What better way to save and remember a fleeting moment in time than photos? This family is leaving behind a home they loved for a new adventure, and wanted a custom photography session to document their affectionate memories of the home where they were married and started raising their young family.

The morning was grey and drizzling rain as I made my way to Hintonburg. It didn’t rain while we were shooting, but the humidity and slightly muddy ground did not do much for the look of the photographer – good thing I was behind the camera. However, the muted light from the morning overcast made for some lovely, contrasty portraits.

At home in Hintonburg

See that yellow dump truck? The mother laughingly mentioned that it was like a fifth member of the family. Watch how many times it appears in the photos.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Did I mention three-year-olds are AWESOME? (No irony or sarcasm intended – I seriously love the personality in this photo.)

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Speaking of personality:

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

I have a soft spot for the in-between moments, too.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

While this looks scripted, most of it came together organically. I was posing the grown-ups and the kids were just being kids in the foreground, so I stopped and grabbed my camera. The kiss was just a lucky capture. I think that’s where my favourite photos come from: a little bit of direction, a lot of personality, one eye on the composition and the other eye on the light, and a whacktonne of serendipity.

Photos of a family at their home in Ottawa

And just like that, a morning of memories of a favourite place, a moment in time, and a beautiful family full of love.


{ 0 comments }

We’ve been meaning to do something about the sofa for quite some time now. Funny, not too long ago I came across the blog post I wrote in 2008 when we bought it. It’s been a great couch – oversized and slouchy, with plenty of room and plenty of tolerance for being at the hub of a busy life full of boys, dogs, cats, visitors, and a lot of spilled coffee.

blog Ikea old pillows and sofa

While it’s a comfy couch, it’s starting to look more than a little bedraggled. How did I let the pillows get to this state of threadbaseness? Life is busy, yanno?

blog Ikea old pillows

Also, I have to admit that the green and red colour scheme has worn almost as thin as the pillows. Since the first year we came back from PEI, I’ve had in my head that I’d like a “sand and sea” colour scheme in the living room. There’s no room for geometric green and red in my sand and sea vision.

A new sofa is simply not in the budget for now, though. As long as the existing one (and its durable chair-and-a-half companion piece, not shown) continue to do their jobs of keeping our collective toushies off the floor and are not visibly leaking stuffing or aggressively poking us with springs, we’ll tolerate the barely noticeable central sag in the frame.

We’ve been spending a LOT of time in IKEA this summer for a fun new project which will be announced anon. Part of that project was the rolling out of a beautiful new MARSLEV rug which DID match my vision of a sand and sea colour scheme, but which definitely did NOT match with the red and green cushions. You can see it peeking out under the “before” picture above. A new couch was not part of the project, nor were cushion covers. However, when I was perusing the Ikea website and saw not only that they had cushion covers that would fit both the large back cushions and the smaller cushions, and that they had them in colours that were within the realm of sand and sea AND harmonized with the new MARSLEV rug, I could not resist.

Originally, we were going to replace the red and keep the green to harmonize with the new blue cushions, but it was altogether a bit too cool. Instead, we kept the red for a bit of a PEI sandstone flavour, and covered the large green back cushions with a pair of deep turquoise SANELA cushion covers. We also covered the embarrassingly raggedy smaller throws with a pair of light blue SANELA covers, and kept a hint of green and beige with a contrasting OTTIL cover on the third one.

Whenever dealing with IKEA projects, I build potential exasperation with non-standard measurements into the plan. However, to my delight, each pillow fit snugly and exactly into the cushion covers. They were snug enough that I had to work to get them in, but that tautness makes the pillows look fresh and full.

Voilà, a brand new sand and sea colour scheme (and an end to those awful, threadbare cushions!)

blog Ikea new pillows

Total project cost: $62 in cushion covers, 10 minutes of effort. I’m so thrilled with the results! We’re now well on our way to that sand and sea colour scheme, AND we’ve averted the need to even consider browsing for new living room furniture for at least a year or so. That’s a huge double win in my books!

To my delight (and, let’s be honest, surprise) the colours pick up beautifully on the re-upholstered IKEA dining room chairs that I fixed up the last time I was feeling crafty. (Hey, I’m half Scottish and half Dutch; if I can extend the life of an existing piece rather than dump it in the landfill and buy more stuff, I’ll do that every single time!)

Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about my new IKEA project soon!

(By the way, this was not in any way a sponsored post. I have been working with IKEA, but it was simply proximity to their products – and a lifelong love of IKEA – that inspired this instant-renovation.)


{ 3 comments }

I was poking around in the archives looking for something and found this story from 2009. Given that we’re creeping up on back to school time, not to mention the enduring family fascination with Pokemon, I thought it would be a good story to re-share. Heading into high school next month and he’s still a Pokemon fan!

PokeTristan

Way back in early summer, Tristan saw a Pokémon backpack at Walmart, and every time the subject of back-to-school came up this summer, Tristan pined for that Pokémon backpack. He was due for a new one, as his Disney Cars one had held up remarkably well through both Senior Kindergarten and Grade One, so I had no problem with him getting a new one this year.

I was picking up a few things back-to-school items at Walmart (I do try to avoid it, but sometimes the siren song of convenience and cheap are hard to resist) one day, and saw the backpack with which he was so enamoured. I reached out to pick it up, and knew the moment I touched it that it was crap. It was thin, plasticky, and looked like it would fall apart in a hard rain. It was only $10, though.

For a few minutes, I played out possible scenarios in my mind. I bring home the backpack, and Tristan is ecstatic. It would definitely help overcome any potential back-to-school blues. The boy is seriously obsessed with Pokémon — not a day goes by that he doesn’t crank out two or three or eleven Pikachu and Tristan-the-Pokémon-Trainer drawings. $10 is easily worth that much joy.

But — the thing is going to fall apart inside of a month. Will he be heartbroken? Will we have to duct tape it back together on a regular basis, so that by December it’s more repair than backpack? Will we be able to negotiate an acceptable replacement? Will his homework be strewn all over the playground on a regular basis?

I decide on a carpé diem kind of approach, and figure we’ll deal with whatever repairs or replacements are required later. I pick the backpack up and put it in my cart, and that’s when the wave of chemical smell hits me. The thing *reeks* of that plasti-vinyl PVC stench that you just know must be toxic. (Oh look, it really is toxic. Lurvely.)

I put it back on the shelf. I can’t expose my kid to this. He’ll carry this every single day — and keep his lunch in it. I look at Pikachu. He’s been coveting this backpack all summer. Am I that mother, the one who denies her kid all the funnest stuff because of her personal agenda? I pick it up with the intention of giving it another sniff, but I don’t even have to get it up to my nose to smell it. I put it in the cart and pace around the store a while.

Eventually, I decide that I’ll buy it but not show it to him. I’ll look around online and in some other stores and see if I can find a Pokémon backpack that’s somewhat less nuclear than this one. I shop around a bit, but can’t find anything similar. I do find a really nice red and blue Roots backpack (I have a pathological addiction to Roots products, I’m not sure why) and buy that one too. It’s really nice, with lots of pockets and hooks and places to stash a seven-year-old’s treasures — but it’s not Pokémon. When I get in the car, I can actually smell the PVC smell from the bag sitting in the hot car, it’s that strong.

The whole way home, I agonize. I really, really don’t want him to have this particular backpack, but he has had his heart set on it for months. I can always tell him that they don’t carry them, that I couldn’t find them, but we’ll likely run into the problem all over again next time he’s in Walmart. He’s getting too old to trick. I get home and leave all the packages in the car. I surf eBay and a few other online places, all the while wishing (for the first and likely only time) that my computer had smell-O-vision so I could sniff the various wares for sale, but I don’t see anything remotely enticing.

Finally, I decide that I’ll leave it up to Tristan to decide. I’m not sure if I’m empowering him or chickening out. Maybe both? I tell him that I looked at the Pokémon backpack, but that I really thought it was a piece of junk. (He gets that his mother has quality issues. “It’s a piece of junk” is a frequent reason for being denied something shiny that has caught his eye.) I explain my concerns about the chemicals, and the smell, and the quality. I cross my fingers and tell him that I did find a backpack that I thought was really nice, but not Pokémon. I’m watching his face pretty closely, and have watched comprehension and disappointment flicker through his eyes. Now his face brightens as I suggest that maybe we can get a Pokémon keychain (see previous comment re: junk) to decorate this bag.

“Oh yeah,” he says, and enthusiasm lights his face like sunshine after a storm. “We can get some stickers, and I can draw some pictures.” And just like that, we’re good. I’m so relieved and so proud I want to cry.

The next morning, I notice the new backpack sitting by the front door. It has a Pikachu keychain dangling from one zipper, and a few other Pokémon tied to the straps with long bits of string. A fresh picture of Pikachu and Tristan-the-Pokémon-Trainer has been scotch-taped to the front, and there is a Pokémon trading card tucked in the mesh bottle holder. It is, by far, the most lovely Pokémon backpack I’ve ever seen.


{ 0 comments }

When Liz got in touch to book for family portraits, I knew we’d have fun working together. She had been looking at her backyard to see which time of day had the best light. Yay! The only thing photographers love more than fun, friendly subjects is fun, friendly subjects in awesome light. There may have been mention of a three-year-old (I think I’ve been clear on my feelings about three year old, yes?) but I glossed it over in my mind. A fun family at play in their own back yard in the late afternoon summer sun? What could possibly go wrong?

A willful three-year-old and her brother. That’s what could go wrong. Maybe it was a full moon, maybe the kids were tired after a long, fun summer day. Whatever it was, the kids were bananas. They weren’t interested in sitting still. AT ALL. They were pinging off the furniture, each other and the fence in a euphoria of energy expenditure. It was all we grown-ups could do but laugh, and laugh we did. We tried bribes, games, threats and cajoling, but there did come a point where we began to wonder how we’d ever get a couple of decent family pictures.

In situations like this, I’ve learned a couple of tricks. One is keep shooting. Watch for the moments in between the frenzy, and you can often get a great portrait of a kid with their personality shining through. Another is to stay cool and roll with it. Lucky for me, Liz and Ed have a great sense of humour and were good-natured in their exasperation. When I suggested we get down on the grass, they got down on the grass. Sit over here, try this, what about this? They were game. And I just kept shooting with one eye on the light, one eye on the composition, and one speedy trigger finger.

In the end, what we ended up with was not a perfectly posed family sitting placidly on a blanket and gazing at the camera. We ended up with a gallery that still makes me giggle when I look at the proofs. This family is REAL, y’all.

Informal fun photo portraits of a family in Ottawa by Danielle Donders

Through the course of the evening, we had photos with Minecraft, Star Wars, winter mitts and a toque, a purple sparkly bow (like, bow and arrow bow, not like hair bow) and a lion’s tail. With a little patience and a couple of popsicles, we ended up with a fun and funny proof gallery full of personality. These are the sort of family stories I truly love to capture!

shenanigans collage 2

Informal fun photo portraits of a family in Ottawa by Danielle Donders

Shenanigans-5

Informal fun photo portraits of a family in Ottawa by Danielle Donders

Shenanigans-6

photograph of a happy smiling family

So! Much! Laughter! This really was a fun story to tell. I knew by the end of the evening that Liz was a little unsure about how the photos were going to turn out, but as I laughed my way through editing the gallery, I knew there were photos that would forever remind the family of the beautiful chaos that is the gift of life with silly, energetic and playful kids.


{ 3 comments }

When people ask me if I photograph weddings, the answer is usually a tentative “sort of.” I love love love the idea of weddings, but I find them a dizzying mixture of touching, terrifying, inspiring, exhausting and amazing. It’s such a huge honour to be invited to document such an important day, but I fret so much leading up to the wedding that I’ve often worked myself into a froth by the time the actual wedding begins.

I have a special love for small, intimate weddings infused with a sense of playfulness, so when Ben and Melanie contacted me earlier this summer I was immediately intrigued. A small wedding at the park? Sounds delightful! No reception coverage needed? Love that! And Ben’s email was full of charm and fun. I knew they’d be a great couple to work with, and I couldn’t resist accepting the job.

On the weekend, we met at Ottawa’s lovely Andrew Haydon Park to walk through the wedding site and talk about ideas. I brought my camera along – of course I did, when do I ever leave it at home?! – both to make a mental notebook for myself, and with the idea that I’d give Melanie and Ben a few snapshots of them together as a sort of complimentary engagement shoot.

Then they were so adorable I couldn’t stop taking pictures. They quickly learned what most of my photo clients and especially my kids know all too well: when I say “just one more” I am usually lying through my teeth. “Just one [dozen] more” is much more like it! But seriously, how could I resist?

ride and groom to be in photographs at the park

Bride and groom to be in photographs at the park

ride and groom to be in photographs at the park

B and M at the park-6

They chose to get married in this park because Melanie calls it one of her favourite places in Ottawa. I have to agree, it’s a beautiful place and it’s long been one of my favourites, too. This is her favourite spot in her favourite park, a little hidden gem of riverside solitude just a few steps away from the grassy plain where the ceremony will take place.

B and M at the park

And on a gorgeous summer evening when the sun begins to set and the skies are ablaze with colour, you just know that Mother Nature feels the same way about Ben and Melanie.

B and M at the park-2

B and M at the park-7

Fun, right? It was a beautiful evening to be wandering the park. One interesting challenge we’ll face on the day of the wedding is that Andrew Haydon Park is a hotbed for Pokemon Go players, so on a sunny summer afternoon, we’ll be sharing the park (and, eep, parking lots!) with the usual folks who enjoy the park on the weekend, plus an influx of people chasing Charmander, Pikachu and Squirtle. It would probably be unprofessional of me to be leveling up in between shots, right?

Of course I am kidding. But I am also really, really excited to be a part of the fun wedding of these two adorable people. Let the fretting begin!


{ 2 comments }

Let’s try something new!

Would you like the chance to win a piece of custom made sea glass jewellery and to see a live demo of the sea glass wrapping techniques I learned while we were on PEI? Join my Facebook Live event on Friday, August 5 at 1:30 pm EDT!

seaglass wrapping FB live

We’re coming under increasing pressure to host Facebook Live events at my day job, and I need to test-drive the technology. Freshly back from PEI and still thinking about my newly acquired sea glass wrapping habit, and idea was hatched.

One of our favourite activities during our PEI vacation this year was combing the beach for sea glass. (We have a long family tradition of enjoying the hunt!) We collected a lot (no seriously, A LOT!) of sea glass, and by chance toward the end of our trip I stumbled upon a woman offering affordable sea glass wire wrapping classes, so all five of us tried it out.

seaglass collage

And a new addiction was born. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s something productive to do with the metric tonne of seaglass we currently have stashed all over the house. Must! Wrap! All! The! Seaglass!

So I’ve been having fun with it, and I guess it was at the back of my mind this week when I was back at work and thinking about how I might test out Facebook Live with a broadcast that was both straightforward for me and not mind-numbingly boring for the viewer. I had great feedback from friends on Facebook about the sea glass wire-wrapping…. and here we are!

Here’s the plan: I’ll be broadcasting live on Postcards from the Mothership’s Facebook page on Friday, August 5 at 1:30 pm EDT. A Facebook Live is basically an interactive webinar. You watch the video feed, and you can interact by typing comments on the page. It will be very, very informal. I just need to get a better understanding of how the technology works in real time, and I’d be super grateful for any comments you can post during the actual broadcast so I can see how it works. If you do participate (during the Live event only, not after it’s just a recorded video), I will enter you into a draw for a custom made piece of wire-wrapped sea glass. They’re quite lovely, if I do say so myself, and you’ll be delighted at how easy they are! (Shhhhh, don’t tell!)

Fun, right? Two birds with one stone (erm, piece of glass) and a shiny bit of wire. Win!

Edited to add: I don’t guarantee that I’ll keep it up forever, but for now you can view the archived broadcast on Postcards from the Mothership’s Facebook page!


{ 0 comments }

In which she waxes poetic about the wonders of Pokemon Go

31 July 2016 5 things

So, Pokemon Go. Right? It’s insanely popular. It’s taken over the conversation online, but what’s really stunning is to go to a local park or landmark and see how it really is EVERYWHERE. I have never seen anything like it. As mom to three boys, I know a little bit about Charmander and Squirtle and […]

2 comments Read the full article →

Photo of the day: Our annual Flavour Shack family portrait

25 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Back in 2014 when we visited PEI for the first time, one of our favourite stops was Chef Michael Smith’s Flavour Shack on Souris Beach. We met a passel of lovely women who all seemed to work for Chef Michael in some form or another, and one of them was a photographer named Loretta. She […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Photo of the day: “Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett

24 July 2016 Lucas

Only time for a quick photo today. This is from Basin Head – of course. “Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Rediscovering Basin Head

20 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Basin Head beach was our first favourite place on Prince Edward Island. Clearly, lots of other people agree with us: Basin Head was recently named by Chatelaine as one of Canada’s Best Beaches. One of the main reasons I chose our current cottage is because it’s perfectly situated on the same coastal area as Basin […]

3 comments Read the full article →