direction, figured out the most direct route, and promptly got stuck in Colebrook NH as we tried to turn on to Route 3 N, aka Main Street Colebrook, and got stuck watching their Independence Day parade, delayed by a day by Hurricane Arthur. Vexed yet AGAIN by a hurricane! So that added another good 20 – 30 minutes to the trip, but by that time all we could do was laugh. Well, Beloved and I laughed. The kids were not nearly so amused by the parade as one might have expected. Even kid nerves can be worn a little thin by excessive amounts of travel delays and mishaps, I guess.

We did eventually make it back into Canada, and were delighted by the four bars of cellular access and the wide, flat, well-populated highways of the Eastern Townships. Such amazingly gorgeous countryside that is – and all we wanted to do was zip through it as fast as the speed limit would carry us. We finally did make it home about two hours later than I’d estimated leaving the motel in Skowhagen, but we made it intact and without serious mishap.

And hey, it’s all good when it makes for good bloggy fodder, right?


Photo of the day: World cup fever

11 July 2014 Photo of the Day

About a week or two into the World Cup, Simon came home asking for a soccer ball called a Brazuca. He and his friends played World Cup soccer each day at recess, rotating who would be each country, and he wanted to play at home, too. My suggestion that he play with one of the [...]

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Photo of the day: Lupins at the seashore

9 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

One of the unexpected beauties of our trip to Prince Edward Island were the beautiful pink, purple, yellow and cream lupins growing wild almost everywhere we went. These ones were growing between the dunes at Basin Head provincial park, but they were in just about every vista we saw. I don’t remember ever seeing them [...]

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Mastermind Toys is now open in Barrhaven and you could win a gift card!

8 July 2014 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

I‘m taking a break from All-PEI-All-The-Time blogging to share a terrific little bit of news that hits a little closer to home. Did you hear that my very favourite toy store, Mastermind Toys, has opened a Barrhaven location? You might remember last year I blogged about it when they opened their first store in Ottawa, [...]

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Photo of the day: Beach jump!

7 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

I wouldn’t have thought a rocky beach would be preferable to a sandy beach. Luckily, the beach at Greenwich PEI National Park has both gorgeous sand and great big red sandstone rocks for jumping. This is one of my favourite photos of the trip. It says summer and sand and sea and play – all [...]

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