Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Undisappointing Bed Story

Remember that time I felt all mature because I bought an expensive pillow that sucked? (Read: The Disappointing Pillow Story.)

What a life lesson. That pillow is currently still in two parts. One part is in the living room, useful for when sitting on the floor playing with Giant Kitty. The other part is... I don't know where it is. Perhaps on our spare bed?

Oh, what's that? SPARE BED?!

What a wonderful segway into today's non-fictional story.

Le Boyfriend and I bought a bed. I don't have a lot of experience purchasing furniture. Like many adult responsibilities (children, automobiles, mortgages, having an herb garden), I put off acquiring furniture longer than the average person. At one point in 2007 a friend and I had a very important discussion relating to the fact that buying a DVD player was far too much commitment for wanderers such as ourselves.

BUT WAIT! Side DVD player story: When Shannon, Keri, and I lived in Edinburgh in 2004, we acted like it was 1994. Initially none of us had brought any sort of computing device, we obviously didn't have internet, no additional cable, and, for awhile, no means of watching movies. A few months in, Keri eventually bought a DVD player. So joyous! Now we could - gasp - listen to music, look at pictures that had been burnt onto CDs, and watch movies! We owned two movies. What's that? You suddenly have the urge to watch Muppets from Space or The Wedding Singer? Sorry, we left them in Edinburgh as they wouldn't play on North American DVD players. Our DVD player's proudest moment was probably when, for a friend's good-bye (or maybe birthday, I can't remember) party, we all thought it would be funny to rent *porn* from the DVD rental vending machine thingie down the street. We wanted something super cheesy and as stereotypically awful as possible. We found one that was set in a haunted house. In case you're thinking, "Wait - porn from a rental machine that doesn't require ID, isn't that risky?", there is no need to worry: there was (sigh) no full frontal nudity.

End side story.

Back to bed story.

While current hand-me-down bed was comfortable, le Boyfriend and I found it a smidgen small. It was an odd size that you don't see commonly for sale anymore, slightly smaller than a double, I believe. A-okay for one person, perhaps a bit tight by times for two people, but overly snug for two people and one growing cat who sneaks in during the night and wants to sleep ascloseaspossible. It might seem a bit extreme to buy a new bed just because "Michu takes up more than his share!"; however, it was actually on the too-be-purchased list that had been developed when le Boyfriend and I moved in together. Thirteen-pound kitty (at last weighing) was just the tipping point.

Our first bed shopping stop was Sears. Advice for people who shall be bed shopping in the near future: don't wear a skirt or dress. You expend too much mental energy trying to not flash people while laying in a department store bed. Sears salesperson was nice, not overbearing, and what you appreciate in a sales person. Gives you space, checks in occasionally to see if you have questions, and, best, let's you know when the bed you pick will be on sale over the next month!

In an effort to be responsible, le Boyfriend and I also went to The Brick to test some beds and eye some prices.

So awkward.

The salesperson there followed us around the whole time like we were going to steal something. Yes, I'm just going to shove this giant bed into my jacket pocket, yes, you are correct to be concerned as I'm sure there are statistics somewhere supporting the increase of BED THEFTS from Bricks nation wide. Salesperson rattled off information and watched us as we lay in each bed, waiting for us to buy. Not watched us from a distance, but stood next to us. More happened, and it was such a bizarre experience. You know how you tell store staff when they ask if you need help that you're just looking around? And you expect them to leave you alone? Not so much. Needless to say, we returned to Sears and bought our bed there. Best price, lovely bed, and, HOLD ONTO YOUR WOOLY WINTER SOCKS, free delivery. (Other shop was about $100 to take the bed down the street. I expect the delivery person would then probably stay at your residence for an hour and watch you lay in the bed.)

Verdict? New bed = awesome. But, in an effort not to be overly responsible, the bed is still on the floor without a bed frame. Sometimes we just don't like to spend too much money at once.

(Hilarious side of no bed frame? Playing with Michu, and chasing him into the bedroom, with him being accustomed to running under the bed. He ran into the bedroom, I followed, and he ran smack into the boxspring on the floor, suddenly realizing he could no longer get under the bed. He looked started, and ran off to another room.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taxation without Representation - Museums and Monuments


Le Boyfriend and I recently returned from Washington, DC. Prior to departure, a few people looked a bit confused when I told them where we were going. I suppose the American capital (not to be confused with the Capitol) doesn't seem like an obvious destination for a Canadian, but I had heard wonderful things about the city. Based on what friends had said, pictures I had seen, and articles I had written, DC had many things that I enjoy: monuments, museums, delicious food, good weather, and the ability to walk a kazillion kilometres a day! For le Boyfriend, it had a soccer team and me, as a tour guide and lovely travel companion. Because I like to go back and read through my holiday archives, here is Part I of DC Adventures.

Matching the podium is essential for being President
DC is littered with wonderful museums. The Smithsonian Institute, dubbed America's attic, was initially the result of a $500,000 gift from James Smithson, an Englishman who had never actually been to the US. Almost all museums, and one zoo, which are associated with The Smithsonian have free entry. In DC alone there are 16 museums and galleries, a visitor centre ("The Castle"), and a zoo. Needless to say, we didn't partake in all available Smithsonian related activities, otherwise we would still be wandering The National Mall with an armload of brochures and learning fatigue. We and 8-million school aged children went to the American History Museum as our first Smithsonian stop. Wonderful museum, and I am now armed with a plethora of Civil War knowledge that will allow me to share unrequested facts with my fellow Canadians.

Fact you didn't know but now you do: Virginia and West Virginia used to be one state - Virginia. They split at the beginning of the Civil War. WV joined the union, Regular Virginia joined the Confederates. (In retrospect I may have learned this from my Lonely Planet guidebook initially, but re-learned it at the museum.)

DC also has museums that you, gasp, must pay for entry. Josh and I went to the Spy Museum, which was quite entertaining, but was a bit too full to enjoy in $20 entry fee capacity. However, I did learn a lot and can now pick up on spy suspicious activity should the Soviets start spying on wee PEI. There was also some information on 'celebrities' who lead a double life as spies, such as mediocre (according to ESPN) baseball player Moe Berg and sort-of spy (she didn't really consider herself a spy, and I do agree it's a bit of a stretch) Julia Child.

The Spy Museum was featuring a special exhibit on the villains of James Bond films and novels. It had some memorabilia from the films, information on who (if anyone) was the real-life inspiration for the villain, and a wee game called something like, "Bond villain or real person?" that gave you quotes and you had to guess whether it was said by a Bond villain or an actual person. The ones the were said by actual people are a bit concerning.

Lincoln Memorial

Einstein Monument
(or, "Statue that Visitors Climb All Over")
Much likes Museums, visitors flock to monuments in DC. Most are close to the infamous National Mall, i.e., the stretch of park between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. Le Boyfriend and I followed 6 kazillion other visitors and 90 million tour buses and started at the Lincoln Memorial (with a warm-up stop at the Albert Einstein Memorial). The Lincoln Memorial is so iconic that Lonely Planet chose it as the cover of its Eastern United States guide book. Inside the Greek-temple inspired building is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair, looking over the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument. Some readers may appreciate a pop-culture reference to help visualize this area, to which I refer you to Forrest Gump. The peace rally that he unexpectedly joins takes place on the steps and grass in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Forrest runs into the reflecting pool to meet Jenny. Josh and I (i.e., mostly me) contemplated reenacting this classic scene, but figured it would be frowned upon even though it was, like 30C and the water would had felt sooo nice.

After the impressive Lincoln Memorial we strolled to the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial which I liked better, in a different way. The Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are more grand and are meant to impress; however, it is essentially one large statue in one room. The FDR Memorial was designed to be like a book, (or so I overheard someone say who sounded knowledgeable and confident,) and each Presidential term was like a chapter. The Monument has walls with quotes of his, but the walls don't all connect and there is not a roof. There are many statues through the small "maze" of walls, and they tell a story. Based on my limited knowledge of FDR, it was quite well done, nice to walk through, and not nearly as crowded as the Lincoln Memorial or the museums we went to.

FDR and I listening to the radio
for WWII updates
Next up was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which I realized I had seen in the distance when travelling from the airport into DC. Not knowing much about Thomas Jefferson other than he was one of the first presidents of the US factored in with us having walked a lot in the heat, we may have breezed through this a bit quickly. Walk to monument, read some words on the wall, look at statue, leave to eat delicious Spanish tapas that make you consider moving to Spain and becoming obese.

We accidentally skipped the Martin Luther King Memorial so I just looked at a picture of it online. Now I feel like I was there!

The Washington Monument was closed due to earthquake damage so going up the 'tower' (?) wasn't possible.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Edinburgh, so long ago.

Once, a long time ago, in 2004 to be precise, two friends and I moved to Edinburgh. In Edinburgh's life, it was pretty insignificant. Wandering twenty year olds from foreign lands were not new to her. However, in my (our) life, it was incredibly significant.

I was thinking about this today as I was reading a blog of someone who had moved to Australia from Toronto, with a detour in Asia. She was blogging about first impressions, to-do lists, and the general brain twistiness that results from big moves.

We flew over on Canadian Affair. I think the plane had leather seats and was quite empty. The three of us had seats together but we shortly found our own rows for the not-very-long flight between Halifax and London Gatwick Airport. We were served supper not too long after take off and it came with a piece of chocolate. My brain insists it was Lindt chocolate, but maybe it's just going that way because its among my favourite. I remember Shannon not getting a chocolate because she had requested a low calorie/fat/something meal. I was so very glad to had not requested the same.

Lindt! Actually in Zurich, Switzerland, not on the plane.

I was stupidly tired when we arrived in London. I remember telling myself to not fall asleep in the airport while waiting for our flight to Edinburgh. If I fell asleep someone would steal everything I had with me. Of course, I fell asleep. Nothing was stolen.

There is a good chance I slept the entire not-very-long flight to Edinburgh, I remember nothing about it. Clearly we were not given free, delicious chocolate.

Arrival in Edinburgh was surreal. You follow the signs and move with the people around you. They could be on their way home, or perhaps on a vacation to visit a friend. You are arriving with you 20-kg of belongings and having seen only a few pictures of the city.

We took the Airlink bus to the city centre. I remember not knowing what the driver said to me (I was tired, he was Scottish), and sitting on the bus and looking out the windows. I saw a Blockbuster as we drove into the city and some semi-scragly looking buildings. Being Edinburgh, the clouds were low and the sky was quite dark, despite it being mid-day.

The bus drove down Princes Street so I had my first real-life glance of the Edinburgh Castle. I had seen some photos online before I had departed. I wish I could say, "Real life blew the pictures away!" but I remember thinking about both the photos and the first real life impression, "That doesn't look like a castle." This is perhaps because the only castle I had ever seen was Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom and I expected castles to look more like the one it was inspired by, Neuschwanstein Castle. Edinburgh Castle looked more like a fortress designed to protect citizens from English invasion. It looks like that, because that's kinda what it was. It's more so a collection of multiple buildings that one singular grand structure.

As most of my Edinburgh pictures are on my old laptop,
this is the best picture I could find of Edinburgh Castle.

I think we had a tiny smidgen of trouble finding our hostel because it was oddly located behind other buildings, close to a Burger King. I had never stayed in a hostel and I had low expectations. I was right to have low expectations. Now, having slumbered in many hostels, I wouldn't put this one high on the list. I remember sitting on my bunk at one point trying to find hearing aid batteries and being panicky about being unable to find them. Because, you know, they would neeeeeever sell those in the United Kingdom. (Mostly it was probably annoyance at being unable to find them. Also, I probably had no clue where to buy them.)

I found another one! This one doesn't
really do it justice, but it has a blue sky, which was rare.
(I actually just reread on my old blog that apparently I had my batteries but they weren't working. So I at least correctly remembered having hearing aid issues. Direct link to specific post unavailable, but scroll down to Saturday, May 15. Also, according to the month of May 2004, I fall a lot.)

Everything seemed so expensive when we got there. Living there now would be such a different experience. In 2004, the exchange rate was terrible. To get 1 GBP (since I don't have a pound symbol on my keyboard) cost about $2.60. The exchange rate now is ... ugh, I just looked it up for the first time in ages. It's $1.50 to get 1 GBP. That's amazing. I feel so ripped off now though. Somehow, I am now convinced that someone owes me money. I don't know who though. Canadian government? UK government? Bank of Canada? Royal Bank of Scotland? Somebody please give me my money back. 

My second point of how it would be so different now is that I'm way less cheap now. I think there I was terrified that I would suddenly be poor and would not be able to pay my rent. (Which almost happened once.) In my head, my Canadian money at home was untouchable and should never be used because that would be irresponsible. And yes, I recognize the irony of me declaring myself to be less cheap now and then proclaiming that I am owed hundreds of pounds.

One day after we found a place to live Keri and I walked to Arthor's Seat, a big hill/tiny mountain thingy (by PEI standards) within the city. To this day I have no idea what route we took to get there. We had a map, we used the map, and I remember walking next to a fence that had a big drop beyond it. I'm pretty sure I never saw this road again. It could be a case of we actually took a terrible route so the road wasn't useful to us again at any point once we learned more direct routes to points of interest, or maybe my second impression of the road was so different from the first that I never made the connection.

View of Calton Hill, from Arthor's Seat
(I'm a bit distracted by my blog now. At one point early on I declared how Scotland seemed to be good for my hair and face, which, in the long run, was a terribly poor statement. I was, again, so cheap that I bought shampoo only and not conditioner. My hair looks more fried and dead in pictures as the months go on. I also frequently got pimples, perhaps due to the weather, beer, Haribo candy, Cadbury chocolate, and a mix of everything.)

One of my favourite face-palm living-abroad stories was the search for a grocery store. We were used to walk a little bit less than a kilometre, mostly up a massive hill, to get to a small grocery store (Sainsburys on Rose Street). Sometimes we would take a bus to a further small grocery store (Lidl on Nicholson Street, so far!) because it had cheap frozen, boxed, and canned food.

I just assumed that all grocery stores in Edinburgh were relatively small compared to North America. Then, one day I was out for a run as I was convinced I was gaining weight (note: I was) and was clearly too cheap for any sort of gym membership. I decided to take a different running route because I was tired of the hills. All of a sudden I passed a large parking lot and a Tesco (grocery store) sign. Turned out we lived about four blocks and one hill away from a massive, North American style grocery store. Not gonna lie, it was pretty life changing.

Finding a place to live ended up not being overly difficult. We waited until we arrived in Edinburgh and had purchased phones. At first, many calls were unsuccessful. I remember sitting in a food court at the Princes Street Mall and either Shannon or Keri declaring within about .75 days of searching, "Well, we're gonna have to move to Glasgow," and the other completely agreeing right away. Being lazy (re-pack, book a train, find a hostel to stay at in Glasgow, ugh) and half scared of Glasgow based on rumours/incorrect reputation, I suggested we look a bit more. We ended up securing a place either that day or the following day. We had left Canada on Wed, arrived on Thu, and I think we had a place to rent by Friday, and moved in Saturday or Sunday. We had our first "party" on Sunday, I believe. The "party" (may it forever live in laughable quotation marks) is a story for another day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Disappointing Pillow Story

You know what makes me feel like an adult? Buying things that aren't toys, books, clothing, food, or drink. Buying towels makes me feel mature, particularly if they are somewhat soft. Purchasing pillows makes me feel responsible, like an important member of society.

About a month ago I started hating my pillow. It was getting squishy and uncomfortable. Jealous, I asked le Boyfriend where he had acquired his glorious pillow of heavenly firm cloud poofiness. Unfortunately, he wasn't sure where it had come from as it was given to him by, SIGH, an ex-girlfriend, but he suspected Costco. (Note: he may had just told me Costco so I would stop asking questions about his pillow.) This troubled me. Not because it came from a former girlfriend, but because we don't have a Costco in PEI and I don't have a membership should I come across a Costco in my travels.

What is a lady to do?

So le Boyfriend and I decided to go pillow shopping. We went to Bed Bath & Beyond as pillows are generally associated with beds. We thought, "Let's splurge!" Instead of buying a $25 pillow that will last for a year, let's buy an awesome pillow that will survive the duration of our love (i.e., ETERNAL/FOREVER/OMG). Such a pillow would be an investment, but one that would bring us happy sleeps for years to come.

We wandered about the store, squishing pillows and trying to test them while standing up. We decided on the Brookstone BioSense Memory Foam Shoulder Pillow with Better Than Down® Cover (copy and paste party!). It even came in a box with a carrying handle - that's fancy, guys.

BONUS: Le Kitty likes to play in the box.

Unfortunately, breaking news: we bought the worst, most overpriced pillow ever. At first it seemed a bit thick, but one thinks, "The memory foam will 'break in' and remember the desires of my head and neck."

It doesn't.

If two people are snuggling or sleeping closely on the one large pillow, the weight of both heads makes it somewhat bearable. If one had extremely wide shoulders, this pillow would likely be fine. For me, it is so thick that my chin basically touches my shoulder. I tried to put le 10-lb kitty on it to flatten it out, but it was too thick in the middle and he fell off. He was not impressed and pranced away.

On the plus side, the pillow is wonderful to sit on when sitting on the floor. I'm also doing an experiment now as the pillow is essentially two parts: a foam pillow on the inside and a removable down pillow case/cover. I pulled out the foam pillow and stuffed my old floppy pillow in the cover. An improvement, but I still wish I could return the pillow.

Moral of the story: when pillow shopping, take the pillow to the bed section of the store and have a wee lie-down with the pillow. If you feel your heart erupting with butterflies, you have made the right decision. If you find yourself confused and becoming increasingly annoyed with the store's lighting, select a new pillow. Then repeat until the first reaction takes place. If you get stern looks from floor staff, know it's only because they are jealous of your wisdom and have made the mistake of purchasing a terrible pillow in the past.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Part I: Vacation! (An old one.)

Last year I went on vacation!

Not really surprising given I would probably give up many luxuries in favour of travelling. The upside of taking on as little responsibility as possible in the form of permanent housing, offspring, money sucking investments, etc., is that I've been very fortunate to travel to many wonderful places with friends, family, or solo.

This past November, a friend and I booked the ultimate family vacation (except we aren't family and we don't have any children) and went to Florida, followed by a cruise, followed by more Florida. I told myself, "I'm going to make brief notes on vacation so when I come back I can write a hilarious trip report, be loved by internet dwellers, and have a lovely record for years to come."

What I actually did was write a few notes about Belize on a Carnival Cruise provided notepad while napping by the pool. I then put that notepad in a book. So I have one day of notes, shoved into a book. I'm not 100 percent sure where that book is and, of course, I never wrote a humourous trip report that was to be a launching pad to my getting-paid-to-write-on-the-internet career.

So, in the interest of at least partially meeting a portion of my goal, here is a "brief" (I'm never brief! except in height) summary of Vacances du novembre, 2012. Or, since we were in Spanish speaking land, Vacacione de noviembre 2012.

Note: this is long and detailed. When finished, I'll add links so you can jump to whatever part might interest you most should you be looking for something specific. So far we have:

November 5 - Arrival
November 6 - Universal Studios
November 7 - Disney & Charlene's Birthday

Monday, November 5 - Arrival

"Up" with vacation!
Vacation! Lovely Boyfriend dropped me off at the airport at the beautiful hour of 5:00 am. I went through security and sat in a wee daze and realized I had forgotten my Disney World pass at home due to a last minute purse change. Luckily my parents get rickets if they don't go to Florida at least twice a year and were going to be arriving a week after me and would deliver my pass to our final accommodation. Annoying problem, simple solution. My parents saved me $100, and a lot of self scolding.

Upon arriving in Orlando, I took public transportation to a friend's house as, apparently, I'm still a backpacker at heart, i.e., frugal. (Quote friend who didn't know a public bus went by his house, "You know we have taxis, right?")

After eventually finding the door into his building (I got lost in the parking garage! Come travel with me! I'm so fun and responsible!), I ditched my luggage, changed into appropriate clothing, and took a short cut to a main bus hub for a late afternoon, public-transit adventure. My "short cut" indeed saved time, but involved walking on Orlando grass. The grass was weird and crunchy, as Orlando grass is. The road didn't have a sidewalk because trying to walk somewhere in America, outside of downtown cores, is hilaaaarious. LOOK AT YOU ON YOUR FEET! WALKING! LOLZ. WHERE IS YUR TRUK?

I took the public bus to Downtown Disney and ate at Earl of Sandwich, which is one of the not-well-kept secrets of a successful Disney vacation. I don't remember what I had, but it's safe to assume it was delicious and worthy of a high five.

Early supper was followed by a walk, contact with Host du jour, and an adventure to an outlet mall to find and surprise my co-traveller. It wasn't really that surprising though, since she knew I was arriving that day and would be meeting up with her later. A better surprise would had been dressing up in a bear suit, ambushing her, and tossing a delicious key lime pie her face. Surprise! Now you don't love me anymore.

Host Derek picked us up in the Lake Buena Vista's worst parking lot, and we went to a bar that somehow manages to squeeze by the smoking laws of Florida and allow smoking indoors. Although we smelled terrible afterwards, there is something very special about buying chilli nachos, a couple of beers, leaving a tip, giving the government its required tax, and having it cost only $15 instead of, like, $30 at home. Those are the memories that last a lifetime. Oh, and happy times with friends/ohana (less a missing member) who live far away. That is also memorable.

Tuesday, November 6 - Universal Studios

Harry Potter-land day!

Derek dropped Charlene and I off at Universal Studios before work because "chauffeur" is listed as a special talent on his resume. (He's so good at it!) Charlene is a travel agent and had acquired a free, multi-park ticket for Universal! I took advantage of her travel agent skills and got a slightly discounted single-park ticket.

Who will win the triwizard tournament?
The Magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios (to be called HP-land from now on), opened in 2010 and I had not yet visited. I had seen photos of it and it did indeed look rather impressive.

Surprise! It was impressive and a lot of fun. HP-land is set around the timing of book four in Hogsmeade. The addition of this land seems to have improved the park as a whole. Charlene and I looked at each other confused at one point wondering, "When did Universal employees get so nice?" Everyone we met was super friendly, helpful, and other positive adjectives. Apparently they now receive more training than Disney cast members. Additional plus side: HP geeks (and I use the term 'geek' lovingly) now get to live their dream by wearing wizard robes to work, selling wands, and claiming to be the conductor of the Hogwarts Express. Being a HP geek in Orlando pays (probably about $8.50/hr).

The park wasn't very busy, which is nice. Even the main HP attraction "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" had a line of only 20 minutes. We really should had rode it twice, I have no idea why we went on it only once. Most other rides had lines of 0 - 10 minutes. Wanna have a theme park heavy Orlando vacation? Go in early November. Weather was still mostly pleasant and crowds were minimal.

Other important Universal things that happened: I think Cyclops tried to hit on me. We also met Popeye and Olive Oil who are, perhaps, among the most entertaining character I have ever come across. Charlene and I watched the Sinbad stunt show as she had never seen it before. After finally experiencing this attraction, there is a good chance she'll never need to experience it again.

Post park, Charlene and I went to Bahama Breeze, a required stop for me when in select US states.

Wednesday, November 7 - Walt Disney World

A special day - Charlene's birthday! I gave her the most precious PEI gift of them all - chocolate covered potato chips. We also received a precious Florida gift - free entry to Disney! Hurrah for still having cast member friends! We were delivered to Epcot and jaunted off to Soarin' so we could smell orange groves. Since we were in the area, we went on Living with the Land. Line length? Six people. High five.

This turtle agrees that it is a big blue world.
We backtracked and went to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Wait time: the length of time it took to travel through the queue to our seashellmobiles. This ride makes me smile, and also makes me hum "Big Blue World" for the next two hours. Sort of. I know, like, three words of the song: big, blue, and world. Then I just make musical noises when the other lyrics pop up.

Also awesome in The Seas pavilion? The sharks and turtles. More wonderful? The manatees! So large and gentile! They were floating about in their tank eating romaine lettuce. So, question, how much lettuce would one have to have per day when you weight over 1,000 lbs? A lot.

We eventually thought, "Hey, maybe we should do something else other than watch injured turtles and manatees float around and eat?" So we went on the Imagination ride (wait time: 30 seconds).

More hurrah for the day: it was Food and Wine Festival time! It holds a special place in my heart since I was one of the few (not bragging, pretty sure the selection was completely random) people who got to work at the Canada F&W kiosk. There I worked absurdly long hours, met wonderful people, somewhat got over my fear of hot things (although I turned out to be Health & Safety right when I correctly said the soup was too hot), and ate waaaay too much fudge and salmon. Also determined I am the only person who does not like the "famous" cheese soup.

We walked through Mexico and saw Donald (!) et sus amigos. When I was wee, I never had a chance to get my picture taken with Donald. It was like he had retired, was on strike, or was backstage suffering from a protein spill every, single, time. Now every time I see Donald somewhere I get giddy and HAVE to get a picture with him because I didn't as a tween/teen. Despite the fact that after 13 months of living at Disney World I have numerous pictures, you really can never have too many pictures with Donald.

Donald et sus amigas

I had my usual over-the-top debate in Germany about spending my life's savings on chocolate bars and eventually talked myself out of it. I would be eating lunch soon (and appetizer-ing on F&W food) and the chocolate bar would probably just melt in my bag, even though it was probably wasn't even 20C that day.

Fake Hawai'i
I didn't get much at the F&W festival, but I did have the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise from Hawai'i (Hi, copying and pasting from the Internet). It was delicious and I probably annoyed Charlene by talking about it for the next thirty minutes. How I wanted to skip lunch, eat four of those instead, and then roll around in the fountain being all full of deliciousness. I can't even write this paragraph without making some sort of noise of desperate hunger even though I'm not hungry.

(Note: after looking back at Charlene's pictures I am reminded that I also had a perogie from Poland. Clearly it was not overly memorable. You really can't win when competing with Hawai'i.)

Instead of eating thirteen more pork sliders, we waited in a curiously cold queue to ride Spaceship Earth - the longest line of the day,15 entire minutes. More high five for short lines! The ride remains a favourite and brings forth happy childhood memories. It's also good for closing ones eyes for a rest at the end of the ride, although it can be startling when you suddenly panic and must rush to exit your wee space car.

Post Spaceship Earth, we departed and headed to the Disney Vacation Club portion of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There, it was time to check another restaurant off Charlene's list: Sanaa. Although located in an African-inspired resort, the food there definitely skews Indian. Some random explanation is given on the top of the menu as to how Indian food totally belongs in an African theme resort. Regardless of awkward geography, the food was good, but I feel no better than your average Indian restaurant. However, not available at your average Indian restaurant? The opportunity to sit outside in rocking chairs and watch animals roam while waiting for a table. It was critical to sit in the sun due to the surprising dash of cold in the African/Indian air.

After lunch we had a very special destination: the Magic Kingdom with an intention of getting into a New Fantasyland sneak preview.

First we wandered through refurbed/repainted former Mickey's Toontown Fair, part of the New Fantasyland but not really that new. Not having children, the area doesn't really hold much interest. For some reason, Charlene and I separated briefly at this point. I think we were both tired and needed a solo wander. It didn't really last long though as we basically ended up taking different routes to the exact same destination and were excited to see each other again.

Solo, I decided to wander to "real" New Fantasyland. There was a rope up, with a cast member keeping
Cutest Ariel Ever
watch as people walked in. I rattled off in my brain the various means I would take to ensure I would get in. In the end, I just walked in along with everyone else. I had been completely mislead by the promotion of the Beast's castle. I thought it would be large and accessible, but it was actually placed on top of a 'mountain' in the forced perspective distance. The base of the mountain housed Be Our Guest restaurant, which was not yet open. Then, magic happened. I can't recall if we saw Gaston leaving, or if we saw his character handler waiting, but we were told he would be returning in a half hour. We became giddy. Sure he's a vain villain and we aren't supposed to like him, but he's so much more fun to meet than, say, Cinderella. (BORING.) We went to the new Little Mermaid ride. After looking up it's actual name, apparently it's "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid". Despite The Little Mermaid having many memorable songs, I found myself humming "My Heart Will Go On" in the queue. Apparently anything to do with a shipwreck is now copyright Celine Dion.

The ride was good, but given we had already been on the Finding Nemo ride earlier that day, it almost seemed like a clone of that ride. We're in seashells! We're under water! SONGS! That being said, easily the worth the, like, four-minute wait. We also met Ariel afterwards, which turned to be very important as she was the cutest Ariel ever. Charlene and I contemplated bringing her to Key West with us. Unfortunately this was Mermaid Ariel (pre legs) so it would had been difficult logistically.

Gaston has unique taste in his decorations
We still had minutes to kill pre-Gaston, so we went to the merch shop and Gaston's Tavern for some browsing. Many photo ops and lots of new merchandise! The tavern was selling Disney's new drink (clearly inspired by Harry Potter's butterbeer) "Lefou's Brew". Charlene got one and I got a cinnamon sticky bun thing. The sticky bun thing smelled way better than it tasted, though it was still easily edible. The brew was good, quite sweet, and would taste excellent with a dash of vodka or amaretto.

We wandered back outside and got in line to meet Gaston. Not surprisingly, the line was mostly giggling women. We fit in very well.

Gaston emerged with much excitement! He also wandered around trying to build up more attention before tending to the line of giggling women. He walked into his tavern to declare his presence, stopped to check his reflection in a window, and posed a few times. People were walking up to him to get his photo and autograph, and the many women in line started to stress. "WHY ISN'T HE COMING OVER HERE?"

Because he's Gaston, and inconsiderate of your feelings.

Eventually he did come over and he was great fun to meet. I kept looking at his chin trying to figure out how much was real and what was make-up, but I couldn't tell. (I may had been busy giggling.)

Charlene has much better photos with Gaston than I. Self portrait!

And that's the end of the most important things that happened that day. The rest is less stand out. I believe we went to the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean  and I'm pretending Charlene bought a dolewhip even though I don't think she did. My memory was giggled out, I suppose.

So then Derek picked us up and we drove to Miami. End part one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welcome home, Cuddly friend.

Recently le Boyfriend and I adopted a cat/borderline kitten from the Humane Society in Charlottetown. He was just a day shy of six months old when we adopted him and cats under 6 mos are considered to still be kittens. However, he weighed over 8 lbs at the last point they had weighed him at the Humane Society, so he isn't kitten-ish in the sense you sometimes grunt with surprise at his weight when you pick him up.

"My physique is purr-fect."

After le Boyfriend and I tried to come up with a name for Cuddly Creature, I now realize why humans have gestation periods of around nine months: to give adequate time to choose a name (and to allot for adequate time for the fetus to properly develop into a mini person, I suppose). So far, not-so-wee kitty has had the following names:

  1. I forget the first one, it started with zed. Ziko? It didn't really work because I could never remember it.
  2. The Red Baron. Dropped because it's hard to call for your cat when his name starts with 'the'. "Here, The Red Baron! Come here!". Although it does do well for other things, "The Red Baron scratched me pretty good."
  3. Klaus: The Red Baron. Dropped because Boyfriend got tired of it and people looked confused when I told him Kitty's name. However, this helped Kitty develop a hilarious Arnold Schwarteneger like accent when we pretended to speak for him. "Mummykins, the zoo called and they want their lion back."   See? Read it in an over-the-top Austrian accent and pretend it's being said by a giant, smug, orange kitten. It becomes HILARIOUS.
  4. Wylie. Dropped because I never called him that anyway and Boyfriend kept calling him Willie.
  5. Willie. Changed because of too many penis comments.
  6. Michu. Still his current name. Success!
Bath tub = Excellent hiding
place for hunting
Despite all this, mostly I call him Little Bear or Beast. Or, usually when returning home after work and finding things out of place or partially destroyed, Destructive Kitty. In a related note, if you come to our apartment and can't find the toilet paper, it's in the cupboard above the toilet where wee paws are less tempted to unroll the entire thing.

And now, some kind words about the Humane Society. Erin, the (I think) adoption counselor, was super nice on the phone when I chatted to her initially about adopting "Butterscotch". I submitted my online application shortly after and she called me back within a couple of hours. Le Kitty was mine! This was on a Friday, and we had an appointment to pick him up the following Tuesday. This gave us some time to purchase supplies and kitten-proof our apartment. On Saturday, I went into the Humane Society to play with "Butterscotch" and determined he was The World's Greatest Kitty. How lucky were we?! Note: I may had been biased due to new-family-member excitement. I also felt guilty for not adopting all of the cats, particularly one that I had played with a couple of weeks prior. Luckily she's adopted now, so kitty high five to her. Phew.

When le Boyfriend and I picked up Michu, Erin gave us lots of information and told us he had a "kitty cold" at one point while in the shelter and that it might flair up again.

Indeed it did.

After a few days of excessive cat sneezes, low energy, etc., I called the Humane Society and they told me to stop in and gave me a bottle of lysine to mix with his food and help the symptoms. It did help, but not quite enough. Another few days later, Michu and I made a return visit to the Humane Society and the vet there gave us antibiotics to destroy his kitty cold, which was possibly feline herpes. Apparently not uncommon when you gave a bunch of cats living in a cages in a smallish space. While this all sucked, it could had been much worse and the staff at the Humane Society were wonderfully helpful. Now Michu is a ball of destructive energy, enjoys running fast, hiding and then attacking from the bath tub, and playing with his toys. Unfortunately his new energy dictates occasional midnight play sessions and pestering for someone to get up early in the morning for snuggles or playtime.

Michu's Online Dating Profile Pic:
Sensual and Sophisticated
If wee Michu had an online dating profile, interests would read:

  • Putting my paw in my water bowl and dripping the water all over the floor. Nickname: Moby Dick.
  • Sometimes walking in the poop in my litter box, great fun for making footprints on the floor, toilet, and in the bath tub!
  • Miscalculating my own speed and colliding into things.
  • Hiding in the bath tub when stalking my pray.
  • Trying to eat with my hands, which is difficult and results in a lot of food on the floor. 
  • Very imaginative when it comes to finding new toys: toilet paper, socks, pineapples, shoe insoles, etc.
  • Excessive onion chopping in the kitchen makes my eyes water and my lady owner freak out and wonder why I'm crying and sick again.
Sadly for Michu, the Humane Society chopped off his balls so he doesn't have a lot of interest in dating.

(Additional thumbs up for the Humane Society: adoption fee includes various shots, neutering, a bag of food, a can of food, and an awesome mouse toy that your cat will love and lose at least once per day.)

Wait - did I just become a person who wrote an entire blog post about her cat?

Yes, yes I did. One, because he's awesome, and two, if you're looking for a furry family addition, I would highly recommend adopting a cat from the Humane Society. Meow.

Toilet Paper is Hard
When You Don't Have Thumbs

PS: Happy birthday to my lovely brother!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

What they don't tell you about winter.

When I lived in Edinburgh I came home for Christmas.
This happened.
It's winter! Like, really winter. The light dustings of snow are no more; they have been replace with massive chunks of extremely solid snow that are beneath layers of crusty ice. Today marked two intense winter activities: the return to work after Christmas vacation and the first super cold day. Well, not super cold, but cold.

This time of year I always feel for the international students on campus. Not the students from, for example, Sweden or other winter countries, but the ones from the Middle East, Caribbean, or warm Asian countries. Did anyone provide them with a winter fact sheet before the students made the decision to attend UPEI? Not a fact sheet with things like "snow is flakes of crystalline water", but the actual important bits of information.

Two back stories as I'm pretty sure most of you are sitting in Canada, or have been through real winters at some point.

When I was living in Edinburgh I shared an office with, among many others, a woman from Australia. One day it started haling outside and she got excited and cheered, "It's snowing!" Lack of experience with snow made her error understandable. Note to the unwinterized: if it's not windy and the snow is hurting you as it falls, it's actually hale or ice pellets.

Story two was told to me in Edinburgh. I played lacrosse and softball with someone who was from the UK but had mostly grown up in other countries. The first time she saw snow falling from the sky she became super excited and ran outside - without shoes. In all she ever heard about snow, no one had ever mentioned to her that snow was cold and wet.

Sometimes winter seems endless.

So now, potential international students in warm countries who are thinking about attending a post-secondary institution in this great country, I offer you truths about winter that people will forget to tell you.

[With car] It will take longer to get anywhere.
If you are lucky enough to have a car while fulfilling your educational dreams at a Canadian post-secondary institution, you need to buy a special hand broom brush thing to sweep the snow off your car. It sounds magical and Cinderella like, doesn't it? Well, remember the shitty life Cinderella actually lead prior to losing a shoe and being lucky enough that no one else in the entire kingdom had the same size feet as her? You need the special broomy-brush thing to clean the snow off your car. That sounds light and fluffy and wondering, doesn't it? Except only one of five snowfalls will be light and fluffy and wonderful. Those mostly take place in December and March, maybe April, occasionally May. Sometimes the snow will be wet and sticky, in which case the brush becomes relatively useless. In this case it is much more efficient, and fun, to just climb on top of your car and slide off.

You will also spend 15 minutes scraping crusty snow and ice off your car, only to get inside and be disappointed. Since you don't want to waste gas, you hadn't started your car yet. Now you have to scrape ice of the windows on the inside of your car too. Then your boyfriend will comment about how shitty and drafty your windows are and sigh dramatically. You will point to his car in the next parking spot, which looks like it was parked at Target Antarctica for the last three years. Eventually you'll learn how to angle your car in the best position so the sun can at least melt a little bit of it - provided it is sunny.

[On foot] It will take longer to get anywhere.
You might be thinking, "Oh, that's fine about the car, I'll just walk instead."


Well, you can, but make sure you have the proper footware. Ladies, most "winter" boots that are being sold at Aldo, etc., aren't really waterproof. They often don't have good grip. Sometimes they have four-inch heels. Walking somewhere is not the time to be beautiful, it is the time to be practical. Sidewalks are plowed here, but there is not enough foot traffic/weight to really pack down the snow. You will be required to dance around boulders that cover the sidewalk, wondering if you are on a snowy version of the moon.
Shovelling is a good cardiovascular activity
and helps build forearm strength.

Your clothes suck.
Just because it looks like a winter coat, doesn't mean it is.

Just because they're pants, doesn't mean they're warm. (Read: almost all female pants. I cannot comment on man pants.)

Those wee knit gloves that cost $1.00 are useful in temperatures of 5C or warmer only. (I have cold, delicate hands.)

Static electricity.
Surprise! You are a science experiment. Zap your friends! Be scared to touch things! Feel that spark with your lover - literally! Have a hair raising (!) experience!

But there are fun parts too!
Now for the better parts of winter. You see, I wrote the above one evening when I was cold and had "suffered" through the work day in shivers. Today is less cold, thus my heart is less cold. The weird, fun parts of winter include icy eyelashes, ascending piles of snow to cross a too-high fence, blankets being accepted as clothing, wooly socks with minimal friction that turn your hallway into sliding fun, storm days, red wine (I can't seem to get my head around red wine being a summer drink), and it being easier to spot dog poop thus reducing the possibly of unintentional pooh-on-shoe annoyance.

Two and a half months until spring! I'll wait until then to tell you spring secrets (sneak preview: it smells funny when it's muddy).