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Stuck in traffic on I-4

So of course I took a selfie 🚙🚌🚗🚛🚕

Stuck in traffic on I-4

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At our cottage in Ontario

Last month, after visiting friends in Toronto, Callum and I headed to our cottage on Paudash Lake, in the Highlands East region of Ontario’s cottage country. Yvonne and I bought the place back in August of 2005 when we thought we were going to be moving to either Ottawa or Toronto. However, we ended up moving to the southern States, so we didn’t end up visiting nearly as much as we had originally planned. I have a whole cache of memories of being a kid tromping around Ontario’s cottage country (on the same lake in fact), so it’s definitely something I wanted my kids to experience as well… however, our living in the southern States and eventually France made that difficult.

So I was very pleased when Callum and I had a few weeks to travel to Toronto, rent a car, and take the drive north to spend some time up at the cottage. We visited some old friends, made some new ones, did some kayaking and swimming, went on a hike in Silent Lake Provincial Park (which was pretty buggy to be honest), and relaxed amidst nature’s splendor. Oh, and I did a lot of grilling by the lake of course!

Joe Bay, Paudash Lake

Paudash Lake deck

Paudash Lake sunrise

Lower Paudash Lake

Paudash Lake flowers

Before flying back to Orlando, Callum and I spent a few more days in downtown Toronto, where we went on an open-top bus tour (during a heat wave!) and walked around the city. And I got to see the treehouse from Mr. Dressup at the CBC building! Which is only cool if you happened to grow up in Canada. Which I did, so I thought it was very cool!

Toronto Harbourfront

Mr. Dressup's treehouse

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In Toronto

Callum and I are in Toronto, the city where I grew up. We’re staying with my friend Peter, who has been one of my closest friends since the fourth grade. He and his wife Heather live in a condo at Harbourfront, right near Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. So we’re in a great location to walk the city.

So far we’ve spent a good couple of days staying in the city. Saturday evening we went with some friends to Snakes & Lattes, a board game café at Bloor and Bathurst. Apparently it was the first board game café to open in North America. We played Mission: Red Planet, a competitive board game about colonizing Mars, and Mysterium, a cooperative game featuring dream interpretation. Both were pretty fun.

Snakes & Lattes

Snakes & Lattes board game café.

Yesterday, which was Sunday, we walked around the city. We spent some time at the Art Gallery of Ontario and saw the Thomson medieval artifacts exhibit and model boat exhibit, as well as the gallery of paintings by Canada’s Group of Seven painters. We walked through the Eaton Centre, checked out City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, and walked to Yonge-Dundas Square where the Toronto Pride parade was happening. And we walked past the Toronto Railway Museum, which can be found at the old roundhouse quite close to Peter’s condominium. So it was a good day of touring the city.

Group of Seven

The Group of Seven exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Toronto Pride parade 2018

The Toronto Pride parade at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Toronto Railway Museum

Trains in front of the Toronto Railway Museum at the old roundhouse near Harbourfront.

Today Callum and I are going to ascend the CN Tower and see the city from the observation deck. Then, tomorrow, we will be heading to our cottage at Paudash Lake for a week.

Brian at the CN Tower

Me with Rogers Centre and the CN Tower in the background.

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Amelia is on a War Canoe crew at her girl’s camp in the Texas Hill Country this summer, which is apparently quite an achievement. This is her third time trying out for the team, and the first time she’s made it on – and not only that, she is actually “in the boat” (they have backup rowers as well). Her team lost its first race, but apparently she had a great time anyway. I am very proud of her!

War Canoe

Update: Amelia’s team lost that first race, but they ended up winning the championship!

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21. Jun, 2018
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Friends of Lake Louisa State Park 5k

Today, Yvonne and I ran the Friends of Lake Louisa State Park 5k in Clermont, Florida with a couple of friends from here in town. Lake Louisa State Park is quite nice, featuring a large lake (of course), some swampy areas (I love those), and a variety of nature trails. I managed to get third place in my age group, but that doesn’t mean I’m fast – it means I’m old 😆

Friends of Lake Louisa State Park 5k

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26. May, 2018
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Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Last night Yvonne and I visited Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. We started off the evening with dinner (and for me, a bit of late-night French press coffee) at the nearby Kona Café, then headed to Trader Sam’s just after 8:00 PM when kids were no longer permitted in the bar.

We had never been to Trader Sam’s before, nor had we heard much about it, so we were pretty surprised when it turned out to be a lot like the old Adventurers Club. The bartenders and wait staff would perform little mini-shows, wear goofy costumes, and use a variety of different props depending on what drinks you purchased, and every now and then various events would happen within the bar. At one point my barstool sank slowly to the ground, and the bartender gave me a child’s booster seat to compensate. The bar was dark and cosy and had lots of kitschy in-theme decorations lining the walls to enhance the mood. The place was quite small, and quite packed. Many of the patrons there seemed to know the place well, acting along with the various mini-shows whenever they occurred.

The drinks at the bar were interesting – there was one five-shot drink served in a large Nautilus submarine-shaped gravy bowl, and others served in ceramic shrunken heads and the like. They were quite strong (made with multiple shots of rum, in some cases Bacardi 151), and of course expensive.

Overall it was a neat place to visit.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar

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25. May, 2018
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At the K-pop store

Today we went to Kpoppin USA Shop, a store in Orlando that sells K-pop (South Korean pop music) and anime merchandise. As I’m not huge into K-pop I was a bit out of my element, but it was certainly an interesting place, and very, very niche, which is kind of cool. Here’s me getting excited about all the K-poppy goodness – we had to take the picture outside the store because they wouldn’t allow photography inside!

Kpoppin USA Shop in Orlando, Florida

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Out and about in late winter

It’s been a relatively busy end to the winter season.

A few weeks ago I went to the father-daughter dance at Celebration School with Amelia, some of her friends, and of course their dads. It was pretty fun. I’ve seen a lot of father-daughter dance photos coming from friends living all over North America lately so I guess it’s kind of a thing now.

Father-daughter dance at Celebration School

In early March I went with some friends from California to The VOID, a virtual reality experience at Disney Springs. The adventure they currently feature is called Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. I’ve experienced several different offerings being touted as VR, and they all seem to fall short of being an actual immersive virtual reality experience. But this one was really quite well done. I didn’t get any pictures inside the actual adventure (they’d just be a bunch of empty rooms anyway, without the VR rig to breathe life into them) but here’s one of me afterward.

The VOID VR rig

Later, I returned to The VOID with the family, and here we are in line (Callum was there, too, but didn’t want to have his picture taken).

The VOID at Disney Springs

On March 10th we traveled with some friends of ours to Merritt Island, Florida to do a kayak tour with A Day Away Kayak Tours, a company that offers offer bioluminescence tours around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We had originally signed up for the Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence Tour, but our tour appointment was delayed not once, but twice by two different hurricanes. For Hurricane Harvey, the kayak tour operators actually traveled to Houston to volunteer to help out in flooded areas with their kayaks, which I thought was pretty awesome.

Anyway, by the time we could get around to trying to schedule our tour a third time, seeing the dinoflagellates was no longer in season, so instead we did the Comb Jelly Bioluminescence Tour in the Indian River Lagoon. The comb jellies (which are not actually jellyfish) would glow when touched or held, and they don’t sting, so we got to capture them with nets, check them out, and toss them back into the water. We didn’t get any pictures in the kayaks, because it was dark and they wouldn’t have turned out (plus we didn’t want to drop our phones into the water), but we got one of our group right afterward.

Merritt Island bioluminescence kayak tour

On St. Patrick’s Day I wore my Dublin GAA jersey and went for a walk with the family in Disney Springs. Disney Springs is located next to a lake (man-made, but still pretty wet) that you can walk around. It was a nice, pleasantly cool day, and after our walk we went and had sushi at Splitsville. And while it seems like a bowling alley might be an odd place to eat sushi, Splitsville has made it their thing, and it’s not a bad thing at all.

Disney Springs walk around the lake

Finally, On March 18th (yes, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, meaning no green beer for me) Yvonne and I, plus our friend Carlos, completed the Excalibur 10-miler in Melbourne, Florida. It was a nice race, and the first longer-distance run I’ve completed in a few years. When we finished the race we received actual metal crowns (as well as finisher medals) that we’re wearing in the following picture. Which reminds me – it’s good to be the king, but wearing metal hats is uncomfortable!

Excalibur 10-miler 2018

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23. Mar, 2018
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Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail

On Christmas Eve the family and I went to Disney Springs to check out the Christmas Tree Trail. This is a path with different Christmas trees decorated in the theme of various Walt Disney characters or movies. I was going to take a few pictures of the various trees along the trail, but really, it’s more fun to see them in person, so I didn’t. However, I did take a few pictures of us.

Brian Crawford and the Peter Pan Christmas tree

Me in front of the Peter Pan Christmas tree.

Disney Villains Christmas tree

Yvonne and me in front of the Disney Villains tree, trying to look villainous. I think we failed.

Disney Christmas Tree Trail

Me and the Sleeping Beauty Christmas tree.

LEGO Friends at Disney Springs

Me on the bench with LEGO Friends. So player.

And, just because I went on a Christmas Day walk in Celebration…

Celebration, Florida snowfall

The snowfall (actually soapfall) in Celebration.

Celebration, Florida lake at night

A view of Celebration from across the lake.

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26. Dec, 2017
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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Amelia and I at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas PartySo it’s not much of a secret that we go to Disney World a lot. Considering we live right next door and have annual passes (including to the waterparks), it only makes sense to hang out there. When you live next to Disney World, the best times to go are in the evenings. You can schedule a few FastPasses in advance for some attractions you haven’t done in a while, head out after school or on a weekend evening after the afternoon crowds have died down and the Florida heat has subsided, and spend three or four hours at a park. Yvonne and I may also sometimes go to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon during the daytime when the kids are in school to float around in the lazy river for a while and plan for our next few weeks.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Yvonne, Amelia and I went to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I hadn’t done it before so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. It is rather expensive, but since we’re living in the area, we may as well take advantage of it!

Yvonne and Amelia had attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party a few weeks before, in October, which is of a similar vein. And at the Halloween party, many guests had dressed up in Halloween costumes. So we figured that for the Christmas party, many people would do the same thing. Not so. We were some of the few people who dressed up for the event! Fortunately, it wasn’t embarrassing or anything – we did stand out, but it was a good thing! They were Santa Claus dresses, and I had two crocheted Mickey Mouse ornaments on my hat that Amelia and Yvonne crafted.

It turned out to be pretty fun. There were various stands with Christmas treats including cookies (gingerbread, sugar, snickerdoodle, and mint chip), hot chocolate, eggnog, chocolate milk, Dove chocolates, hot pretzels, and shaved ice. There were also many different Disney characters in attendance to take pictures with, including some rare ones – Scrooge McDuck and Peter Pan, for example. And the characters were of course dressed up in holiday attire.

Considering its cost, it’s not something I would do every year, but we had an entertaining evening. I find the best way to have fun at a Disney park (or anywhere, for that matter) is to take advantage of what’s there and have fun. Don’t worry too much about expectations or if things aren’t going entirely smoothly. Just embrace it!

Peter Pan at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Blurry iPhone shot of meeting Peter Pan at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party.

Interesting digital background at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

The way they made the background for this photo was very interesting. A guy walked behind us with a stick of flashing LED lights that created the effect.

Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Me looking suave with Minnie and Daisy.

Santa Goofy at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Yvonne with Santa Goofy. Should I be concerned…?

Scrooge McDuck at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Me and Scrooge McDuck in holiday attire. I was hoping he’d invite me to come swim in his money bin.

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