December 2013

Funniest use of a photo yet

by DaniGirl on December 27, 2013 · 1 comment

in Mothership Photography

Ha ha ha ha! This may be the best, weirdest use of one of my photos yet!

You know I license some of my photos through Getty Images, right? I’ve been collecting some of my favourites on my photography Facebook page – they’ve been used in calendars, flyers, websites, books and in magazines like Good Housekeeping and Macleans. This, however, is the one that made me laugh the loudest.

Rolling Stone magazine (!!) licensed this benign photo of my living room:

8 hrs of Christmas 4  pm

and added a little je ne sais quoi for a piece on thrash metal Christmas songs.

Rolling Stone Magazine, baby!

It’s not quite the cover of the Rolling Stone (like the old song says) but it’s made me look at the living room in a whole new light! (And if you had told my 17 year old self that some day Rolling Stone magazine would buy and publish one of my photos, I would have laughed and called you a lunatic!)

Hope you are all having a Christmas filled with wonder and delight! 🙂

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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.


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:
Twitter: @NoradSanta
Phone (starting 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve): 877-HI-NORAD

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!


Sigh. After a lovely three-year run, this will be my last post on as a Fisher-Price Ambassador. It’s been fun, eh?

Speaking of fun, for my last post I’d like to tell you about four iconic toys that Fisher-Price has re-invented this holiday season. Everything old is new again!

Take the Chatter Phone Talking Game, for instance. I don’t know anyone who didn’t have the iconic 1970s version of the Chatter Phone with the extra-long cord – can anyone say choking hazzard? Now they’ve updated it as an interactive game with fun sounds, phrases and prompts that plays four different games and helps your child learn about animals and animal sounds, numbers and counting. (In all truth, I kind of prefer the original Chatter Phone, but props to FP for keeping up with the times. I’m kind of an old-school forget-to-put-the-batteries-in-the-noisy-toys kind of girl, but I’m sure kids will love this!)

And speaking of my childhood, while we did have a Chatter Phone, I always coveted a See ‘n Say. Funny what you remember, isn’t it? We received samples of these toys (that have now been donated to Toy Mountain, thank you Fisher-Price!) and even in the box Lucas loved playing with this one.

I was thinking about Simon as a toddler when I saw the Lil Snoopy Tippin’ Treats game. I think he would have loved this toy much more than the Mr Bucket he begged for and then was terrified of many years ago. Same idea, but less terrifying to a toddler, I think: collect the bones and chase the motorized Lil Snoopy around the room to get them into his bowl before he tips over. This has three games in one, and helps develop hand-eye coordination while getting kids up and moving.

And last but not least, I wish we had this toy a few years ago. Lucas loves loves LOVES jigsaw puzzles, but he’s such a little savant with them and has been doing them so long that I think this one might be a little too easy for him. So much more than a jigsaw puzzle, the I-Jig Interactive Electronic Puzzle System has several modes of play. First you put the puzzle together, but then in mode 2 you play an electronic game of seek and find. Mode 3 is more advanced with games to play that are unique to each puzzle. And don’t worry about kids getting bored with this one – you can get two additional puzzle refills to keep them challenged. See what I mean about 21st century spins on old favourites?

And since this is my last post as a Fisher-Price Ambassador, I’d like to steal a few pixels here at the end to say a few thanks yous. Thanks, of course, to the amazing team at Fisher-Price. I am as proud to work with you today as I was the day I signed on to the program. It’s been a wild ride with you and I could never say thank you enough for all your generousity through the years. Thanks, as well, to Mom Central Canada, and especially to Kathryn, Pam, Cora and Sarah. You guys are terrific. And finally, thanks to you, dear readers. I know that it’s your visits and your views that make sponsorships like the Fisher-Price one possible.

Disclosure: I receive special perks as a part of my affiliation with the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada. The opinions in this blog are my own.


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.


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


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 @ home

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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Ingredient of the week: Pomegranates!

6 December 2013 Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

Back in April, I had the brilliant idea for a series of blog posts on the theme of “ingredient of the week,” to explore new foods and share inspiration. I made it through Parmesan and kale. And now, after forgetting allowing the anticipation to build up for eight months, I’m back with another ingredient that […]

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Ho-ho-hot holiday toys from Fisher-Price!

4 December 2013 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

It’s the first week of December, do you have your Christmas shopping done yet? When did I become the kind of person who is done the bulk of her shopping by the first of December? I am all about the last minute! I’ve noticed in the last few years, though, that if I don’t have […]

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