Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pervasive Disrespect

There is something on my mind that I would like to share publicly, but I've written and re-written the Facebook status too many times and can't bring myself to actually share it.  #facebookshy
I guess because I haven't quite figured out yet what it is I'm trying to say. A blog post seems like a much better outlet, because I can do more explaining, and those mean people who share nasty comments are usually too lazy to click a link and read an entire blog post, so they more than likely won't be commenting. But it is still difficult for me to share an opinion publicly, so please be kind.

Something happened to me yesterday, and it is not the first time. I should preface this by saying that I have always, ever since I was a little girl, had an aversion to young men in the 15 to 25 age range. (Seriously, I wouldn't even look at my own male cousins of that age). And this has never really changed, even after I reached and surpassed that age range myself. It has been my experience that this particular age group (of men in particular) are typically arrogant, entitled, ignorant, loud, and rude.
Now, I know that's a generalization. I'm not saying they're all like that, certainly! I've known several teenage/young adult men who were respectful, considerate, and kind, but it's the others I'd like to focus on today.

Yesterday I was out walking on my lunch break, minding my own business. I had been to the Dollarama and was off to find myself some lunch to take back to the office to eat. There were two young men in the parking lot talking and laughing. As I've said, I generally avoid this particular demographic, but I had to pass them, so I was focusing on not making eye-contact or tripping. There was a carload of more young men backing out of a space a few spots over. I stopped walking so as to let them get out of their spot without worrying about moving pedestrians - something that I, as a driver, appreciate. They, however, rather than do that, chose to use this opportunity to say rude things to me. Needless to say, I walked around their vehicle and away, but my lunch hour was ruined.

I don't know about you, but when I'm out by myself, I'm not necessarily smiley. If I think of it, I will smile to strangers I meet, but as a general rule, I carry no expression. I know very well that I have Resting Bitch Face (pardon me), as do most of the population. People have been telling me that for years. But unless you are some weird person who has a perma-grin, or like... Botox... a face's natural position is not a smile. Not to mention that I have been feeling sick for days, and have a lot on my mind lately, so I'm not exactly cheerful. I smile at my clients at work and the people who serve me at stores and restaurants, but when I'm not directly engaging in conversation with someone... my face is neutral. But that's not even the issue here.

What I'd like to know is when it became appropriate to insult strangers? And since when is it ok to publicly comment on someone's clothes, body, or facial expression right beside them, in a degrading tone? Verbal harassment is still harassment, boys.
And I guess that's what it really comes down to. I don't know if it's at home or at school or in the media, but somebody really needs to start ensuring that young people know how to be respectful and considerate of other human beings.
You don't have to like the looks of every person you meet, but you do need to keep that negative opinion to yourself, and remember that they deserve as much respect as you.
You don't have to appreciate what an older person says to you, but you do need to respectfully acknowledge their words and wisdom, and should probably take them into consideration. Like it or not, they have more experience than you and might know a thing or two.
Oh, and it's not just about respecting men/women, or your elders, or any other specific demographic, we should be respecting all people.

Now, like I said, this is not the first time something like this has happened to me, and that's why I'm sharing this. Not because I'm overly sensitive and got offended by something somebody said to me one day. It's because nobody has the right to be rude to a complete stranger minding their own business, and because I respect myself too much not to say something.

Your words have meaning and they should be weighed carefully before being spewed out into the world where they can't be taken back. And sometimes, it's not just the words you say, but how you say them. Just think first...

Oh, and by the way, this news story (in French) tells about a group of young men in my area Saturday night who assaulted someone who had asked them to be more respectful to the young ladies who were with them. Obviously, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. So parents... please teach your children to respect themselves, and everyone else that comes across their path.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thirtieth Birthday

Well... my thirtieth birthday came and went, with not much fanfare, except in my own mind.

I had been dreading the day for the past two years.

My parents had nothing to say about it one way or another - no words of wisdom or encouragement. My closest friends marvelled with me about the insanity of it - how could we possibly be thirty?! My coworkers (most of whom are older than me) told me that thirty was the new twenty, still so young, lots of time to do the things we still want to do, maybe even an opportunity for new beginnings... But I mostly just see it as a grown-up number, and I don't feel that I'm there yet!

But, alas, the day came, and went. It was a Wednesday so I had to work a full day. I could have taken the day off, but I had decided to take the next day off in order to do some baking for the county fair. So, I went to work. I wore a dress I picked up at a thrift store while on vacation the week before - it's black with white polka dots, and a teal sash, with a mini crinoline around the bottom. I refrained from wearing my tiara with that... I felt kind of cute. It was a pretty normal, if not quiet, day at work. My coworkers surprised me with a delivery from the florist - a pretty little single white flower, and balloons. They also sang to me. For supper I had wanted Hawaiian pizza from the restaurant, but everyone was rushed with baking for the fair and whatnot, so I got homemade hamburger pizza. It's what I would have asked for as a kid, and it's always good, but it wasn't quite what I wanted this time. My parents had bought me a new bookcase earlier in the summer, which I haven't been able to put up yet because my room is such a mess... My brother gave me the new Beauty and the Beast movie on DVD (and later on, the Belle Funko Pop! figure)... And that was my birthday day.

We had bought weekend passes for the county fair, so we ended up going Friday & Saturday night, and I got to enjoy all kinds of unhealthy fair food: cotton candy, blooming onion, poutine... And went on some rides. It was a fun weekend.

As far as my 30 Before 30 bucket list... Well, I didn't even manage to cross off half the list. I'm kind of disappointed about that. I had really wanted to do more. Let's just go through the list the see how I did, shall we?

  1. Live on my own - nope, didn't do that. And I'll be honest, it's probably not going to happen by next year either. It could, but it's not likely, unless I decided to pick up and move to another province, or am able to find a roommate (which wouldn't really be "living on my own").
  2. Write a business plan - I did not do this. Over the last two years, I've lost my dream. I'm no longer sure that I want to own a bakery, and in fact, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. So perhaps we should change this one to figure out what I want to do in life...
  3. Set foot in every province/territory - No. No, this obviously did not happen. And, well... like living on my own, it probably won't be happening in the next year either.
  4. Discover my personal style - *sigh* I mean... I guess I've always known what I like, but I don't like it on my body. So this is probably more closely related to either losing weight, or accepting my body for what it is.
  5. Finding my perfect "little black dress" - I still haven't quite found "the one."
  6. Be healthier - I had crossed this one off, because I had made efforts and gone to a nutritionist and made a plan to eat healthier... but I never went back to he nutritionist, and didn't quite stick to the plan, so... that was a half success.
  7. Get active - Well, I have once again not joined a softball or soccer team this summer... But I may take some exercise classes at the University this fall with one of my colleagues...
  8. Read Jane Austen - Nope, didn't do this yet, either.
  9. Do 30 random acts of kindness - I started doing this... but then time got away from me. I was also having a hard time coming up with 30 valid ideas that didn't involve spending lots of money. I'll keep working on it...
  10. Be a more faithful blogger - One I definitely did! I've been posting weekly or every other week on my book blog for the past year!
  11. Make a YouTube tutorial - Haven't quite got there yet, but I probably could. Especially now, as we're moving into Christmas craft sale season, and I will hopefully be making lots of my little ornaments to sell...
  12. Get up to date with technology - I bought a smart phone and joined Instagram, so yes I did this one!
  13. Travel with my best friend - Yes! We went to Orlando in March and it was EPIC!
  14. Enter a contest - By this I meant to enter my art or baking or something into a big contest, which I didn't do. I always put articles in the county fair, but it's not much of a competition, and there aren't any big prizes or anything.
  15. Take an online course - This comes back to not really knowing what I want to do in life. I would probably have to change this one to Go back to school once I figure out #2...
  16. Learn to enjoy cooking - I still haven't done much cooking on my own, so I haven't worked on this one.
  17. Get more organized - *sigh* I am definitely not done wktih this yet. I have, however, made some efforts. I bought a Happy Planner, which I have been using. I really need to clean up my room in order to organize my life a little better. Baby steps. But I'm going to consider this one crossed off, since I've gotten started.
  18. Become smarter financially - Sadly, I am still making silly impulse buys and spending way too much. It's kind of a coping mechanism because I don't have friends to hang out with...
  19. Plan for my retirement - I had crossed this one off because I spoke to my financial advisor and set up an automatic withdrawal of $50/month to go into mutual funds. However, I need to be saving more, so I'm going to see about putting that up to $100/month this year.
  20. Spend more one-on-one time with my nephews - I'm going to cross this one off because I did my part, but it hasn't really happened yet. Last year I gave my nephews "the gift of time" coupons for Christmas. They were to see a movie with me (and there was a ticket included), go window shopping (meaning I would take them to the mall to hang out, and they could shop if they wanted, but I wouldn't be buying them stuff), and spending a weekend at our house without the other boy. They have yet to cash any of them in yet. The summer was pretty busy for their family, so I kind of get it, but still a little bummed.
  21. Host a dinner party - I'm still not living on my own, so this one will be a little difficult until that happens. Especially considering I have no friends to invite over, so my "dinner party" would probably be my family...
  22. Learn to be ok with being solo - I more or less am ok with it, but this was more about being ok with doing public activities on my own, which I'm still not that comfortable with.
  23. Be a more knowledgeable car owner - ... Nope.
  24. See a live show/concert - Went to see Walk Off the Earth in Montreal April 2016, then April 2017 another fave band Home Free came to Sherbrooke. In November another up-and-coming group is come here called Washboard Union. So this has definitely been crossed off.
  25. Go to La Ronde - Did it! We went the summer after I made this list. Might go back this fall!
  26. Walk Foresta Lumina - Yep, did it too! We went for my birthday the last two summers. Didn't go this year because there was lots going on, but maybe I will go myself before the season ends.
  27. Visit the Abbey at St-Benoit-du-Lac - We did go last year, end of August, for a quick visit, but it would definitely be worth another visit, another time, earlier in the summer.
  28. Eat food truck food - My brother and I went to the food truck festivals in Montreal a couple of times over the last two summers. It was fun!
  29. Personal - This is one I didn't want to make public, but I still haven't done this one either.
  30. Unknown - I left one open in case I came up with something amazing... I haven't.
So... I really didn't do very well, I only crossed off 12 items, and some of those shouldn't really have been crossed off... But it did give me some goals to aim toward, so it wasn't all lost. And I believe I will be recycling this list and adding new ones for my 35th birthday (I'll think about that and maybe post in the New Year). I may also still try to do my 30 Random Acts of Kindness before the end of 2017, just because it was hard to come up with 30, I don't think I could do 35, haha!
Anyway... did any of you follow my lead to write a Milestone Bucket List? How are you doing with your lists?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Paige and Ree's Epic Vacation: Part 4

*sigh* Sometimes I ask myself why I bother starting these things if I'm not going to finish until 3 months later...

Anyway, if you've been following along, you know that I've been documenting my trip to Florida with my bestie in March. We spent a week in Orlando: four days at Universal (Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!), one day at Magic Kingdom, and the rest of our time relaxing at our resort. This is the final part of this dragged out four-part saga. If you've stuck around, congratulations. I love you. You're a star. 

Ok, moving on! If you have read my other posts about this trip, you'll know that we had already spent three days at Universal and our day at Magic Kingdom, so all we've got left is one day at Universal, and our "going home" day. This post is mostly just talk and not too many pictures, I'm afraid.

Friday, March 31

So, as I mentioned, Friday we went back to Universal. We had decided ahead of time that we would save our last day for doing things we had missed out on, re-doing things we had enjoyed, and buying souvenirs! The shuttles always had to be booked 24-48 hours in advance, so we had figured that since we were staying later for the fireworks at Disney on Thursday, that we might want to sleep in Friday, so we booked the 11:15 shuttle to Universal.

There wasn't a whole lot else that we wanted to do in the parks. We had more or less exhausted all that we want to do in the Wizarding World, aside from souvenirs. And there wasn't much in the rest of the parks that either of us were very interested in. Except...

I told Paige that since we had one more day, and we'd already done the Wizarding World rides a couple times, and the rides at Magic Kingdom weren't terribly exciting... that I wanted to do one other "thrill" ride in the park, but that I would leave it up to her which one we would do. The options were:

1) Hollywood Rip-Ride-Rocket
2) Doctor Doom's FearFall
3) Jurassic Park River Ride
4) The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Neither of us wanted to get wet, so that ruled out the river ride. She also very quickly ruled out Doctor Doom because she couldn't do the drop. So it came down to the Rip-Ride-Rocket or the Hulk Coaster, and she decided that the Hulk was the lesser of two evils, haha! So we did that fairly early in the day. It was pretty awesome. We went the single-rider route, once again, so that we could get on faster. It was definitely a thrilling ride, and I'd have to give that one 10 out of 5 stars! It was great! I don't know how much Paige enjoyed it, but she didn't seem too traumatized. :D I didn't take any pictures of the ride, but here is a video of it from YouTube:

So we mostly spent the rest of our time wandering between the two parks, taking more random pictures, and buying up souvenirs. I was really hot that day. I mentioned in an earlier part of the saga that we had every intention of sampling Butterbeer in all available forms, so we went and got Butterbeer Icecream from Florean Fortescue's (it's pretty much just butterscotch soft serve...).

A cool Pumpkin Juice advert, and Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour
Mmm... Butterbeer Ice Cream...

Even though it was wicked hot, we hadn't yet tried Hot Butterbeer, and we wanted to get some before we left. So we went to The Hopping Pot (because we hadn't been there yet), but they said it was out of season. What?!? How is that even possible?! We were so miffed. So instead, Paige got Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice, and I tried the Fishy Green Ale. Hers was a basic orange-flavoured carbonated drink. The Fishy Green Ale (I read about it on a blog and wanted to be adventurous) is a mint & cinnamon-flavoured drink with blueberry flavoured pearls (the "fish eggs") in the bottom. It sounds weird and gross and looks strange, and it was kind of good (well, it wasn't disgusting), but I could only drink about half of it, and that took me quite a while because I was only taking little sips (which is unfortunate since they cost enough...). I did quite enjoy sucking up and squishing the blueberry bubbles. :)

The Hopping Pot

Fishy Green Ale

It was a pretty hot day, and we decided that we wanted to have time to relax a bit back at the resort, so we had no intentions of staying until 7:15 to get the shuttle. So we instead decided to grab a taxi back around 5pm. It was handy and easily accessible, and an enjoyable ride, but, if I were doing things over, I would not do the taxi! It ended up costing a small fortune ($63 CAD). We knew it would cost a bit, but weren't quite expecting it to be that much. Had we made arrangements ahead to book a private shuttle, it would have cost us much less, but we didn't really know what we were doing. Oh well. Live and learn!

So once back at the resort, we munched on leftovers and all the snacks we had bought earlier in the week, hung out at the pool, packed our suitcases, and generally just chilled out.

Saturday, April 1

Paige's flight was around 11am, so her airport shuttle was supposed to be picking her up at 7:20am. This proved to be a bit complicated because the resort shuttles couldn't be booked ahead, and the office only opened at 7 (we had asked at the front desk a day or 2 before, and they told us to just call right at 7 and it should be fine). So she called at 7, like they had told us to do, and said that she needed to be at the desk at 7:20 to meet her shuttle. It apparently took them a really long time to get organized, and she had to call a couple times to remind them her shuttle was picking her up in X minutes, and let's just say she very nearly missed the shuttle, but thankfully the desk staff held off the driver long enough.

Unfortunately, my flight wasn't until 9pm, so I had most of the day to kill. Which would have been super fine, if I could have hung out in the villa, but I had to check out at 10am. So... I got a ride over to the main building with my bags, checked out and left my bags at the front desk (this was about 9:15am), then walked over to the commercial area to get breakfast.

Because my dad is an "owner," we were considered owners for being there in his place, but he hadn't given me his owner card (because they didn't tell him he had to), so I didn't have proof. This wasn't a problem during our stay because we had key cards to prove it. But once I had checked out, I no longer had a key card, and also didn't have my dad's owner card, so I couldn't prove "ownership" to get the discounts due me, so I had to pay a lot more for my breakfast than I should have. Not a big deal, but kind of annoying.

So, I ate my breakfast, then I stayed there writing postcards to my pen pals. That really didn't take very long, and I didn't feel comfortable staying at a table for no reason, so I went to buy stamps to mail my postcards. They sell stamps in a little dispenser machine that only takes quarters, and an International stamp is $2.50. (I knew this, but didn't really register it. In Canada, we have a national rate, a rate to send to the U.S., and another rate for International - I sort of assumed it was the same from their end.)

The postcards I mailed from Florida

After getting that all settled (and using up most of the American money I had left), I walked over to the main building to put my cards in the mailbox. I would have considered watching a movie at the little theatre, but the movies didn't start until afternoon. So I sat in the lobby and tried to read for a while. There were always so many people in the lobby, it's really not a relaxing place. It was very distracting. So I alternated between reading and people-watching. But then I just got sick of all the noise, so I walked back over to the commercial area, settled in on a bench outside in the shade, and read and people-watched some more, and surfed Facebook.

At some point I got kicked off the WiFi and couldn't get back on, so I had to give up on that. As it got closer to my shuttle pick-up time (4:20pm) I walked back over to the lobby, got my bags from the front desk, and found a table to sit at to try to read while I waited. It was a very long afternoon. Finally it was time, and the shuttle, and off we went.

It only took about 20 minutes to get to the airport, so I was ridiculously early, and I didn't really know what I was supposed to do. There was nobody at the Air Canada counter to ask, so I just checked in at one of the machines, and wandered out into a big lobby-area. I knew I needed to check my bag somewhere, but I didn't see any signs for baggage check (it had all been very straightforward and clearly marked in Montreal). So I asked a flight attendant where I was supposed to check my bag, and she was kind of confused and indicated that it would be at the airline counter... so I went back.

There was still nobody there, but somewhere along the way I had heard that the Air Canada counter would only be open at 6pm (because they only had 2 outgoing flights that day, ours at 9pm and another at 11pm), and by this time it was about 5pm. So... I took my place at the head of the line and waited! People eventually trickled in behind me, and I had the pleasure of telling them we had to wait until 6 to be served. Anyway... 6pm eventually rolled around, I checked my bag, and then hustled off to security and my gate.

After that, it was all pretty normal and straightforward and uneventful. My seat mate on the flight left her overhead light (which seemed to be pointed right at the top of my head) on for the whole trip, so there was no chance I was even going to doze. We got into Montreal right on time at midnight. Baggage claim took forever, it was 1am before I even got my bag, and everything just seemed to take much longer than necessary, but maybe that was just because I was sick of waiting. I think it was 1:30 by the time we left the airport (my parents were waiting for me), and with a few stops, it was 4am before I was home in my bed, and at least 6am before I was able to sleep. It was an extremely long and tedious day filled with so much waiting, but considering some of my other adventures, a rather routine and unexciting trip home. :)

Harry Potter souvenirs! Clockwise from the top:
Ginny Weasley's wand, souvenir Butterbeer mug,
Fizzing Whizbees, Chocolate Frog, Bertie's Every Flavor Beans,
Pumpkin Juice bottle, Ravenclaw sweater & pin, Ollivander's pin,
and Universal Studios magnet <3

So, that's it! It was an amazing and super fun trip. New York would have been fun, but doing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was definitely the better choice, for this year anyway. Maybe someday we'll do New York - it's really not that far away.

I would most definitely go back to Universal at some point, but if I was going back to Orlando, I would probably try to get in more time at Disney World and only one or two full days at Universal. And as much fun as the resort was, next time I would probably seriously consider booking a complete package and staying on site and stuff. We thought that doing it this way was cheaper, but in the end... I'm not entirely sure that it was! I still haven't added everything up to see how I did compared to my budget... Another post, maybe.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Paige and Ree's Epic Vacation: Part 3

Hi there! If you haven't been following along, I have been recounting, in detail, my recent trip to Orlando with my best friend, Paige. You can read the story behind the trip in Part 1, and our first couple days in the theme parks in Part 2.

To summarize, just in case you haven't got time to read all that, both Monday and Tuesday we went to Universal (Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure) and did ALL THE HARRY POTTER THINGS!

Wednesday (March 29)
On Wednesday we took the later free shuttle from the resort, which left at 11:15am, and came back at 7:15pm - earlier in the week we had taken the 9:20am shuttles and found that we were exhausted by the end of the day and our feet were just killing us. It turned out to be a smart move, as having just a few less hours of standing/walking in the heat, we felt so much better at the end of that day.

By this point, we were still very much into the Harry Potter stuff (Harry Potter stuff can't get old, right?), and we decided to dedicate our time to experiencing again the Harry Potter rides we had enjoyed the most, and also using our wands. So we went straight to the Dragon Challenge ride, the most exciting one. We ended up on the second dragon (there are two tracks) so it was a slightly different experience, and we got split up so that we could get on the ride faster, and the line was still pretty short at that time of day (which was around 11:45-ish, although I don't think I ever saw the sign say more than a 20 minute wait for that ride). After the Dragon Challenge, we went through Hogwarts for the Forbidden Journey ride again. We went back over to Diagon Alley for lunch at The Leaky Cauldron again because we preferred the atmosphere and experience there over The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

We spent the rest of the afternoon practicing our charms and spells in both parks. The spells in Diagon Alley (and Knockturn Alley) were fun & interesting, but we had a miserable time getting most of them to work for us! There are witches wandering about to help you, but there are only a couple of them, for a dozen spell spots, so we didn't get too much assistance. And there were tons of kids around lined up to take their turn at practicing each spell. So it made me feel a bit silly to be standing in line with a bunch of kids and then not be able to make the thing work. I tried very hard to leave behind my insecurities and just have fun, but this was one situation that I could not let go of.
Posing with wands for a double selfie is really difficult...
There were a few more spells to do in Hogsmeade, but of course that day, half the village was "jinxed" so nobody's spells were working, which was unfortunate. We did, however, have an amusing conversation with the Hogwarts Express conductor. There weren't really as many cast members around as I would have expected, and it wasn't clear with most of them whether they were actually in character or not, but with the conductor, it was very clear (once we caught on!)... We asked if we could take his picture in front of the Hogwarts Express, which he consented to. He said he hadn't known when he took the job that he'd become so famous, it was the train who was the famous one! He then asked us where we were from, so we said Canada, of course. And he confirmed that it was still pretty cold there. He then proceeded to ask us why we (and everyone else) were dressed in summer clothes when it was so cold? We especially, being from a colder climate, should have known to bring warmer clothes! He himself needed his longjohns and the fur liner in his coat to keep warm! We had a good chuckle! :) (Because the buildings in Hogsmeade all have snow on them, you see.)

After we had had our fill of spell casting, and as it was nearing the time for the shuttle, we slowly headed toward the entrance. Earlier in the week we had seen Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in CityWalk, and had taken a peek inside. It is a 19th Century steampunk-themed chocolate store, restaurant & bar - which is about as awesome as a thing can get! We had also seen a girl from our shuttle with one of their milkshake cups which we thought we ought to try, so that's where we headed Wednesday afternoon on our way to the shuttle. The milkshakes were an outrageous $13 USD (plus tax), but they were quite something. I got the brownie one, which had a huge fudge-y brownie on top with the straw stuck through it. The straw was actually full of brownie, though, which wouldn't budge and resulted in me spilling milkshake all over myself and my bag. They were pretty tasty, but sooo filling! While we were sitting on the patio enjoying our shakes, there was a lady in full steampunk costume (apparently called Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome, which I found out after doing some research once home) who walked around talking to customers... she wasn't talking to us, but her costume was awesome! I wish I had taken a picture. I wasn't feeling it too much at the time when we were there, but if I were ever to go back to Universal, I would definitely like to spend a little more time at Toothsome - get a meal and whatnot. :)

Thursday (March 30)
Thursday was Disney's Magic Kingdom day! We had decided before the trip that we would go to Disney on Thursday, as it's supposed to be a "less busy" day at Magic Kingdom. We knew that we wanted to stay later for the fireworks, and knowing how tired we had been earlier in the week, we decided to take the last shuttle that went to Disney, at 12:15pm, which came back at 10pm. If I were doing it again, I think I would put in a few more hours at Disney, especially because we were only there for one day. I was tired at the end of the day, but we didn't get to do everything we had wanted to, and it felt a bit rushed at some points during the day, so a few more hours could have been put to good use.

The shuttle from the resort actually only goes to Epcot Centre, so we then had to take the Disney Monorail over to Magic Kingdom. It was really hot that day! We had made a vague list of things we wanted to see/do, but of course had forgotten it behind at the resort. So, we started wandering, took the obligatory selfie-in-front-of-Cinderella's-castle pictures, wandered through shops on Main Street to get out of the heat, etc. There aren't too many "thrill" rides at Magic Kingdom, but there were a few we had in mind to do, so we headed over to Frontierland first (totally bypassing Adventureland, which is actually where Pirates of the Caribbean is and a few other things we wanted to see, so we never even saw those things, and didn't realize until we were back at the resort!!). On the way to Frontierland, were caught part of the Muppets' Memorable Moments in American History show in Liberty Square. Then we got in the long line for Big Thunder Mountain. There is entertainment along most of the line, and the ride was fun, but I think my childhood memories were more exciting. I'd probably give it 3/5 stars.

After we got off Big Thunder Mountain, there was a parade happening, so we had quite a time getting to where we wanted to go! But we eventually made it over to Fantasyland and did It's A Small World, Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, and the Mad Tea Party. It's A Small World is one of those classic Disney rides, but in hindsight, we could have skipped it because it wasn't all that great. I don't think that the Little Mermaid ride was there when I was a kid, if it was I never went on it, so that was kind of cute, lot of music to sing along to. (Haha!) I told Paige that if we had time and it wasn't a ridiculous line, then the Mad Tea Party was a must because I didn't get to do it when I was a kid and it was a sore spot. ;)

Beauty & the Beast's castle!

We would have loved to eat at Be Our Guest,
but it was booked solid for the week!

Statue of Gaston
After those rides we got supper at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Diner in Tomorrowland, which was delicious! I got a pulled pork burger, and it was just amazing. After that we headed over to Space Mountain. It was a ridiculous wait time (80 minutes!) and while there were some interactive games along part of the path, for the most part it was just a lot of standing and shuffling a few paces at a time. We got separated on this one too so that we could ride faster. It was so exciting and exhilarating! I loved it! I think Paige liked it in the end... That one gets 5/5 stars, for sure. It was just as I remembered it as a kid!

Next it was time to do our souvenir shopping and find a spot for the amazing Wishes fireworks show! So we headed back to Main Street, spent an hour or more shopping, and then found a perfect spot for the show beside a super sweet young family. While waiting we got some snacks - we had both wanted Mickey straws but forgot to order them with our meals, so then we were running around Main Street trying to find some, but the best we could do was chocolate-covered marshmallows on straws. The Wishes show was a spectacular 15 minutes long and so beautiful! I am so, so glad we included it in our itinerary! Immediately after the show we headed out with the masses to take the monorail to Epcot in order to catch our 10pm shuttle back to the resort!

Part 4 detailing the last two days of our trip is up now!

Magic Kingdom souvenirs! <3

Monday, May 8, 2017

Paige and Ree's Epic Vacation: Part 2

So, as described in Part 1, we arrived at the resort around mid-day on Saturday, March 25th (Paige a little later than me). We were at Westgate Vacation Villas and Resort in Kissimmee. It is a huge place! Our villa was a 5-10 minute walk from the main building. They do have a little shuttle and golf carts to get you around the resort, if ever you don't have a car (which we didn't) and have stuff to lug around because it's quite a big place. The villa was really nice, basically a small apartment. There were two bedrooms, one with two double beds, and the Master bedroom with a King size bed. There was also a pull-out couch that makes a Queen size bed in the living area. There was a fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, dining area, living area, and patio. The Master bedroom had an en suite toilet, shower, and jacuzzi. The other bedroom had access to another washroom with toilet & tub/shower. So we each claimed a room and had our own bathroom, which was nice.
The resort offers a free shuttle service to SeaWorld, Universal, and Disney's Epcot Centre, so Monday and Tuesday we reserved the earlier (9:20am) shuttle to Universal, which came back at 7:15pm. We were kind of grumbling thinking that that wasn't very convenient hours, but we quickly discovered that that is a long day of walking around in the heat! The temperature over the week varied from 29-33 degrees Celsius, which is not much different than summer here, but I, for one, wasn't ready and didn't handle it very well.

So here's a somewhat condensed overview of those first two days in the parks:

Monday (March 27)
We went to Universal Studios first, and pretty much made a bee-line for Diagon Alley (basically the whole reason for this destination was our mutual love of Harry Potter). That first day we wasted a bit of time just being so in awe of everything and not quite knowing where to start. Before you enter Diagon Alley, you see King's Cross Station (where you go to take the Hogwarts Express), the Knight Bus, and Grimmauld Place. We were so lucky to get to Grimmauld Pace right when Kreecher made his appearance in the window! Then, upon entering Diagon Alley for the first time and soaking in those first few sights, the dragon breathed fire and we were in a perfect position to capture pictures of it! It was totally awesome!!

So, after getting inside Diagon Alley, and taking pictures of nearly everything we saw, the next thing we did was get in line for the Escape from Gringott's ride. It was a long wait (I believe it was 60 minutes - which really isn't bad in theme-park terms), but the line moved pretty fluidly so it didn't feel so long. The line winds all through the inside of Gringott's bank, which made it an interesting wait. Such beautiful things to see! We didn't have our phones because you are supposed to secure all loose belongings in a locker, so we didn't get any pictures inside. We saw lots of people had smuggled their phones in, but we didn't think it worth the risk of potentially dropping them while on the ride. The ride itself was fun and exciting, but not terribly memorable, and the ending was kind of abrupt and disappointing - we both kind of expected a bigger finish. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

After that, we had lunch at The Leaky Cauldron - fish & chips, of course (so good!), with Butterbeer. It was our intention to try Butterbeer in all it's forms offered in the parks, so that first day we tried the cold version. Delicious, but very sweet. (I've been asked about this a lot, so I feel it necessary to explain: Butterbeer is a non-alcoholic beverage referred to in the Harry Potter books, which has been recreated for the parks! It is most often described as butterscotch flavour, but the cold version is kind of like cream soda with butterscotch "foam" on top.)  We also bought our interactive wands at Ollivander's right away, with the intention of using them throughout the week (we had decided ahead of time that we would only buy any real souvenirs, aside from our wands, at the end of the trip).

Lunch at The Leaky Cauldron, Ollivander's Wand Shop, some of the other shops

We had bought park-to-park passes specifically so that we could ride the Hogwarts Express, which is so much fun and a must do! The line on the Diagon Alley side meanders through King's Cross Station, bringing you through the wall to Platform 9 3/4! That first time we went through, I didn't see the wall, but I caught a quick clip of it later on. The train itself is such a good replica, so cute. The cars hold up to 8 people, and the windows/door have projections, and it's a different animation in either direction you travel. So well done! Except that the voice of Hermione is not Emma Watson's, which seemed odd...

We didn't stay long on the Hogsmeade side that first day because there were so many more people, and it was hot, and just... Yuck. So we just had a little sit-down, got some cold drinks, had a quick look around, and then took the train back.

Back in Diagon Alley, we did the Ollivander's wand experience. When we first went to the shop to buy our wands, the line for the experience was huge, but when we went back later in the afternoon there was nobody! That was such a fun experience! I'll talk more about that in a later post...

If memory serves, that was pretty much all we did that first day. Before leaving the park to wait for the shuttle, we stopped at a little snack kiosk to get pretzels, and they were totally gross and disappointing and a waste of money. Once back at the resort, we hopped in the pool, ordered a pizza, watched TV, and generally just relaxed after a super fun, magical first day in the parks!

Tuesday (March 28)
Back to Universal on the 9:20 shuttle. This time we started off on the Islands of Adventure side, and again went straight to the Harry Potter section, of Hogsmeade. We decided to get some rides out of the way first, because things had seemed to get busier after lunch the day before. So we did the Forbidden Journey ride. Once again, the wait was entertaining, and didn't seem as long, because the line went around the inside of the Hogwarts castle with lots of interesting things to see. Again, we had to secure everything in a locker, so we don't have any pictures inside :(, but trust me when I say that it was awesome! The ride was a lot of fun, very exciting and entertaining, and seemed a decent length. I'd probably give that one 4.5 out of 5 stars.

By the time we got done with that ride it was around 11:30, so we went to get lunch at The Three Broomsticks, and got in just before the lunch rush! We still had to wait, but not nearly as long as we had the day before. I got the Shepherd's Pie, which was quite good. Paige tried the frozen Butterbeer this time, and I had a taste. It was basically a caramel flavoured slush. We sat there for a bit enjoying the air conditioning and letting our food digest... And then got in line for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride.

Oh my gosh. We were expecting the Dragon Challenge ride (we were confused!), and the line for this Hippogriff ride was super long and not that interesting, and then the ride itself was so short, and fun, but not really that exciting. It was definitely only 2 out of 5 stars for me, pretty big disappointment. The best part of the whole thing was walking by Hagrid's Hut in the line, and the animatronic Buckbeak.
The Three Broomsticks

Lunch at The Three Broomsticks

Hagrid's Hut

So after that, we got in the actual line for the Dragon Challenge ride, which was only a 20 minute wait! And boy, it's not called a thrill ride for nothing, let me tell you! The line took us through... well, I'm not sure what, actually. It's as if you're going down into the castle dungeon or soemthing? Anyway, the ride was full of twists, turns, climbs, drops, swinging sideways and upside down... it was AWESOME! So much fun! 6 out of 5 stars, definitely!

Poor Paige hadn't done many rollercoasters before this trip and so she didn't know if she would like them or not... This ride didn't help her choose! Haha. We were so dizzy after, and I didn't have my head against the seat as you're supposed to, so I got a headache from getting knocked around a bit, so we went and got some refreshments and had a short rest.

The rest of the day was spent wandering through the rest of the Islands of Adventure: we did some of the kiddie rides/attractions in Seuss Landing (Caro-Seuss-el, High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, and walked through the Truffula tree forest) and watched The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad (kiiiinda lame, but kinda fun :D ). We also caught the Universal Superstar Parade, which was... well, it was a something. Hah! I'm sure it's much more interesting/exciting for little kids.
Part 3 and Part 4 are live now!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Paige and Ree's Epic Vacation: Part 1

The last couple months have been a blur. I drafted a few different blog posts (on all my blogs) before the fact, talking about my recent trip to Orlando, Florida with my best friend, but in the end, I don't think I had actually published any of them. So you may be wondering what I'm blathering on about! Patience, I am going to tell you! If you know me and my writing at all, you know that I tend to babble on and on, so I've split the tale of this week-long vacation into four parts. This one is basically just sharing how we got there and the first couple days at the resort.

Ok, so let's start with the back-story. A couple of years ago, when I was turning 28, I decided to write a bucket list of 30 things I wanted to do/accomplish/achieve before my 30th birthday. I was kind of freaking out about the fact that I was closer to 30 than 25, regretting not doing more things with my youth, and I had been seeing a lot of these bucket lists around the internet, for various milestones. I loved the idea, and decided to do it to help give myself some solid goals to aim for over the next couple years.

One of the items on this list was to travel with my best friend. We have been friends for 12 years now. That's crazy! Over those 12 years (and previous, in her case), we have both done a bit of international traveling. One of the main points we have in common is our love of travel, adventure, and world cultures. So it may (or may not) come as a surprise that we had never actually traveled anywhere together!

Spending New Year's Eve in New York City is on her life's bucket list, so that was our initial plan as a trip to do together. Fast-forward to September 2016 when we completely abandoned those plans and decided to go to Florida instead! We also never get to celebrate our birthdays together, so this was a sort of early 30th birthday bash for us to do together. Ok, now let me share!

Saturday, March 25th, we both flew down to Orlando. Our flights were supposed to arrive around the same time, but hers was delayed almost 2 hours. We stayed at a Westgate Resort in Kissimmee, so after Paige arrived, the rest of Saturday was basically spent doing a bit of exploring around the resort and hanging out at the pool, nothing too exciting! Sunday we were *supposed* to get a free breakfast and other stuff (long story, but one word should explain: "timeshare"), but when that didn't work out, we went and got some breakfast & snack foods at the little convenience store, and hung out in our villa (which is like an apartment), and at the pool some more, did some more exploring on the other side of the resort - found the water park, the mini golf, the bike & pedal boat rentals, etc!

Paige had plans to go to a church event with some friends Sunday evening, so we walked over to the main building together to meet her friends. After they left, there is a little movie theater room (Disney movies only!) in that main building, so I hung around and watched Tangled. Then I walked back to the villa, but decided to stop at the pool on the way, to sit and read for a bit. When I went back to the villa, my key card had demagnetized, so I had to walk over to the main building again to get that fixed.

I decided to get a ride back to our rooms. I wanted to experience the resort "train" shuttle. I had seen the stops all over the place, but had never seen the shuttle itself. So I asked the security guard outside where the shuttle stopped and when it would be back. He told me that it would be back soon and I could just stand there with him to wait, he didn't mind. So we had a little chat, he asked me where I was from, if I was finding it too hot, what plans we had for the week, etc. After several minutes, I asked again about the shuttle, and he said it shouldn't be long, but not to worry I was fine there, so I stayed chatting a bit more. I asked how long he'd been working there, he said two weeks. Then he said, "Oh there, see that bus down there? That's the shuttle. Now I'll be sad because you're going to leave me." Haha, so I was surprised about this bus thing. Again, I hadn't seen the train so I didn't know what to look for, but I was kind of expecting one of the big golf carts. Anyway, so the bus stops, and the driver asks if I'm going to the Towers (the other Westgate Resort across the highway), and I said no and gave him our unit number. And he was like, "Oh, this is just a shuttle between the resorts, but... (I must have looked distraught) you're the only one, so I can take you over, it's not a problem."

So I eventually got a ride back, and made a couple of humorous acquaintances along the way. I then tried out the jacuzzi in my room before settling in to watch some TV until Paige got back. It was an amusing way to start the vacation. :)

Monday we started our park adventures, which you can read about in Part 2!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Year in Review - 2016

Hello Readers! I apologize for not posting sooner. My last post was months ago, and my only excuse is that life happened, and I've been giving a lot more attention to my book review blog and Instagram accounts.

So, here we are at the end of 2016. So many people are raging about how terrible this year has been and how anxious they are for it to be over. This year certainly has had it's ups and downs, but I think I have to say that, for the most part, 2016 has been a good year for me. Let me attempt to summarize the highlights:

January: Nothing very exciting happened that I can remember, just the usual recovering from the holidays, celebrating the elder nephew's birthday, figuring out new technology, etc.

February: My friend Kelly and I went into Montreal for the annual Je T'aime en Chocolat event and some shopping, and we stayed to see the chocolate fashion show at the end, which was a lot of fun!

March: I had some fun cake orders, we celebrated Easter...

April: My brother and I went to Montreal for a Walk Off the Earth concert. It was my first-ever concert, which is noteworthy enough on its own, but it was also Walk Off the Earth, one of my all-time fave bands! It was awesome!! We also celebrated my dad's and younger nephew's birthdays.

May: My brother and I went to the first food truck festival of the season in Montreal, we witnessed some particularly beautiful apple blossoms throughout the month, and we celebrated my brother's birthday.

June: We had a visit from Ontario family, celebrated Father's Day, celebrated mom's birthday... Went to a drive-in movie (Finding Dory) - another first for me!

July: Canada Day! Family get-together to celebrate 3 June birthdays and July 1st... We went to Knowlton (I did the Three Pines Friendly challenge in the village)... We took a week's vacation traveling to/from Ontario visiting family...

August: My 29th birthday, another food truck festival in Montreal, annual family rivalry for decorated cupcakes at Cookshire Fair (mine won)...

September: My brother and I drove to the Maritime provinces for the weekend - I spent it with my bestie in NB, he went to his friends' in PEI.

October: My parents and I took my nephews to Parc Safari, we celebrated my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, we experienced a beautiful autumn, had a fun Halloween party at the community centre. 

November: Packing Operation Christmas Child boxes, the first snowfall of the year, Christmas craft sale...

December: Baking, parties, decorating, gifts, CHRISTMAS!!

It really has been a great year. Bad things happen all the time; it's just a matter of looking for that silver lining, choosing to see and to celebrate the good in spite of the bad, and striving to do better (despite what may come) this next year.

And with that... Happy New Year <3