From the category archives:

Happy holidays

Band Aid 30

by DaniGirl on November 17, 2014 · 7 comments

in Happy holidays,My inner geek

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 Christmas mix I’ve ever made, from mixed tapes on cassette to iTunes playlists.

So it’s little surprise that I would love this: Band Aid 30, a remix organized by orginal Band Aid founders Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure to raise funds toward the Ebola crisis in Africa.

I knew every single participant back in the original Band Aid, back in 1984. It made me feel more than a little old to watch the new one and scratch my head while peering at the unfamiliar faces. Oh wait! There’s Seal, I know him! And Sinead O’Connor. And holy crap, Bono is showing his age, isn’t he? Ooo and, um, that guy from Coldplay. If you’re peering at the screen and puzzling about who all these babies with microphones are, here is the line-by-line list of who sings what, along with the updated lyrics:

‘It’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid’ – One Direction
‘At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade’ – Ed Sheeran
‘And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy’ – Rita Ora
‘Throw your arms around the world, at Christmas time’ -Sam Smith
‘But say a prayer; Pray for the other ones’ -Paloma Faith
‘At Christmas time it’s hard, but when you’re having fun’ -Emeli Sande
‘There’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear’ -Guy Garvey (Elbow)
‘Where a kiss of love can kill you’ – Dan Smith (Bastille)
‘And there’s death in every tear’ – Angélique Kidjo
‘And the Christmas bells that ring there, are the clanging chimes of doom’ – Chris Martin (Coldplay)
‘Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you’ – Bono (U2)
‘Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa’ – Seal
‘A song of hope, when there’s no hope tonight’ – Ellie Goulding
‘Why is to comfort to be feared’ – Sinead O’Connor
‘Why is to touch to be scared’ – Sinead O’Connor
‘How can they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ Bono (U2)
‘Here’s to you’ – All
‘Raise a glass for everyone’ – Olly Murs
‘And Here’s to them’ – All
‘And all their years to come’ - Sam Smith
‘Can they know it’s Christmas time at all?’ – Rita Ora
Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
Feel the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
Heal the world, let them know it’s Christmas time again – All
(source)

Regardless, I will definitely buy this single and add it to my Christmas 2014 mixed tape playlist.

What do you think of the remix? And more importantly, what other songs do I need to add to the Christmas 2014 playlist?


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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 selling its Christmas trees in July by putting up a blog post about Christmas when Halloween has barely slipped from our consciousness, but the first parades are a mere two weeks away. One breath and we’re all golden leaves and pumpkins, and then you blink and it’s ho-ho-ho and shovel the driveway! Here’s all the info I could scare up about 2014 Santa Claus parade line-up, in chronological order:

Photo of Santa Claus at the Christmas parade 2013

[click to continue…]


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Happy @ Christmas

by DaniGirl on December 23, 2013 · 0 comments

in 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 how lucky you are, especially when so many others are maybe facing unexpected hardship this holiday season.

And so, in the name of blogging like it’s 2007, here’s five things that are making me smile today.

1. Found doggies

My friend Kev lives out in Kemptville, and yesterday he posted on Facebook that he’d found two beagle hound pups that had clearly slipped away from home. Not quite 24 hours (and dozens of re-tweets, and hundreds of Facebook shares) later, it looks like Dancer and Nemo are on their way back home for Christmas. I love a happy ending!

2. Free coffee

I was thinking of paying for the coffee for the guy behind me in the drive through at the Tim’s in Manotick this morning, because I was already feeling pretty chipper and wanted to share the joy. The guy in front of me beat me to it and paid for mine. People are nice, eh?

3. The Vinyl Café at the NAC

Beloved and I brought Tristan and Simon to their first show ever at the National Arts Centre yesterday. It was a bit of a white-knuckle drive in and out of town, but totally worth it to enjoy the live Christmas version of the Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean. We’ve been listening to the radio show for ages, I download podcasts for long trips and we’ve even read a few of the books aloud, so bringing Tristan and Simon to a live show was a terrific Christmas treat. They loved it and so did we, and Lucas had an awesome afternoon with the family of his best friend.

4. Santa visits at work

The boys are coming with me to work tomorrow for our annual kids’ Christmas party and Santa visit. I sort of dropped the ball on Santa photos this year – we thought the local Rexall would have Santa yesterday and I pinned our hopes on that, but I missed by a day. Apparently Santa visited on Saturday, not Sunday. I suppose he’s got his own last minute tasks to wrap up. But he’ll be dropping by my office tomorrow, and the boys and I are all looking forward to this family tradition.

5. It’s Christmas!

I’m pretty much ready, I think. I just breezed past a line-up of at least 100 people in the Chapters downtown (it snaked from the cash registers to the back of the store and started to loop back around again – easily the longest line by far I have ever seen there) and said a little prayer of thanks that I have nothing of consequence left on my Christmas to-do list. After the kids visit with Santa tomorrow, we’ll probably catch a family movie, and then we’ll host the Ottawa part of our family for Christmas Eve. Yay!

Bonus item: Bella’s birthday

Speaking of doggies and Christmas, how happy does Bella look to be featured in this birthday portrait? Our pup celebrates her first birthday on Christmas day. Now that she’s a year old, she won’t be nearly so mischevious, right? And that makes me happy, too! (Shhhh, don’t harsh my bliss and tell me otherwise!)

pet portrait

Happy Christmas to all of you, and much love! May your holidays be filled with joyful moments.


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This? Is so cool! Rarely am I *this* excited to publish a post!

ff 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!


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Another seasonal favourite post to re-share this holiday season! I think this is also Lucas’s favourite blog post that I have ever written. He often asks me to show him “the story with Willie and the red ball.”

There I was, minding my own business, playing with the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and taking pictures of the reflections in the shiny red ball …

A Christmas Story (1 of 4)

… when all of a sudden — dun dun DUN — I saw him: the Creeping Mischief Monster!

A Christmas Story (2 of 4)

And even more terrifyingly, at that exact moment, he noticed it. The shiny red ball!!

360:365 A Christmas Story (3 of 4)

After that, you knew this was inevitable.

A Christmas Story (4 of 4)

This is why we can’t have nice things.

;)

Since I published this post in 2011, the photo of mischevious Willie and that tempting red ornament has become one of my best-selling photos on Getty Images. It has appeared on the web

Found in the wild - Misbehaving Willie

…on the pages of Good Housekeeping magazine…

Found in the wild - Willie in Good Housekeeping Magazine!

…and most recently just last month on the pages of USA Today.

Found in the wild (again!) - Misbehavin' Willie

Silly old cat!


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My old friend Nick, who has endured this rant more times than I can count, was asking for this on Facebook last week, so you can blame him for the recycling yet again of this hoary old favourite seasonal post of mine.

Did you think might get through one Christmas season without the annual Donder reindeer rant? Sorry to disappoint you. As long as I have pixels to purvey my message, the reindeer rant will play out at some time in the month of December.

New around here? Darling, this one is for you!

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

As you might know, my last name is Donders. As such, it has been my lifelong quest to set the record straight and right the wrongs entrenched by Johnny Marks and Gene Autry.

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.

Donder

Okay, time to ‘fess up. Have I convinced you yet? Or do I have to roll this one out again next year too? :)


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WestJet does Christmas right

9 December 2013 Canadianisms

I kept seeing this pop up in my social media feeds today. It finally popped up often enough (it takes a LOT of recommendations to get me to watch a video!) that I clicked on the link, and I am so glad I did. Do you have five minutes to invest in the most heartwarming [...]

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Hunting a Christmas Tree in Twelve Photos

8 December 2013 Happy holidays

We went back to Thomas Tree Farm in North Gower (rapidly becoming our favourite!) to get our Christmas tree this weekend. It was a little bit on the crazy busy side, but we still had a great morning out. I love that the boys are big enough to start taking on some responsibility for the [...]

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Ho! Ho! Ho!-ray for Holiday Parades: the 2013 edition!

4 November 2013 Happy holidays

Edited to add: Click this link for the 2014 Santa Claus and holiday parade info! Welcome to one of my favourite holiday traditions, the 8th (!!) annual round-up of Christmas, Holiday and Santa Claus parades for Ottawa and Eastern Ontario! Wheeee! It’s another busy year for holiday parades – apparently it’s not just on Christmas [...]

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The one where Santa rescues her from a ditch in a red tractor on Christmas Day (true story!!)

25 December 2012 Happy holidays

I swear on everything dear to me that every word in this story is true and absolutely without embellishment. This is exactly and honestly how it happened. We went to Granny and Papa Lou’s house for a late breakfast visit this morning. My brother and his family were going to stay an extra day, but [...]

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