Ah, me boys

Nothing makes Lucas happier than creative work – drawing, painting, building.

And nothing makes me happier than bright colours and interesting photo opportunities.

Sunday art project documentary photography

That’s a win-win, wouldn’t you agree?


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The year we moved to Manotick was the year we swapped our almost 20 year old artificial tree for a (formerly) live one. Though I had never had a “real” tree, we have come to love our annual Christmas tree quest and I could not imagine ever going back to an artificial tree.

Conveniently, 2010 is also the year I launched my photography business. Fun to see both how much the boys have grown and how much I have grown as a photographer over the years!

2010: they were babies!!

The Great Christmas Tree Adventure 2010

2011: clearly I hadn’t unlocked the mysteries of white balance because everything is blue.

Searching for a tree

2012: the year we discovered Thomas Tree Farm, where we’ve gone every year since. Also, the year Tristan was big enough to take over one end of the tree.

Christmas tree quest 2012-6

2013: Lucas is wearing the coat today that Simon was wearing that day.

Christmas Tree Quest 2013

2014: I never noticed before that it’s always Simon’s task to carry the saw.

Christmas tree quest 2014-5

2015: that weird year we wore spring coats until Boxing Day. Also, add reindeer to all the things!

Christmas tree and reindeer

2016: where did all these man-sized children come from?

Christmas tree picking 2016-6

Do you have a favourite holiday tradition that you do every year? Our holidays are steeped in tradition, but hunting for the Christmas tree is probably our family favourite!


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Things you see in this photo:

* three boys decorating a Christmas tree
* two boys who are nearly as tall as the tree itself
* my boys are still wearing pajamas even though this is late afternoon (lazy Sunday FTW!)
* a nearly triangular tree that is far wider than we expected
* that our tree is full of mismatched and home-made ornaments and though will never make it to the cover of a decorating magazine, each of those ornaments makes me smile

Decorating the tree

What you don’t see: now that it’s a few days later, the entire bottom section has been stripped of its ornaments by Lucy the kitten. We keep finding smaller, lighter ornaments stashed throughout the house where she has dropped them.

We seem to be in an ongoing cycle where the fragile ornaments are on the tree (the childless years) then off the tree (the toddler years) then on the tree (the Katie years) then off the tree (hello clumsy, exuberant Bella!) then on the tree, and once again back off the tree (Lucy has not yet actually scaled the tree, but we’ve caught her thinking about it.)

I’d say “this is why we can’t have nice things” — but maybe the nicest things are the ones that endure the likes of toddlers and boisterous puppies and curious kitties?


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We are a family that loves routine, and the highest elevation of a routine becomes tradition. There’s few traditions more sacred to our family than the annual trip out to Thomas Tree Farm to get a Christmas tree – and the photographing of said trip!

Christmas tree picking 2016

This year, Lucas got to make the first couple of cuts. My babies are all growing up!

Christmas tree picking 2016-2

Christmas tree picking 2016-3

Christmas tree picking 2016-4

I love how Lucas has his own bough slung over his shoulder.

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I didn’t realize until we got it home that the tree is nearly as wide as it is tall. It’s got a little junk in its trunk!

Stand by, there is a very good probability of a tree decorating photo essay in the very near future!


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I had heard about Pianos in the Park, but didn’t realize until this week that they had installed a piano right around the corner from us at our favourite place. The Ottawa version of Pianos in the Park (apparently it’s an international movement) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing pianos to local parks. They’ve got them downtown, in Carp, Barrhaven, Riverside South, and about a dozen other location, including one right here in Manotick. This is in the gazebo at AY Jackson park.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

As soon as Tristan heard about it, he wanted to check it out. He’s been teaching himself to play piano from YouTube videos using Synthesia (not unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero) on our electronic keyboard, but he doesn’t get a chance to play on a real piano very often.

Safe to say, he quite enjoyed it!

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

And so did Lucas, though he was more inclined to discordant banging than any actual harmonies.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

I was intrigued, so I did a little digging to find out more about the project. Founder Nicholas Pope launched Ottawa’s Pianos in the Park in 2014, modeling it on Play Me, I’m Yours, a project started in Britain that now has more than 1,300 pianos in 45 cities around the world. In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Pope said all the local pianos will be painted with Ottawa-specific themes, and that they take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to finish. So the Manotick piano is in place but not yet painted – although I did notice it smells of fresh varnish.

Amazing, right? I love this so much that I joined the Pianos in the Park group on Facebook, and found out about THIS amazing project being cooked up as a tribute to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, a traveling piano set to go on tour across Canada this October.

Piano in the Park at the Manotick Mill

Have you been to any of the other pianos in Ottawa parks? I’m thinking it would make a fun adventure to tour them all before they’re packed away until next spring.


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One of our favourite seasonal markers is our annual trip to a local orchard to pick apples. It looks like it’s been a great growing season, and when we visited last weekend, the boughs were heavy with ripe Lobos, Paula Reds and MacIntosh apples.

Apples (2 of 5)

Apples (1 of 5)

Apples (4 of 5)

Apples (3 of 5)

As usual, we picked more than we could ever eat. Beloved has pie crust dough chilling in the fridge to make delicious use of the extras!

Apples (5 of 5)

Though apple-picking is definitely an autumnal activity and I feel like summer has not yet released us from her sweaty embrace, we were all shocked to consider that in just a few more weeks we’ll be picking pumpkins, and picking a Christmas tree just another few weeks after that.

Time keep flying by quicker and quicker, doesn’t it?

Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!

Ancient history: Tristan and Simon, apple-picking in 2005!!


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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 […]

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Photo(s) of the day: First and last day of school, 2015-2016

29 June 2016 Ah, me boys

I am a big fan of traditions, and one of my favourite is the annual first-and-last day of school photo. Did Tristan even get a haircut during this school year? I’m honestly not sure! I’ve been making them for a while now! Next year, all three boys will be in different schools – one in […]

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Flashback faves: 10 years ago this month

21 June 2016 Flashback faves

One of my favourite features on Facebook is the “On This Day” app. There’s something wonderful about dipping into the minutiae of years gone by. It got me thinking that I now have enough years of content that I can look back and see in (occasionally painful and cringe-worthy) detail exactly what was happening in […]

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Photo of the day: Tristan winning

11 June 2016 Photo of the Day

You might remember that Tristan has turned out to be quite the track star. Out of the blue in Grade 6 he showed a previously unrevealed talent for sprints, and in Grade 7 was asked to compete in the track and field pentathlon: 100m and 800m races, shotput, long jump and high jump. He placed […]

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