Cast of National Lampoon's Vacation with their car

Road Trip!

Later this summer, my wife and I will be embarking on a glorious road trip.  We had been debating what to do for my vacation this summer.  We tossed around a few ideas, but nothing seemed to be sticking.  One idea that we had floated around was to drive to Pawhuska, OK.  This one kept coming back up, even though we kept on dismissing it initially.  No matter what else we considered this one kept coming back into our mind, so we decided to look into it.

Now why Pawhuska, OK?” you might ask.  Or maybe more likely you’re saying “where?

My wife is a big fan of Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman.  Her blog, cookbooks and TV series all revolve around her life on the ranch.  Okay, to be fair, I’m a big fan of Ree as well.  We’ve often made use of her recipes in our home, and everything has been delicious.  To date, I think my ultimate favourite recipe of hers is her Burgundy Mushrooms. Sooo tasty!  They may take 9 hours (yes, 9 hours!) to cook, but the house will smell amazing and the taste is exquisite.

Ree and family live near a small town in Oklahoma called Pawhuska.  Over the past year, she and her husband have renovated and opened an old mercantile store.  The Pioneer Woman Mercantile has a bakery, a deli and a general store.  All things Ree can be found here.  So this was our final destination.  (Look out Ree, we’re coming! Given that the town of Pawhuska is relatively tiny, we opted to book a hotel in Bartlesville, about 30-miles away.

Map route
Our big road trip for the summer

To make the trip that much more fun, we’re heading off to Gatineau, QC first to spend a couple of days with Isabelle’s goddaughter, Elise and the family (including newborn twins).  From there, we’ll continue on to Niagara Falls and spend a night there.  This will be Isabelle’s first visit to Niagara Falls, my second.  I was 7 or 8 the last time I went, so not much recollection.  This is where we’ll cross over into the US and make our way to Oklahoma, driving through St. Louis on the way.

We’ll spend a couple of days visiting the area around Pawhuska and Bartlesville, spending lots of time (I’m sure) at the Mercantile, soaking it all up.  I may need to hide my darling wife’s credit card once we get there…

The road home sees us stop in Louisville, KY and then heading on towards Wrentham, MA to do a bit of outlet shopping.  We’ll be leaving Wrentham on my birthday.  Rather than drive all the way home and have a boring kind of birthday, we opted to spend another night on the road.  We’ll be heading through to Kittery, ME so that I can get me some Bob’s Clam Hut and then one last night at a hotel in Portland, ME before heading home.

All said and done, we’re looking at a little under 7,100 km (4,400 mi for my US readers) and about 67 hours of drive time.  The longest road trip that I’ve ever taken was when I visited my friend Heather in Ohio some years back. That was about a 20 hour drive each way on my own.  This time, at least I’ll be sharing the task.

One of the other fun parts of this drive is that we’ll be able to check off a number of US states from our list.  After my grandmother passed away a few years ago, I was looking through her photo albums.  My grandparents had traveled quite a bit in their later years.  One of the finds in the albums was a handwritten list of all the states they had visited.  I made a copy of the list and Isabelle and I will endeavor to check them all off, and then some!

My grandmother's handwritten list of all the US states she and my grandfather visited

I’m sure that there will be further posts detailing this trip later this summer.  Stay tuned!

A Visitor in my Own City

It’s been a good summer thus far, despite the fact that my wife had her gallbladder removed following a second visit to the ER in two weeks.  While she’s doing phenomenally well, and is recovering nicely, it forced us to be a little low key for a few weeks.  When I wasn’t working, we spent our nights and weekends bingeing Netflix series.  Even now, two weeks out of the surgery, she’s getting out of the house a bit more, but we’re still keeping things quiet.  And I must say that I’ve enjoyed the summer because of it.  It’s allowing us to enjoy the little things.  As much as we used to sit and binge TV shows periodically, I truly enjoyed the experience this time.  Even our outings are small scale, but fun.  This past weekend, we opted to do a stay-cation.

We headed off to Place 1604 in Dieppe, a whopping 2 minute drive from our house.  We hadn’t yet been to see the new sculpture unveiled on Canada Day, so we strolled through the property, soaking in the beauty that is our city centre.

Then we crossed the street and headed to Café Archibald for lunch.  As it was such a beautiful day, we lucked out and got the last free table on the patio.  Lunch was delicious as always.  Over the last few visits, I’ve had the same menu item and it has quickly become one of my favourites in town.  Flatbread topped with goat cheese, figs and balsamic reduction.  So. Good.  I opted to have some dessert as well and went for the dessert of the week – a Nanaimo Bar crêpe.  They’ve had the same dessert a few times in the past.  We had the privilege of having it when they first made it a few years ago and it had actual chunks of Nanaimo bar in the crêpe.  It was to die for.  While this version didn’t have pieced of Nanaimo bar in it, it did have the right flavour profile.  Not as good as the original, but tasty nonetheless.

Following lunch, we did a bit of touristy browsing of local boutiques.  We stopped by Carte Blanche, Maddie & Sofia, and Gifts Galore.  We also did the rounds of some of the spiritual/New Age shops in town – Boutique Mystral, Mystic Moons and Le Passage.  While at Le Passage, I made a couple of purchases.  I’ve long had an obsession with ancient Egypt.  I’ve been fascinated by pyramids since I was a child.  So I opted to buy a beautiful dark blue energy pyramid.  Over the past year or two, I’ve also become interested in learning more about Archangels.  The one that I’ve “connected” with (for lack of better terms) is Uriel.  Lo and behold, they had a beautiful 8-inch statue. Two more fine additions to our meditation room.

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Once we arrived in downtown Moncton, we took a little stroll through Festival Inspire.    They had set up a little space along Downing Street with kiosks, vendors and a stage for some musical performances.  One of the big pieces of the festival is the creation of murals around the city.  This was the main reason we headed downtown, so we could see the turtle.
The turtle was created by an artist based out of Portugal named Bordalo II, using pieces of plastic garbage from around the city and from the recycle centre.  It’s a stunning piece to see in person, emerging in three-dimensions from the side of the building.

All in all, a beautiful day!  I enjoyed strolling around the city enjoying things that we don’t usually take the time to appreciate.  You have to enjoy the little moments in life.  They are what make up the bulk of your life.  Soak them all up and live your life to the fullest.

 

Day 7 – Happy Birthday Isabelle! (aka The End)

Although this was our third trip to Disney World for my birthday, this was the first year where our dates worked out so that Isabelle would celebrate hers as well.  Isabelle and I are born 5 days apart (well, 1 year and 5 days). I’m the 22nd of August, she’s the 27th.  As a teacher, and due to her return to work at the end of August, we haven’t been able to arrange the trips to allow her to experience the joys of a Disney World birthday.  This year; however, the calendar worked with us.  She only had to go back to school on the 29th, so we were able to shift the dates a bit to get both of our birthdays in. Continue reading “Day 7 – Happy Birthday Isabelle! (aka The End)”

Day 5 – Animal Kingdom

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Pop Tart Breakfast Sandwich

Following our day off, our next stop was Animal Kingdom.  Before leaving for the park, I finally got to try something that I’d heard about.  We were staying at Pop Century, as we always do, and there was a new addition to the menu… The Pop Tart Breakfast Sandwich.  This item had apparently been available in the past when people requested it, but never on their published menu.  But that had changed.  What more could one ask for in a breakfast?  Eggs, bacon and cheese sandwiched between two strawberry Pop Tarts.  While I wouldn’t eat this daily, it did make for a fun experience.  Plus, it gives me a great story to tell people.

Continue reading “Day 5 – Animal Kingdom”

Day 4 – A “Day Off” at Disney Springs

One thing we do on every visit to Disney World is to schedule an “off day” mid-visit.  This allows us to rest up a bit and just relax since the other days are what you could call loaded.  We typically leave the hotel around 8AM and often return around/after midnight.  So we need a little downtime to recharge and get ready for the second half.

Continue reading “Day 4 – A “Day Off” at Disney Springs”

Day 3 – Epcot

Epcot was the next stop on our trip.  This was a break from our usual pattern as we typically would visit Epcot on our first day.  It was also a chance for us to continue with the new adventures.  Earlier this year, the Norway pavillion’s Maelstrom ride was re-purposed into a Frozen ride.  Knowing that this was one of the busiest rides in all four parks, we opted to make a bee-line directly to the ride on our arrival first thing in the morning.  Despite the fact that we arrived very shortly after the park opened, we arrived to find the line snaking all the way around the little courtyard.  In all, we ended up waiting in line for over an hour for this ride, but it was well worth it.  You get to immerse yourself in the world of Arendelle, with all of the characters from the movie.

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After the ride, I was able to try something I’d wanted to try for some time, but had never taken the time – School Bread.  The Kringla Bakerei at the Norway pavilion sells these delicious, coconutty and custardy items.  I’ll talk more about them some other time when I focus on the food at Disney World.

We always enjoy walking around the World Showcase.  Visiting the 11 pavilions.  It’s the day we walk the most, by far.  I could stroll through the park all day long.  In the span of a few hours, you get to visit Mexico, England, Norway, Japan, China, France, Italy and more.

Apart from the World Showcase, we had a chance to do a character encounter with Baymax from Big Hero 6.  He winked at Isabelle.   Our night ended with supper at the Japan pavilion, eating at Teppan Edo.  Since it’s a hibachi restaurant with tableside grills, we were seated with some other people, including a non-verbal Down Syndrome child at the opposite side of the grill.  He loved shrimp. And I mean LOVED shrimp.  It was adorably cute.

Once the meal was over, we strolled through the pavilions yet again as they have a whole other feel to them in the evening.  We found a nice spot around the World Showcase Lagoon from which to watch the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  This is one of the best fireworks displays in Disney World, and definitely a must-do for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity.

And thus ended our third day.

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Day 2 – Happy Birthday, Chris!

Day 2 of our 2016 Disney adventure was a special day for me.  It was my birthday!  There is no better way to spend your 38th birthday than being at Disney World.  This is now the 3rd birthday I’ve celebrated at Disney, and they each get better and better.  We even have my 40th planned to be visiting Disney yet again.  (I’m still working on getting my birthday twin, James Corden, to join us.  We were both born August 22, 1978.)

As it was my birthday, the choice of activities was left to me.  Naturally, we visited my favourite park – Hollywood Studios.  It was a day full of Star Wars, Tower of Terror and food.  Our absolute favourite ride is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – a thrilling drop elevator ride.  We definitely took a few rides through the tower on this day.  But the biggest part of the day was around Star Wars.  Over the past few years, since Disney acquired Star Wars from Lucasfilm, the presence in the parks has increased.  They are currently building a new Star Wars-themed part of Hollywood Studios.  On this visit though, we were able to meet a couple of characters – Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.  We rode Star Tours a few times and got to see some Storm Troopers marching through the park.

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On the food side of things, lunch consisted of popcorn and a red-velvet cupcake from Starring Roles Café.  We didn’t want anything too heavy for lunch as we were heading to one of our favourite restaurants for supper – the 50’s Prime Time Café.  For those who’ve never been, the concept is that everyone in the restaurant are cousins, and you’re eating in your grandma’s family home.  Mom’s in the kitchen making supper and Grandma’s making dessert.  Our waiter, Cousin Carmelo, even gave me a birthday card!  We are always left with an overfilled belly and huge smile on our faces when we leave here.  Here’s my tip – try the PB & J milkshake.

One of the absolute highlights for me was the new Star Wars Spectacular – an all new firework and laser-projection show at the end of the night.  The show is broadcast onto the front of the Chinese Theatre in the centre of the park using lasers and digital projectors.  The images were spectacular, the lasers and fireworks stunning…it was one of the best Disney fireworks shows that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing to date.

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Magic

Do you believe in magic?

That’s how the song goes.  (Am I referring to the classic by The Lovin’ Spoonful?  Or the jingle for the restaurant with the golden arches?)  With the recent passing of Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies for those unaware), I’ve found myself thinking about magic in all of its many forms, so that will be the basis for my post today.  Apologies for the rambling and stream-of-consciousness that is to ensue. Continue reading “Magic”