Happy holidays

For weeks, I’d kept an eye on the forecast, hoping for just a wee crust of snow to be on the ground for this weekend. Alas, with sunshine and temperatures well above zero, there was not a flake in sight (heh, except maybe the one behind the camera) as we launched our family Christmas season in the traditional way.

First, the annual Santa Claus parade in Manotick. You can never have too much sunshine for a parade!

Christmas traditions

Can I just take a moment to say that there is a special place in my heart for people walking in parades who make the effort to ensure that even the tallest, gangliest and peach-fuzzed kids get a piece or two of Christmas candy along the parade route? I was touched by the number of people who offered candy canes and other treats to all three boys, even though one is now as tall as me. He may be big, but he still loves Christmas AND candy. :)

And then, lack of snow be damned, we took a lovely autumnal walk through our favourite Christmas tree farm. This year, the saw was handed down to the middlest boy for the first time. It’s the first year we’ve had to worry about mud instead of snow on the ground, but the tree is as lovely as ever.

Christmas traditions-2

Jackets unzipped, or carried casually in hands, and nobody thought to bring gloves to protect our hands from sticky sap and picky needles instead of frostnip, but we managed to get by without the snow.

Christmas tree and reindeer

And though I didn’t catch it here, Lucas even took a turn carrying the tree this year. My boys, they’re growing up fast!

Did you catch the reindeer in the background? Shockingly, nobody seemed to notice him lounging in the forest when we were getting our tree. He only became obvious when I was processing the photos. Oh the magic of Christmas!! (I’m sort of like a toddler who learns a new trick and then must repeat it ad nauseum. I promise, I’ll get it out of my system in time for spring 2016’s porch portrait season! Probably.)

Turns out we didn’t really need that snow after all. I’m happy enough if it holds off until December 20 or so, now. You can take plenty of lovely Christmas photos even without a snowy backdrop, and a magical reindeer or two. :)


{ 1 comment }

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve recycled this post, but it somehow just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve shared it again. Besides, with a new job and a new circle of friends, there’s a whole new audience to edumacate about this most important Christmas factoid. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the annual reindeer 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


{ 0 comments }

How do you torture a photographer? Send her two exquisitely cute families for Christmas portraits on the porch, and then make her choose just ONE for the photo of the day. I seriously couldn’t do it!

First, these two dropped by. Little Miss was a little bit shy, and a lot three years old. Sometimes, that can be a disasterous combination, but in just a few minutes I had her warmed up like a fuzzy pair of favourite mittens. You can’t see from this photo, but these children have the most beautiful eyes. Hers are brown and soulful, and her brother’s are the most intriguing green and hazel.

Christmas portraits

It just so happens that the mom has the most spectacularly pretty eyes I’ve seen since my own mom’s eyes. :)

Christmas portraits

And then, through a most excellent coincidence of timing (also known as the Magic of Photoshop), this wandering reindeer happened to appear just in time for a cameo!

Christmas portraits

As if that weren’t enough cuteness for the day, I then had the pleasure of working playing with this trio who first appeared on the porch back in my first year of business. They are cuter than ever in their festive finery!

Jedi family Christmas ;)

The thing I love about repeat clients is that they know me well enough to know I’m pretty easy going, and no idea is too silly to try at least once. This is how we ended up with another reindeer cameo! (You’ll see this is a considerable refinement of my first attempt at this set-up from last year!)

Jedi family Christmas ;)

I got a last-minute email just before this session from their mom, who also happens to be a long-time reader of the blog. “Is it okay if we bring our Jedi robes?” How is that even a question? Of COURSE it’s okay if you bring your Jedi robes. And this happened.

Jedi family Christmas ;)

Most! Fun! Christmas! Photo! Day! Ever!!


{ 1 comment }

Happy Christmas!

by DaniGirl on December 26, 2014 · 0 comments

in Happy holidays, Photo of the Day

Oops, I’m a day late. We were too busy having a low-key, wonderful family Christmas for me to be playing on the computer.

But, I hope it’s not too late to wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas season, and a new year filled with magic and joy.

Christmas card 2104_front

Merry Christmas, with love from DaniGirl, Beloved and the boys!


{ 0 comments }

Aside from the Reindeer Rant, this post from last year is probably my holiday favourite, and definitely worth sharing again!

If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember I spent some time working with the Canadian Army. When I was there, I was lucky enough to work with Captain Jennifer Stadnyk, and long after I left we stayed in touch over mutual interests in photography and social media. Capt Stadnyk has since moved from Ottawa to Colorado for what I think is an incredibly cool job – she’s the public affairs officer for the North American Aerospace Defence Command, aka NORAD. Peeps, she works with NORAD’s Santa Tracker team! How awesome is that?

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve always loved the NORAD Santa Tracker program. I remember the sense of wonder and anticipation that was torqued by watching NORAD’s Santa Tracker updates on the evening news when I was growing up in the 1970s. Now the kids and I visit the Santa Tracker website frequently on December 24 to track the Big Guy’s progress around the world.

I gotta tell you, when Capt Stadnyk was kind enough to grant me an interview, I kind of froze. Oh the pressure! What should I ask? How to strike the balance between hard-nosed journalist and fawning fangirl? In the end, her answers totally redeemed my questions – and I’ve been giggling like a schoolgirl in my excitement to share them with you.

DaniGirl: I have been watching NORAD’s Santa tracker as long as I can remember. Tell me a little bit about the program?

Capt Stadnyk: NORAD Tracks Santa traces its roots all the way back to 1955, when the local Sears-Roebuck in Colorado Springs took out an advertisement in the local newspaper inviting children to call Santa’s private line on Christmas Eve. The ad that was printed however, had a misprint and the number given was for the Continental Air Defense Command. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, answered the phone to a child’s voice asking if he was Santa. Once he realized what was going on, he played along, giving the child information about where Santa was and instructed his officers to do the same. Thus an annual tradition was born! NORAD continued the tradition when we replaced CONAD in 1958, and still each year, we track Santa around the globe and tell children where he is and when he’ll be at their house!

DaniGirl: You are a soldier in the Canadian Army. How did you end up at NORAD?

Capt Stadnyk: It is funny, most people think that NORAD is solely Air Force, however there are members from all elements of both the Canadian and American militaries. I definitely feel blessed to be down here and be a part of this incredible program during the holiday season!

Army Maj. Gen. Charles Luckey, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Chief of Staff, prepares to do a media interview via satellite from the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Dozens of interviews were conducted with NORAD leadership to get the word out on how NORAD tracks Santa every year. (U.S. Navy photo by LCDR. Bill Lewis)

DaniGirl: What kind of technology do you use to track Santa?

Capt Stadnyk: We are definitely well-equipped to track Santa, being the bi-national command responsible for tracking and keeping airspace over North America safe! We use the same satellites, radars and fighter jets that we use year round to track Santa. He knows we’re tracking him and often coordinates some of his plans with us! We also have “Santa Cams” strategically placed around the globe so that kids can catch a glimpse of the jolly old elf!

DaniGirl:: How many people are involved in the operation?

Capt Stadnyk: Well, along with our 55 corporate partners, we have over 1,250 volunteers (Canadian & American military, civilians, and members of the local Colorado Springs community) who donate their time on December 24th to answer calls and emails. Planning starts early in the spring of each year in order to ensure the event is a success.

DaniGirl: Have poor weather or other obstacles ever prevented Santa from getting to any locations?

Capt Stadnyk: There have been a few times over the years where Santa has had to adjust his flight path due to poor weather, but he has always been able to make it to every house! He has been flying for centuries, so little snowstorms have nothing on him!

Marine Staff Sgts. Hugh Wood and Randall Ayers, NORAD and USNORTHCOM, take calls at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center Dec. 24, 2012. Wood and Ayers came to the operations center to collect toys for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and took a break to participate in NORAD Tracks Santa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

DaniGirl: Does Santa need permission to fly over Canadian or American air space?

Capt Stadnyk: Santa travels faster than starlight, so if he wanted to, he could fly over our airspace without letting us know, but we have a close relationship with him, having worked together to keep the Christmas spirit alive all these years. He always coordinates his travels with us, although he may not tell us his exact route. Each year, Canadian fighter pilots are chosen to meet Santa as he enters North American airspace to say “Hello” and escort him across the Great White North. This year, Lieutenant-Colonel Darcy Molstad and Captain Sébastien Gorelov from 3 Wing Bagottville will meet him over Newfoundland and pass off the duties near the Ontario-Manitoba border to Captain Rich Cohen and Captain Brian Kilroy from 4 Wing Cold Lake.

DaniGirl: Now that you’re seeing it in action from the inside, what’s your favourite part of the Santa tracker program?

Capt Stadnyk: It’s incredible to see what a large operation the NORAD Tracks Santa program is. There is so much magic involved in Santa’s journey that I kind of expected tracking him would be a piece of cake. Not so much! Tracking Santa becomes our main effort around this time each year, and we all work together at NORAD to make sure we continue to share the holiday spirit with the young, and young-at-heart around the world!

Awesome, right? I KNOW! Even better than a conversation with the Universe, eh?

Want to track Santa with NORAD this Christmas Eve? He’s multimedia – check it out!

On the web: http://www.noradsanta.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Twitter: @NoradSanta
Phone (starting 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve): 877-HI-NORAD
Email: noradtrackssanta@outlook.com

Thank you, Capt Stadnyk, for the exclusive scoop and for making me a cool mom this Christmas in the eyes of three little boys! Warm wishes and thanks to you and and everyone at NORAD for the great work you do with Santa!


{ 0 comments }

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!


{ 3 comments }

Crowdsourcing: Where are the best Christmas light dislays in Ottawa?

1 December 2014 Happy holidays

It’s finally December. I love December! The days may be short, but the nights are bright with Christmas lights. Oh how I love the Christmas lights! We’ve had the lights up on our porch for a couple of weeks now, and our neighbourhood is slowly starting to show off its Christmas colours. I’d love to […]

6 comments Read the full article →

Band Aid 30

17 November 2014 Happy holidays

The original Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas came out in December 1984. I was fifteen years old, and I adored that song and video. I bought it as a 45 rpm single (kids, go ask your parents what that is) and years later I bought it as digital file. It’s on every […]

7 comments Read the full article →

Ho-Ho-Hooray for Santa! The 2014 Ottawa and Eastern Ontario parade list is back!

2 November 2014 Happy holidays

Edited to add: Click this link for the 2015 Santa Claus and holiday parade info! Welcome to one of my favourite holiday traditions: the annual round-up of Christmas, Holiday and Santa Claus parades for Ottawa and Eastern Ontario! Can you believe I’ve been doing this for NINE YEARS? I feel a little bit like Costco […]

22 comments Read the full article →

Happy @ Christmas

23 December 2013 Happy holidays

I have been thinking about doing some sort of gratitude journal, maybe in a tumblr or something. I just have so much in my life for which I’m thankful, and it’s nice to pay a little lip service to God or the Universe or your deity of choice, I think, to remind yourself of just […]

0 comments Read the full article →