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No jams

Went to opening night of the new BTS (K-pop) movie this evening at Disney Springs. I even brought the kids along.

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07. Aug, 2019
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Toronto and Niagara Falls

Earlier this month I traveled with the family to (as the title indicates) my hometown of Toronto, and also to Niagara Falls, Ontario, which is an only an hour and a half away from the city. It was a great trip!

Yvonne initially traveled with the kids to meet up with her sister and her sister’s daughter at our cottage on Paudash Lake, northeast of Toronto, in late June and early July. They had an amazing time. In fact, we discussed making it an annual tradition to bring the kids up to the cottage for Canada Day each year.

When Yvonne and her sister arrived in Toronto after staying at the cottage they visited the Toronto Botanical Garden for a few hours, and had a lark replicating the poses of the various statues placed throughout the grounds.

After they spent a few weeks at the cottage I met Yvonne and the kids in Toronto, where we hung out with some of my old friends. One of the places we enjoyed the most was Snakes & Lattes, which is a board game café in town. There are three Snakes & Lattes locations in Toronto, and somehow I have already been to all three of them! Apparently they’ve also opened one in Tempe, Arizona? Well, I haven’t been to that one.

Shadows Over Camelot

One of the games we had the most fun playing was called 5-Minute Dungeon. It’s a cooperative game where players need to contribute to defeating a variety of monsters and bosses. We liked it so much, we visited 401 Games at Yonge & Wellesley and bought a copy! They’ve created a Marvel version of the game as well which I have yet to try (but I hear it’s just the same game featuring characters from the Marvel Universe).

Snakes & Lattes on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto

And after Snakes & Lattes we had lunch at Sneaky Dee’s, an old hangout at College & Bathurst. In a rapidly changing world, Sneaky Dee’s manages to remain the same ol’ place, which is a good thing.

We stayed at the ÏCE Condominiums at York Centre while we were in Toronto, which is located right next to Maple Leaf Square (aka Jurassic Park when the Toronto Raptors are playing basketball). We stayed on the 51st floor, which was pretty tremendous! We had a great view of the Toronto Harbour.

The view from the ÏCE Condominiums at York Centre
The ÏCE Condominiums fitness center

While we were in the Toronto area we also toured the University of Toronto and McMaster University for Amelia, who at least at this point is hoping to go to medical school one day. She preferred the University of Toronto and its different colleges. And you can’t beat all the ethnic food you can find in the area – we had Korean food multiple times!

Callum at the University of Toronto
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario

After our Toronto visit we headed south to Niagara Falls, Ontario (as the Canadian side is better, of course). We stayed at a hotel right near the Falls (the hotel overlooked the falls, but our room didn’t).

While we were at Niagara Falls we also went on the Hornblower boat tour, which is the Canadian version of the Maid of the Mist (though I swear when I was a kid the Maid of the Mist was also on the Canadian side). That was quite a wet experience.

We also stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, which was fun. We played MagiQuest (which we’ve also played at locations in Myrtle Beach and Boston when the kids were younger) and hung out at the crazy indoor water park they’ve constructed inside the hotel.

Finally, we returned to Celebration, and went to Epcot with our friend Melissa. It was really fun! All in all it was a great couple of weeks.

The Bubblegum Wall at Epcot
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Cribbage

Today while going through some boxes I found my grandfather’s old cribbage board he gave me before he passed away. You might notice that it’s been very, very well used. It made me miss him, and the many games of cribbage we played when I was in high school. I’m not so good at counting, but you can be damned sure I can count to 15 ❤️

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29. Jun, 2019
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At the lake back in the day

Found a picture of me at Paudash Lake when I was four years old. I’m happy that my own kids are able to continue the tradition of spending summer days up at the cottage!

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24. Jun, 2019
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An afternoon walk in Charleston

This afternoon I went for a walk in Charleston, South Carolina. We lived here for quite a few years, so it was nice to be able to see the city after several years away.

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Žižkov Television Tower

This afternoon Callum and I visited the Žižkov Television Tower, a striking example of communist-era architecture in Prague. One online site referred to this particular tower as “the second ugliest building in the world”. It certainly stands out from all the traditional architecture in the area. We took the elevator up to the 4th floor of the tower and checked out the views of the city. Afterward, we had a late lunch at a nearby crêperie.

Žižkov Television Tower

Žižkov Television Tower

I find communist-regime architecture (and the communist era in general) fascinating, so it made for an interesting visit.

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Adventures in Prague and Paris

I’ve been staying in Prague in the Czech Republic since late January… sort of. Two weeks ago we traveled to France to spend 10 days in Paris during the kids’ spring break. So in a way, I’ve had a trip within a trip, which is kind of neat.

This is the first time I’ve been to Prague since I was kicked out of the Czech Republic a couple of decades ago with Yvonne before we were married. I’d recount the story here, but it’s one of my best stories, so if you see me in person be sure to make a point to ask me about it and I’d be glad to tell you. It was snowing in Prague when I got there, which was a nice change after having spent the winter in snow-free Florida.

Snow in Prague

Snow in Prague.

The city of Prague has impressed me more than I thought it would. I’ve heard that it’s a fascinating and vibrant city, but so far it’s exceeded my expectations. I find the tram system (being from Toronto I keep wanting to say streetcar system) is efficient and well-run, and having a monthly public transportation pass makes getting around the city easy and low-stress.

Tram in Prague

A modern tram in Prague, near Lazarská.

One interesting site we visited in Prague was the Colloredo-Mansfeldský Palace near the Charles Bridge. It’s an old, run-down palace built in the early 1700s that has (sort of) been converted into a modern art museum. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the creepiest places I’ve ever visited. There was one particularly memorable room with interesting ornate walls and a painted ceiling that had a bunch of huge empty picture frames and a speaker on a stand set up in the middle. The speaker was playing a recording of a man moaning and making unnerving guttural breathing noises. I’m generally a fan of art, even so-called modern art, but what the heck? So bizarre.

I also visited the Prague Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square, dating back to 1410, one of the must-see sites in Prague. When I was a kid I was a big fan of clocks and watches, even taking some apart to see how they worked (though I can’t say I was as successful at putting them back together), so it was really fun to visit this famous clock.

Prague Astronomical Clock

The astronomical clock in Prague. On the hour the little skeleton to the right of the main clock rings the bell, and the other figures shake their heads no to indicate it’s not their time to go yet.

After spending some time in Prague, we traveled to Paris. It was nice to be back in France after a few years away. It was a short flight from Prague to the Charles de Gaulle airport, and then an Uber ride (which turned out to be cheaper than taking public transportation) to the Santa Fe Hotel at Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée. Yvonne booked the hotel back in September for a very low rate (50 euros a night!) and since it was located close to both the Disneyland parks and the Marne-la-Vallée train station, it turned out to be a good base of operations for our stay.

Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant) at Disneyland Paris. There’s a nifty animatronic dragon that lurks beneath the castle.

Disneyland Paris was fun – having lived in Orlando for the past five years, we’ve become accustomed to the Central Florida Disney lifestyle, so experiencing Paris’s take on Disney was interesting. For example, the Disneyland Paris version of Space Mountain has been rebranded to Hyperspace Mountain, featuring a Star Wars theme. In my opinion, it’s superior to the Space Mountain at Disney World in Orlando, and is probably my favorite of all the Disney roller coasters (that I’ve tried so far at least).

Disneyland Paris Fastpasses

Disneyland Paris still uses the old school version of the FastPass.

Speaking of rides that are better at Disneyland Paris, the Disneyland Paris version of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith is also, in my opinion, better than the one at Hollywood Studios at Disney World in Orlando. While the Orlando version has a stretched limo theme, with riders taking a trip to an Aerosmith concert, the Paris version continues the story as the riders arrive at the concert and go backstage to see Aerosmith. It’s not really the theme that makes the ride better – I just like the ride better. Though that could also be because I haven’t ridden the Paris version as many times as I have the Orlando version. I also prefer the Disneyland Paris version of the Pirates of the Carribean ride, but only because they haven’t overdone the Captain Jack Sparrow aspect like they did in Orlando. Meanwhile, we rode the Disneyland Paris version of the Haunted Mansion (which is called Phantom Manor) several years ago, but this year it is closed until April – too bad! That said, I still managed to get a picture with Phantom Manor Mickey outside the attraction.

Phantom Manor Mickey

Me and Mickey outside the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris. It still feels kinda weird to be all bundled up in a winter coat and scarf while taking pictures with Disney characters after all the pictures taken in shorts and T-shirts in Orlando.

The Ratatouille ride is also fun, and new since we were last at Disneyland Paris. It reminded me a little bit of the original Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Florida. The pathing of the is interesting – the different cars do not follow the same path, so it gives the effect of a bunch of rats scurrying across a restaurant floor. Pretty neat.

Amelia on the Disneyland Paris Carousel

Amelia on the Disneyland Paris Carousel.

Disneyland Paris Carousel

Aaaaand me on the Disneyland Paris Carousel. Never too old I guess? This isn’t a bad selfie!

We traveled by train from the train station near our hotel to Paris a few times during our stay. Callum and I went to the Paris Manga and Sci-Fi Show at Porte de Versailles this past Saturday, which was really fun. I still want to find myself a really neat and obscure cosplay costume that I can somehow create… it would be even better if I could find some themed costumes so that Callum and Amelia could join in. For the longest time I’ve wanted to dress as Yoshimitsu from the original Soul Calibur game (for Sega Dreamcast), which would be amazing, but extremely difficult to pull off.

We also visited the Eiffel Tower as a family, climbing the stairs to the second floor before taking the elevator to the top level. Apparently, there are 674 steps leading to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower (there are 1665 steps in all, but the steps leading to the very top of the tower are closed to the public). Climbing up and down all those steps made for some darned good exercise!

The Eiffel Tower from below

The Eiffel Tower, taken from below. Yvonne took a picture like this a few years ago. It still looks pretty much the same?

Eiffel Tower shadow

The Eiffel Tower’s shadow, taken from the top floor.

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, hiding with minimal success behind a tree. I took this photo on our way to the exit.

After visiting the Eiffel Tower we took the Métro to Montmartre, which is one of my favorite sites in Paris. There are over 300 stairs leading to Montmartre, which means that after our Eiffel Tower stair-climbing adventure we got even more steps in!

Montmartre

The view from Montmartre, taken in “Amelia style” (re: on the diagonal”). It’s a lot easier to take pictures when you don’t have to worry about holding the camera straight!

We also did a bit of shopping while staying in Paris. The Val d’Europe shopping center is located relatively close to Disneyland Paris, so we went there to get some clothes and other items we might not find in Prague. I found the most European of jeans at Bonobo, a French jeans company, so that was pretty cool. Callum and Amelia found new jackets. And we spent some time at Auchan and bought a collection of really good French treats! If I’d had a cooler I would have filled it to the brim with French cheese, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Callum and I at Fnac

Callum and I at the Fnac in Val d’Europe. It’s a combination high tech gadgets shop and bookstore – what could be better than that? Callum is smiling on the inside.

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Tidying up

Unloading the dishwasher and trying to figure out which of the plastic cups spark the most joy.

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08. Jan, 2019
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Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day! 📦📦📦

People often ask me if I still celebrate Boxing Day now that I’m here in the States. Growing up, Boxing Day wasn’t something you celebrated. In fact, I still don’t know what the heck Boxing Day is really supposed to be all about. At home, Boxing Day was more like the Canadian version of Black Friday. When I was Callum and Amelia’s age I’d take the subway downtown with my friends Phil and Rob to the Toronto Eaton Centre which, according to Wikipedia, is North America’s busiest shopping mall, so you can imagine what the crowds were like on Boxing Day. We’d roam the mall looking for deals (I was big into Le Château and Polo) before walking north along Yonge Street to Starsound to browse for new music. I had a leather jacket thing as a teen, and I’m pretty sure whenever I bought a new leather jacket, it was on Boxing Day. But shopping aside, for me, while Christmas was all about spending time with your family, Boxing Day was all about hanging out downtown with your friends.

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On Halloween

This past Halloween, and for the third year in a row, I dressed in an obscure costume that I doubted anybody would recognize – a groundhog keeper on Groundhog Day. If you’ve seen or experienced how Groundhog Day is celebrated in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might recall that the groundhog keepers wear tuxedos with top hats to consult with Punxsutawney Phil about the weather. Since I already own a super-old tuxedo that I got while still living in Canada, I figured it would be pretty easy to create this costume – all I’d need is a top hat and a groundhog. Some black gloves and a scarf would have made the costume more legit, but hey, I live in Florida.

Late Halloween afternoon I put on the costume and headed outside, where hundreds of people were already gathered (Halloween is a huge deal here in Celebration). Surprisingly, a lot of people actually recognized who I was trying to be. Part of that could have been because I had my iPhone in my pocket playing the Pennsylvania Polka by Frank Yankovic and His Yanks on repeat.

The best part of the costume, of course, was the cute groundhog puppet I found online. A lot of children (especially the younger ones, but not always) thought that he was actually alive. Often, I would pretend to have my attention elsewhere (talking to a friend or whatever) while Punxsutawney Phil would mess around with the kids, give them high-fives, boop their noses, or try to steal their candy. The kids loved it. I kinda blended into the background, but I guess that’s the point of being a groundhog handler, isn’t it? Here is me and Phil:

Punxsutawney Phil

While I’m on the subject of obscure Halloween costumes, here are the costumes I’ve worn for the previous two Halloweens. Last year I dressed as a Terraria cultist from the Terraria video game. This is the costume that Yvonne sewed for Callum two Halloweens ago, but as last year he dressed as something different, and since I hadn’t come up with an interesting costume idea yet, I figured I could reuse his Terraria cultist costume to wander around Celebration for a while. Here I am with Amelia in Celebration last year:

Terraria Cultist

Finally, two years ago Yvonne sewed the pinnacle of Halloween costumes. Amelia, Yvonne and I went as the Chanels in their nurse costumes from the television horror comedy show Scream Queens, that was still on the air at the time (this was the same year that Callum dressed as a Terraria cultist). The TV show was obscure enough that most people who saw the costumes didn’t know who we were supposed to be, but we still got a whole lot of attention for them… me especially. Not sure why.

The characters we were patterning ourselves after can be seen in this picture. And here’s us:

Scream Queens

Too bad you can’t see my shoes. They were totally fire 👠

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