When your best friend asks you to collaborate on a family portrait project to celebrate her extended, blended family, of course you say yes. And when she has an idea that is equal parts silly, fun and hilarious and perfectly exemplifies a family that prides itself on chaos, humour and love, you know you have to make it work. A little 1970s retro pop culture reference is just the icing on the cake!

The Silly Bunch

And then, you have a little fun.

brady bunch 2

Pro tip: When you’ve been friends for 30+ years, you cannot make faces like this in front of a camera and not expect them to end up on the Internet.

And if your photographer friend has a truly evil streak, she’ll go one step further and turn them into one of these:

Merry Christmas to my best friends in the whole world. I love you guys and I’m always happy to be a part of your crazy. :)


My bloggy peeps, I have a reindeer-palooza of fun for you today! You might have read the reindeer rant a time or two (or coughninecough) before, but now we have reindeer trivia! And photoshop! And webcams! And even reindeer on a rampage! Oh my.

But first, the rant. Because especially at Christmas, traditions matter. Also? Because Donder.

Reindeer Games: Team Donder

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen;
Comet and Cupid and DONDER and Blitzen…”

You did know that Santa’s reindeer is actually Donder and not Donner, right?

Here’s a little history lesson for you. The poem “A Visit From St Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was written back in 1823 and is generally attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore (although there have been recent arguments that the poem was in fact written by his contemporary Henry Livingston Jr.) The original poem reads, in part:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!

As explained on the Donder Home Page (no relation):

In the original publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, “Dunder and Blixem” are listed as the last two reindeer. These are very close to the Dutch words for thunder and lightning, “Donder and Bliksem”. Blixem is an alternative spelling for Bliksem, but Dunder is not an alternative spelling for Donder. It is likely that the word “Dunder” was a misprint. Blitzen’s true name, then, might actually have been “Bliksem”.

In 1994, the Washington Post delved into the matter by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material. (In past years, I’d been able to link to a Geocities site with the full text, but sadly, Geocities is no more.)

We were successful. In fact, Library of Congress reference librarian David Kresh described Donner/Donder as “a fairly open-and-shut case.” As we marshaled the evidence near Alcove 7 in the Library’s Main Reading Room a few days ago, it quickly became clear that Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” wanted to call him (or her?) “Donder.” Never mind that editors didn’t always cooperate. […] Further confirmation came quickly. In “The Annotated Night Before Christmas,” which discusses the poem in an elegantly illustrated modern presentation, editor Martin Gardner notes that the “Troy Sentinel” used “Dunder”, but dismisses this as a typo. Gardner cites the 1844 spelling as definitive, but also found that Moore wrote “Donder” in a longhand rendering of the poem penned the year before he died: “That pretty well sews it up,” concluded Kresh.

So there you have it. This Christmas season, make sure you give proper credit to Santa’s seventh reindeer. On DONDER and Blitzen. It’s a matter of family pride.

Photo of three boys and a reindeer

(Oh yes I did take that photo with this blog post in mind. Of COURSE I did!)

And now, as promised: reindeer trivia! Courtesy of mental_floss, amaze your colleagues at the office Christmas party with these clever facts about reindeer! Did you know:

  • Reindeer and caribou are more or less the same – but not quite!
  • Baby reindeer can run within 90 minutes of being born.
  • Clement Clark Moore’s poem (see above) was the first ever reference to Santa having reindeer to pull his sleigh.
  • Santa’s reindeer are most likely the R.t. platyrhynchus subspecies from the Svalbard islands off of Norway, the only reindeer that could really be considered tiny, weighing about half as much as the average reindeer species and at least a foot shorter in length.

Click through to the mental_floss article for more fun reindeer facts!

But this — THIS is my favourite find of this holiday season: the ReindeerCam! I discovered this through Twitter late last week, and have been clicking through rather regularly. It’s a live feed of Santa’s reindeer-in-training enclosure at Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Wildlife Park (“Halfway to the North Pole”!)

I find watching the reindeer strangely compelling. Santa comes out to feed the reindeer daily through Christmas at 9 am and 3:30 pm AST (that’s 8 am and 2:30 pm EST) and waves to the camera. It’s adorable!

I noticed yesterday that Santa’s sleigh had disappeared (I’m not kidding, I’m clicking through at least a couple of times each day!) and I laughed out loud when I saw what had happened. Mad reindeer on a rampage had toppled Santa’s sleigh – and of course it was all caught on camera. Naughty Donder!!

So there you go – it’s a multimedia reindeer-palooza! But don’t forget the key message here, folks – it’s Donder, not Donner. Tell your friends!


The other day when I was talking about Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids containers and the unexpected benefits of learning to cook from real ingredients, one of the things I mentioned was leftovers. When the food tastes better, the leftovers taste better too. Somehow I’m thinking this should be less of a surprise to me than it is.

You know what’s another really great use for leftovers? School lunches!

Sometime in the last year or two, I have managed to burden Beloved with the whole school lunch thing. I am not a creative lunch maker. Left to me, the kids would get this for lunch almost every day: an apple (whole), a sandwich of sorts, and a muffin or cookie or other bakery treat. Maybe a yogurt every now and then to mix things up. I’d give myself a B for nutrition, maybe a C+ for variety, but a big fat F for creativity.

Beloved is the good lunch parent. While he doesn’t craft hermit crabs out of croissants or Pokemon bento boxes (he doesn’t have a Pinterest account, after all) he will take the time to cut up an apple and sprinkle it with cinnamon, or make veggie matchsticks with dip. The bar is not high, I know, but he still puts my efforts to shame. Let’s just say he’s far more patient and creative than me, and the boys are only stuck with boring sandwiches on the days that I’m packing lunches.

The Rubbermaid folks have been thinking beyond the sandwich, too. Have you seen the LunchBlox? They’re perfect for both little kid and big person lunches. (Now that the leftovers are yummy, even the big people pack lunches for themselves!) The LunchBlox containers are perfect because they come in a variety of sizes that fit nicely together. The containers snap together for easy stacking, and the lids have a strong seal that prevents leaks but that opens easily for wee fingers. They’re also freezer, microwave and – happy sigh – dishwasher safe.

Sandwiches are boring, and these LunchBlox containers are a great way to pack kid-friendly food. You could pack a salad in one (post for another day – my kids actually love salad now! When did that happen?) and croutons in another and dressing in a third – and still have room to spare. The containers snap to each other or to the Blue Ice cooling pack to make for easy stacking and packing. I really do love these things! (Ahem, well, I love them on Beloved’s behalf. *blush*)

I actually find myself thinking of meal plans that will make for good lunch leftovers now. Some emerging favourites are pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon (because bacon!), taco fixings layered into a dip with leftover taco shells for scooping, and home made pizza.

The next frontier is getting the kids to pack their own lunches. We’re getting there – slowly. While I’m glad to see that they’re taking after Beloved and thinking beyond the sandwich, I’m not sure that an entree-sized container of goldfish with a side of grapes, some cheese cubes and four sweet and sour pickles is exactly an ideal lunch. Then again, it’s probably healthier than a baloney on white bread sandwich!

Who makes the school lunches in your family? Got an easy favourite that the kids love that I could steal and, um, suggest to Beloved? ;)

Disclosure: I am part of the Rubbermaid Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are always my own.


Do you have all your holiday shopping done? Still looking for the perfect gift, or maybe filling in a few last-minute gaps? You’ll find a little something for everyone at the Ottawa Originals Christmas Craft Show, and I’ve got two pair of tickets to give away – but you’d better be quick! This giveaway is only 24 hours long.

There will be over 200 artisans exhibiting their wares at the show, which runs today through December 21 at the EY Centre. Here are some of the special promotions that will run through the show:

Fridays, turn Holiday shopping into couple’s time. Leave the kids at home and enjoy a date night while crossing names off your list. All couples will be granted 2 for 1 admission from 5pm – 9pm on Friday, December 12 & 19th.

Bring a friend and come on out to Originals to visit the new artisans who have just joined us on Tuesday, December 16

Avoid the hustle bustle of the malls and enjoy a leisurely day of shopping. Seniors aged 65 + receive 2 for 1 entrance all day Wednesday, December 17.

STROLLER DAYS 2 for 1 Offer
Come on out and shop with the kids! Every parent with a baby in tow will be granted 2 for 1 admission on Tuesday December 17 to Thursday December 19 inclusive. Grab a friend and make it a date!

#121212 #12photos hourly photo project 1 pm  - at the craft show

Or, you could win one of two pairs of tickets from me! You’ve got to be quick, though – this giveaway is only running for 24 hours! To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post (not on Facebook) telling me who is the hardest person to buy for on your Christmas list.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a pair of (that’s TWO) tickets to the Originals Ottawa Christmas Craft Show, which runs December 11 to 21, 2014.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me who is the hardest person to buy for on your Christmas list.
  3. TWO winners will be chosen at random from all comments posted. Each winner will receive TWO tickets.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 9 am EST on Friday December 12, 2014.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your name and contact information with the Originals Craft Show. Winners will pick up their tickets at the “will call” window.

Thank you to the Originals Craft Show for providing tickets to give away and a set for me too. Good luck!

Edited to add: Congratulations to smothermother and Rebekah for winning the tickets. Thanks to everyone!


And *this* is what makes my endless curation of family moments worth while.

Christmas 2014:

Tree decorating 2014

Christmas 2013:

O Christmas Tree - 2013

Christmas 2012:

Christmas tree decorating 2012-10

Christmas 2011:

Three around the tree again!

Christmas 2010 (our first in Manotick and our first with a natural tree):

553:1000 The Great Christmas Tree Adventure 2010

Christmas 2009 (in the midst of my first Project 365):

319:365 Guess what we did today?

It looks like I didn’t take any photos while we decorated the tree in 2006, 2007 or 2008, but I did a genuine little “awwwwww!” of delight when I found this one hiding in the archives on Flickr.

Christmas 2005 – Tristan is three and Simon not quite two.


Oh my goodness, that seems like yesterday — and a million years ago!

Also? Apparently I love to take photos of the back of Lucas’s head!


Bloggy gratitude

by DaniGirl on December 8, 2014 · 2 comments

in How I love the Interwebs

There are a lot of needy things in my life, and I’ll be the first to admit that blog has slowly slid down the hierarchy of things that get my attention. Facebook steals all my short-form content and impulsive commentary, and while I still love to write for blog, finding the time to get all my good ideas out of my murky brain and into the computer in anything that even remotely resembles a coherent narrative is proving more and more challenging as the years go by. Poor old blog is sort of like the third child in the family these days. It’s no less loved and no less deserving of attention, but it sort of has to learn to fend for itself in the cacophony of all the other needy things making endless demands on my shrinking attention span. And, like the third child, I’m always surprised and delighted when it manages to thrive despite my best intentions stewed in a cocktail of love and benign neglect.

I saw on Twitter earlier this week that the blog had been nominated in the Best Family and Parenting Blog category of the Canadian Weblog Awards, and I was so touched. Here I feel like I’ve been dialing it in for the last little while, and (at least?) one of you still loves the blog enough to take the time to nominate it. Thank you! “They do still love me!” I thought to myself. I clicked through and took a peek to see who else had been nominated, and saw there were more than 100 other amazing blogs that had also been nominated – really a who’s who of the best of the Canadian blogosphere. I smiled and sighed and got distracted by something shiny and pretty much forgot about it.

And then Saturday morning, I was playing on Twitter and nearly fell off my chair when I saw a tweet saying the blog had been shortlisted to the group of five finalists not only in the Best Family and Parenting category but in the Life category as well. Whaaaaaat?! For reals?? I was gobsmacked, not to put too fine a point on it. Shortlisted – twice?

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards nominee 2014 Canadian Weblog Awards nominee

There were over 100 blogs nominated in each of these two categories, lists comprising many of the best blogs in Canada. I am truly and absolutely shocked to have made the top five in either, let alone both. I’ve always liked the Canadian Weblog Awards because they’re very inclusive – anyone can make a nomination – and they’re a juried competition. Real people visit each blog and make notes and give scores to create the list of top five nominees in each category, and then they do it all over again to determine the top three. I looked at all the other blogs who made the top five in each category and I gotta say, I’m genuinely honoured to have made the cut. The winners in each category will be announced December 15 after another round of juried review, but I’ve already won this one in my heart. I don’t need a first- or second- or third- place ribbon, I am truly honoured to have made it this far.

You probably know by now that your affection and interaction and adulation (too far? I always push it too far) are the fuel that runs this blog. I tried doing it for fame and for money, but in the end I can’t help coming back to doing it for love. In fact, I’ve struggled this whole post between referring to the nomination in the third person (you nominated the blog) and in the first person (you nominated me) because they are so inextricably intertwined.

I feel pangs of regret every now and then that I haven’t devoted more attention to the blog. Sometimes I feel like I’m mired back in 2007, and there are all sorts of interactive gizmos and fancy widgets I should be installing to make your experience more modern. Is it a complete anachronism to worry that the blog is getting old fashioned? Sigh. I’ll have to rely on the content and not the flashy packaging to keep you coming back!

All that to say, in a rambly way that absolutely lacks both flashy widgets and a coherent narrative: thank you. Thank you to Schmutzie for continuing to support the Canadian Weblog Awards, and thank you to the lovely peep(s) kind enough to nominate the blog, and thank you to the jurors who screened the blog through to the top five. But mostly, thanks to all of you – the new readers and the ones who have been reading and commenting and kibitzing and making this such a fun place to play for the best part of the last decade. You’ve inspired me and delighted me – and now I’ll never shut up. :)

Edited to add: hey, wow, lookit that! I’m number two!!

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards winner

Silly old blog placed second overall in the “Life” category. Yay! This makes me very happy, and very proud. Thank you!


Photo(s) of the day: Christmas tree quest 2014

7 December 2014 Photo of the Day

I don’t know what it is about the light at the Thomas Tree Farm near North Gower, but I always love the portraits I take of the boys there. I can’t believe we resisted getting a natural tree for so many years – getting the tree has turned into one of our favourite family traditions. [...]

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Ingredient of the week: Home made vanilla extract

4 December 2014 Feed me, Seymour!

Here’s a fun and easy although not entirely inexpensive little project: make yer own vanilla extract! You can thank Chef Michael Smith for this one. Beloved and I have been taping old episodes of his series Chef at Home from the Food Network and watching them on the weekends. One episode he made a passing [...]

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Photo of the day: My Name is Donder

3 December 2014 Ah, me boys

This might be one of my favourite Christmas photos of the boys ever. My friend Henry on Flickr gave this one an alternate title that I also really like: we’re going to need a bigger wagon! Fun, right? The expression on the reindeer slays me. That’s a Donder face if there ever was one. This [...]

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Photo of the day: Bella listening

2 December 2014 Photo of the Day

This was originally just a throwaway photo I snapped of Bella while I was getting my camera ready for something else, but I love how it captured the intensity her personality. She looks at us like that all the time, as if she is hanging on our every word. She may drive me bananas with [...]

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