December 2012

Dogsledding is something I’ve wanted to try for ages. When my brother and his family were visiting last March Break, I did a lot of googling trying to find an excursion that would be accessible and reasonably affordable. (This is apparently another one of those times when having a larger family comes back to bite me on the arse.) Long story short, I couldn’t find anything back then and gave wistfully up on the idea.

You can imagine my delight, then, when I heard through Twitter that Calabogie Highlands Golf Resort was having a family fun with the dogs day on January 5. Look!

Fun, eh? Except we have company coming that weekend, so I got in touch with Calabogie Highlands and it turns out they have dogs pretty much every weekend, as long as there is enough snow. I was SO! EXCITED! that I booked us for the very next day. Beloved was mildly entertained by my enthusiasm – enough to agree to yet another one of my harebrained schemes.

Several factors conspired to slow us down, but neither a lingering migraine nor a sudden flare of sciatica nor a forecast of windchill in the neighbourhood of -20C were enough to deter us. We gathered snow pants and boots and balaclavas and snacks and trundled into the car for the 90 minute drive… except the car door wouldn’t close. I thought at first it was just ice – my Madza freezes up rather regularly – but nothing we did could force the mechanism to catch. After considerable angst and debate, we first decided not to go and called Calabogie Highlands to cancel, and then decided that the main roads would probably be clear and dry enough for the balding tired on Beloved’s aging station wagon (for which we have not yet been able to rationalize the purchase of snow tires, given that we will likely be replacing it within the the year.) We called Calabogie Highlands back to say we were on our way again and set out.

We were making pretty good time and had plans to stop for a quick lunch in Arnprior when we turned on to the 417 from the 416. The day was brilliantly clear and the roads seemed wet but clear. I’d felt the car waver a few times, but put it down to the gusting wind, but as we passed Kanata and then Carp, my knuckles were getting whiter and whiter on the steering wheel. We went from losing our traction occasionally to regaining traction occasionally, and by the time we were to the exit for Almonte I didn’t feel we could safely go any faster than 60 km/h on what was clearly a road paved by black ice.

I decided it simply wasn’t worth the risk. We pulled off westbound 417, looped around, apologized to the boys, called Calabogie Highlands to cancel yet again, and hopped back on the 417. It was less than a kilometer after that, headed back toward Ottawa, that we passed the SUV flipped over on its side. That chilled me more than the icy wind could ever manage, and we crawled the rest of the way home somewhere between 40 and 50 km/h. What really surprised me was the line of cars carefully following behind me at the same crawl, not one of them moving in to the open left lane to pass.

We finally pulled off the Queensway at Stittsville and placated the boys with a McDonalds lunch – and a still-shaking mom with a very large coffee. In nearly 30 (!) years of driving, and many many winter storms on the 401, I have never been so unnerved by road conditions. Tomorrow, two cars go in to the shop – one for a door-latch fix, and one for some premium snow tires.

Alas, the winter stretches long ahead of us, and there will be other weekends to pursue our dogsledding adventure. And in the interim, we do have a pretty fun yard for winter play.

Front yard sledding-2

Front yard sledding

It strikes me that I’ve had more vehicular misadventures this Christmas break than I’ve had in the last several years. Thanks, Universe, for keeping us safe and sound. And we can always try again in mid-January for that dogsledding adventure, right? With latching doors AND snow tires this time!


This was an amazing year for me from a photographic perspective. Getty Images continued to be a lot of fun, not to mention a lucrative little endeavour, and I have approximately 450 images for license now. (!) The portrait business was hopping from early spring until early winter with photo shoots every weekend all summer long. It was absolutely delightful to meet so many lovely families and have the chance to take their portraits. And in fact, I still have so many to share! Before I get to that, though, here’s my favourite photos from this week, over Christmas and the last full week of 2012.

Even though it’s not a Christmas shot, this may be one of my favourites of the week, and I had to move fast with my iPhone to catch it. Rememer when you used to read comic books in your secret blanket fort? Times sure have changed!

Remember when you used to read comic books in your secret fort?

A lot of the week looked like this:

Bokeh ball

And this:

No peeking!

And this:

Curious Christmas kitty

I love the expression on Lucas’s face but OMG don’t they all look terribly grown up all of a sudden? Heh, not to grown up to get a gift from Santa at my work Christmas party, tho!!

Merry Christmas Eve 2012

I barely took any pictures on Christmas Eve, when we traditionally open most of our gifts. It was a huge relief! I never like how they come out, and with a full house I had lots of other things to do. I did get these shots from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, though, and we had a lovely time with my face NOT plastered to the viewfinder *coughforachangecough*

Christmas 2012

And this is the happy aftermath of Christmas. These are the moments I want to remember – mussy-haired laughing boys first thing in the morning, jumbled together on the bed assembling new Lego sets received for Christmas.

Early morning Lego-fest

These two weren’t official photos of the day, but they were significant enough parts of the week that they bear inclusion here. First, a re-cap of my rescue by Santa Claus on Christmas Day (did you see the new PS with the improved photo of my hero? Apparently I’m the only person in Manotick who had never met Andy!!)

This is me getting rescued by Santa in his red tractor.

And then it snowed – and snowed – and snowed! It took double the usual commute, but I did make it in to work on Thursday. This is what it looked like when I went out in search of coffee midmorning:

Peace Tower in a snowstorm

You might have noticed I’m test-driving a new watermark. I love the Mothership Photography logo with the shooting star, but it is occasionally hard to read and a few have commented that the busyness of it takes away from the photographs themselves. I also wanted a watermark that I could more easily replicate on my mobile pictures and one that asserts my copyright a little more strongly. Finally, the bit of free advertising for the web site doesn’t hurt! My only concern is that Flickr is not fond of you advertising your own website in your descriptions, although I have done it occasionally without repercussions. And I’m not entirely sure you can attribute copyright to a URL instead of a person.

Anyway, I do like the cleaner look. What do you think?

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Books I read in 2012

by DaniGirl on December 28, 2012 · 9 comments

in Books

Way back in 2005 or so, there was a fun widget for the blog called Library Thing. It helped you keep track of and share your books. I loved it and used it for a couple of years, but lost track of it over time. For the last couple of years, I’ve been using excellent and less cumbersome alternative: Goodreads. Are you on it? If you are, feel free to ping me at DaniGirlOttawa.

In the last year, I was reasonably diligent about updating what I was reading, mostly because I’ve begun to get a little fuzzy in the memory department and I forget which books I’ve read and which ones I’ve been meaning to read. I’ve also started using it to keep track of the books I read with the big boys, and soon I think I’ll let them each create their own accounts to keep track of what they’ve read.

304:365 Antique books

So here, for no particular reason except to share and because I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging about books a little bit more, are the books I’ve read in 2012 in chronological order, the star-rating I’ve given them on GoodReads and some random editorial comments.

11/22/63 by Stephen King 5* (awesome book)
Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich 4*
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 3*
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 4*
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 3*
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 5* (One of the best books I read this year)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by James Patterson 2*
A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss 4*
Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash by Bryan Peterson 3*
Butterfly Winter by WP Kinsella 2* (I love WP Kinsella – I was so disappointed by this book.)
The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great by Steven Simon (returned to library before I finished)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 3* (weird book, still not sure I liked it)
Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson 4*
Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images by David duChemin 5* (if you want to read about the non-technical parts – the heart! – of making great photographs, read anything by David duChemin. My fave photography author by far.)
The Stand by Stephen King 5*+ (it took me almost all summer to re-read this classic. Loved it 10x more than I did when I first read it 20+ yrs ago. Brilliant book.)
Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain: Stories by Lucia Perillo 4*
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler 4* (couldn’t put it down)
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill 3* (I wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t warm up to the protagonist)
John Hedgecoe’s Complete Guide To Black & White Photography 3*
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 4* (endearing and completely different from what I expected)
1982 by Jian Ghomeshi 4* (fun stories that wonderfully capture growing up in suburban Canada in the 1980s, although wanders dangerously close to being twee in places. If you made mix tapes when you were a pre-teen you will find something to like about this)
The Dearly Departed by Elinor Lipman 3*
Canadian Pie by Will Ferguson 4* (I loved parts of this book madly. Just as wonderful as Beauty Tips from Moosejaw, except for the odd inclusion of a failed CBC radio play. Shoots Will Ferguson to my top-ten fave authors list.)

And finally, started in 2012 but not yet finished, I’m so excited to have another Dark Tower book to read! Just started The Wind in the Keyhole by Stephen King, a Christmas gift. Only a few pages in, but it makes me want to re-read the whole Dark Tower saga.

Did you read any of these? What did you think? What were the best and worst books you read this year? Please help me fill my library wish-list!


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 the pending snow storm spooked them and they left for southern Ontario at noon instead of tomorrow as planned. We were driving back to Manotick shortly after lunch, and chatting about the Christmas Day years ago I drove lazy loops around the Manotick rural roads enjoying my Starbucks coffee while Tristan and Simon snoozed in the back seat. I couldn’t help but laugh when we noticed Lucas fast asleep in his car seat. At four he’s a little old for afternoon naps, but after two days of cousin visits and Christmas, he was pretty wrung out. We stopped by the house long enough to drop off Beloved and the big boys and Lucas and I headed out to drive a few more lazy loops of those rural Manotick roads.

Of course, I had an agenda of my own. We’ve been so busy getting ready for Christmas that I’ve been positively drooling to get out and take some pictures of the thick, pristine snowfall from a few days ago. I was a couple of kilometers from home on Dozois Rd when I noticed how beautifully the sun was hitting the snow in a little forest. I couldn’t resist. I pulled over to the shoulder of the deserted road and reached for my camera — and that’s when I realized it had been in the bag that Beloved brought into the house when I’d dropped him and the boys off.

Mildly disappointed but not completely perturbed, I pulled out my iPhone instead. Lovely, wasn’t it?

Photo 2012-12-25 12 54 46 PM

And then I put down my phone, rolled up the window (I hadn’t even gotten out of the car – call me lazy) and put the car in gear. And my stomach sank as the wheels started to spin. I tried rocking it, twisting the wheel, easing it and flooring it. Nothing came even remotely close to moving the car.

I was completely and righteously stuck in the snow.

All I could hear was Beloved’s voice, see him shaking his head. “Have you learned yet? Picture-taking fool.” We have roadside assistance, but on Christmas Day I feared we’d be at New Year’s Eve before they got around to me. I thought I’d try to get myself out first.

I wasn’t there long when the first Good Samaritan stopped. He and I used our windshield scrapers to try to dig some room behind the (deeply buried) front wheels so we could stick the floor mats under them and get some traction. That plan had just failed utterly and completely when I glanced at in my rearview mirror….

(remember, every single word of this is 100% true)

…. and saw the red sleigh tractor pulling in behind me. I may have giggled a bit in relief as I stepped out of the car, but I swear my jaw dropped open when the tractor driver popped out and I took in the flannel shirt, the long white beard and the (honestly, every word is TRUE!) twinkly blue eyes.

“Having a bad day?” he asked with a smile.

“Not since you showed up!” I grinned back at him. He was already at work attaching a chain to the underside of my rear bumper. I had the presence of mind to grab my iPhone at that point to capture the moment. There is no better blog fodder than an anecdote that makes me look ever so slightly foolish while having a happy ending. With a Christmas twist, I knew it was bloggy gold.

Photo 2012-12-25 1 06 52 PM

He pulled me off the shoulder and back on to the road, and we both got back out of our vehicles. “Can I give you a little something for your troubles?” I asked, thinking of the $20 I have stashed in the dash for Starbucks emergencies.

“‘Course not,” he grinned. “I’d take a hug, though.” Which I gladly gave to him without hesitation.

“You know,” I couldn’t help but add with a shy smile of my own, “you kinda even look like Santa Claus.”

“You think?” he said, with an “aw shucks” sort of tug on his beard. He told me his name is Andrew.

I thanked everybody profusely and climbed back in to my car. Lucas had slept through the entire event, which really only took about 15 minutes from photo to escape. I drove on down the country road smiling to myself and already writing this blog post in my head, but I realized that while it makes a great story, you’d never believe me about the Santa Claus part. So I turned the car around, maybe a kilometer down the road from where I’d been stuck, and headed back the way I’d come, expecting to see him still winding up his rusty chain. I figured I’d impose on his good will one last time and ask if I could take a photo of us together, if he didn’t mind. I crested one hill and then another, and passed the mucked out bit of snow on the shoulder where I’d been stuck and kept on to the intersection with Mitch Owen — but there was absolutely no sign of him or his tractor.

He had disappeared.

Now this makes for an awesome story, but the funny PS is that I am not absolutely convinced that I’ll be able to publish this story on my blog. I tried about 20 times to tweet the photo of the tractor pulling my car out of the ditch in the following tweet: “OMG I just got rescued from a ditch by Santa in a tractor on Christmas day!! #truestory #merrychristmas” and each time, the tweet failed.

Photo 2012-12-25 1 49 19 PM

By the time I was home, I even tried to tweet it from my desktop. I kept getting an error message I’d never seen before, in more than 16,000 tweets.

Screen Shot 2012-12-25 at 1.48.04 PM

Clearly, the big guy wanted to keep his good deed a secret. But I just couldn’t help myself, and so I sat down to tell this story. I was just about to press the ‘publish’ button when it hit me: Photoshop! I could enlarge the section of the original photo with the tractor, and you could see for yourself. I promise you that I did nothing to this photo except boost the resolution to 200%. Check it out!

Santa crop

Not the clearest photo ever, but tell me you can’t clearly see the beard, the grizzled hair, and even the flannel shirt.

Santa rescued me from my photo-taking foibles on Christmas day. Best! Christmas! Story! EVER!!

(and I promise, I swear, I absolutely guarantee — every single word is true!)

Merry Christmas, my bloggy friends! I hope your Christmas is filled with wonder and funny stories. 🙂

Edited to add: how much do I love the Internet? Want a better picture of my hero Santa? Thanks to Laura Jane Photography on Twitter for this much better photo of Santa-Andy. See, he really does look like Santa!! 🙂


It’s been a while since I posted the weekly picture round-up. I’ve been taking a photo most days, but especially through November there were a handful of days I skipped. I missed it, though, and though I should have finished my third 365 project tomorrow, I’m running about a week and a half behind. Call it 365 in 375.

I’d had the idea for this photo in my head for literally a year. I was inspired by a version I saw last Christmas, and for the whole year I noodled the idea of tying up the boys in Christmas lights and taping their mouths with a bit of duct tape and printing the text “Silent Night, indeed!” in a festive red font. I even bought old-school white lights during a Boxing Day sale and put them away especially for it. Except, it turns out every other photographer in the western hemisphere had the same idea. And on the only day I had the right combination of good light in the house and the time required to put together the set-up, Tristan was sick with a bad cold. He gamely played along, but not in the best humour and it was not at all the fun shoot I had envisioned. And we had run out of duct tape.

Christmas torture

This is not even close to the shot I had been imagining all year. Really, I only took about three snaps before I realized it wasn’t going to work out and called the whole thing off. But then I went back and looked at these and decided I loved them anyway, for all the wrong reasons. I love the evil delight of Lucas, who was SO into the idea of tying up his brothers and taping their mouths. I love Simon’s perfect expression. And I love Tristan’s expression, too: annoyance, with a hint of “seriously?” and a goodly amount of “I’m only doing this so you’ll let me play video games when we’re done.” I tell you, it’s not easy being the kid of a photographer who’s creativity is always just a wee bit outside her ability to execute.

This photo was a remnant from that amazing ice fog we had a little while back. This is a little patch of holly I found in a concrete planter on Elgin Street. I love how festive the frost makes it look. Would you guess it was on a sidewalk beside a busy urban street?

Frosted holly

There is something about the overwrought cliché of a holiday photo that I just can’t resist. Crank up the romanticism and bring on the glitter. See?

Vintage Christmas bell

And this one, a Santa my mom gave me years ago and still one of my favourite decorations. I took this on my kitchen table, and just threw a string of white lights in the background, then used the shallowest depth of field (lowest aperture number, in this case f1.4) to throw the lights out of focus.

Ho Ho Ho!

I kinda liked the set-up, so I milked it for all it was worth! And then I added MOAR GLITTER!

Bokeh ball

More ice fog pictures from downtown. You can see I’m still not too picky on actually *taking* a photo so much as *posting* a new photo each day.

Christmas lights

And then it snowed!!

Snow day!

My Getty statement came in this week, and I found this one of Willie I thought I’d share. You might remember this photo appeared in the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, and it’s also being used this month on NBC Universal’s Petside website.

Found in the wild - Misbehaving Willie

Willie the misbehaving cat. Yep.

So tell me, bloggy friends: should I keep these weekly photo posts up in the new year? I toyed with simply posting my photo of the day every day as its own post, pretty much duplicating what I put on Flickr, and I toyed with not blogging them at all. I figure I’ll keep taking photos in the new year, cuz I can’t seem to stop. What do you think? Do you like these posts?


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we celebrated our first Christmas with Tristan – in the emergency room, as it turned out, as the poor guy had a wicked UTI and a spiking fever that saw us bundling him off to the University Hospital ER in London at about 5 am on Christmas morning. Oh the joys of parenting.

Just two years before that, we were celebrating a different kind of Christmas. I’d just endured our first intrauterine insemination and was giddy with hope over the holidays that it might work. I spent that Christmas dreaming up clever ways to tell our family I was pregnant. And I spent Boxing Day deathly sick and heartbroken with the estrogen crash that follows an unsuccessful cycle. (I’ve always been a little sensitive to the estrogen drop-off at the end of a normal monthly cycle, often enduring end-of-the-month migraines, but with my estrogen torqued to new heights by the reproductive treatments, the crash made me so sick I could barely get out of bed. And of course, I cried myself sick at the unsuccessful cycle on top of all that.)

The holidays are stressful for all of us, but when you’re enduring infertility they can be a special kind of hell. Here’s a few thoughts about how to get yourself through the holiday season with sanity intact. You can also adapt these if you’re caring for someone who is coping with infertility.

First, be kind to yourself. It’s okay to be sad, to be angry, to be stressed out. Your feelings are what they are, and they aren’t right or wrong. Give yourself permission to slow down, to take a break, maybe get yourself an extra treat. You deserve it.

Second, don’t feel overwhelmed by your obligations. If you can’t face the children’s Christmas party at work, then skip it. If you can’t handle seeing your sister-in-law celebrating Christmas with her newborn baby, excuse yourself. You’ll probably feel better if you do go, but if you truly can’t handle it, don’t force yourself.

Third, try not to let despair overwhelm you. Find little things that make you happy, whether it’s the warm Christmas lights on a snowy night, or wrapping presents for your loved ones. While it’s okay to be sad or angry, it’s not healthy to let it consume you.

We survived two Christmases of “trying” and one Christmas with officially diagnosed infertility before our lives changed thanks to in vitro fertilization and the arrival of our beautiful baby Tristan in March of 2002. We lost another baby in November of 2006, so I know a thing or two about infertility and loss around the holiday season. I also know that our government has in its hands the power to change the lives of families facing infertility. They’ve promised to fund IVF treatments, but we’ve seen no action in three long years.

One in six Ontario families suffer from some form of infertility. That’s why I’m happy to work with the advocacy group Conceivable Dreams, who sponsored this blog post. For more information, you can visit the Conceivable Dreams website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

This holiday season, give your families an extra hug and remember that there is much to be grateful for in our lives. And think a kind thought for those still waiting, waiting, waiting for their dreams of an end to infertility to come true.

Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team. As such, I received compensation, but my opinion, and my stories, are all my own.


Flashback faves: The Reindeer Rant

20 December 2012 Flashback faves

You can thank CBC Ottawa Morning for reminding me to post the annual reindeer rant today. There’s no way in a year that I’ve started mining my own content for repeats that I would forget to post my favourite seasonal repeat! And props to CBC for getting it right and saying DONDER instead of Donner. […]

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Instagram wants to sell your photos – for free

18 December 2012 How I love the Interwebs

Yesterday, Instagram announced a change in its terms of service (TOS). It says that from now on, it has the right to sell your photos to third parties for purposes of advertising. That’s right, your Instagram photo can now be used to advertise everything from breakfast cereal to cures for VD – without your permission […]

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The Joy of Learning and Ottawa’s Youville Centre

15 December 2012 Life in Ottawa

As you know, we receive toys for review a couple of times a year from Fisher-Price, and other months they provide information or inspiration for us to use in our blog posts. This month, they’ve done something completely different and have offered to donate our December toy shipment to a charity of our choice. How […]

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Friday favourites

14 December 2012 Ah, me boys

It was the Friday before Christmas and all through the house, DaniGirl’s boys were even more adorable than usual. (I pop these stories up on Facebook every now and then, but I fear they’ll be lost forever if I don’t replicate them here in my digital baby book. Sorry to those of you who’ve read […]

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