It’s was a beautiful autumn day so we went for a walk around Miners Marsh. The colors are getting pretty nice.
This weekend trip has been in the plans for almost a year. Last Christmas when we found out about the concert and decided we would use it as one of our big memory presents for the kids. It was a long wait, it cost a fair bit of money, and we were all excited to get there.
The night didn’t start off the best. As it was something we were looking forward to for so long I wanted it to be perfect. When things started going wrong in my mind I may have overreacted just a bit and let things get to me. Tweeting out things like:
I might have been further ahead if I had of went to the bank, withdrawn ten, one hundred dollar bills, and then lit them on fire. Likely better spent then this train wreck I’m experiencing right now at this concert.
It started by us being a bit late, not too late, but we missed almost all of opener Anne Marie. We did hear some as we were walking to our seats. That took a while. For any of you who haven’t been to a football stadium like the Gillette Stadium, let me just tell you they are big and high, and our seats were as high as they possibly could be. Literally, the very top row and right at the corner of the stage so we could barely see anything. Only about a handful of seats in the whole stadium that would be worse than ours. They were so high and steep that once we got up there a couple kids were pretty much terrified, so we had to abandon our seats and head down. Thankfully Jen found a decent spot for us to stand and watch from. I’m obviously getting old as I would have much preferred to have a place to sit for at least some of the concert and by the end Noah was wishing for a place to rest for a bit too. But we even though we were still high up and far away, we had a good view of the stage and the screen.
You can see the arrows in the picture below that show where our original seats were, and where we ended up watching from.
You can see what our view was like from where we watched and then an arrow showing where we were from the perspective of the stage.
Luckily my mood started to change after the music started. Snow Patrol put on a good opening show even though I didn’t really expect that I’d like them very much, but my face and body language likely didn’t show my mood changing.
Ed Sheeran is a fantastic performer. The fact that he can come out on stage in front of all those people with just his guitar, a mic, and loop pedals. He’d record little bits and then loop them back over the song. He interacted with the crowd really well for having such a huge group. He seems to have a few set of comedy bits that he throws in though, but they work really well.
In one bit he talked about how there are two types of people that don’t really get into his show. One is the boyfriend who is just tagging along with his girlfriend and the second group is the super dads. He said all the super dads are doing the same thing, standing there with their arms folded saying his music isn’t really my thing, but I’m here for my family. This seemed to nail me pretty good as even some of the people standing around us started pointing at me and patting me on the back. It felt like I got called out by Ed Sheeran in front of thousands. That’s when I really clued in that I needed to snap myself out of the mood I was in and enjoy the experience.
If you want to hear the full bit, here is a video someone took at a different concert, but it’s basically the same thing.
If you listen to the video as he talks about super dads he talks about them talking about complaining about traffic getting there, the cost of beer being too high and asking if they can leave before the encore to avoid traffic leaving. I did complain about the cost of water and beer, and we did leave before the encore, but that wasn’t my idea. I didn’t mind the traffic.
All in all the concert was a fun experience and the kids really enjoyed themselves and we have some good memories and stories to keep with us. Well worth the time, money, and a little bit of frustration.
Here are a couple pictures from Instagram from the concert itself as well.
This morning I had a fun memory show up in my Facebook reminders. Time goes by so quickly it doesn’t seem like it was six years ago that this was taking place.
This was a pretty huge milestone in our lives. When I was young and into my teenage years I’m not sure I would have believed you if you told me some day I’d be able to have our own house built.
Over the past few years, I’ve been enjoying and adding new art to my office walls. If you’ve been around my blog for a while you’ve likely seen a few posts about it. There is the Automattic Creed, a frame of Automattic logos, Happiness patches, my Son of Krypton print, and most recently my big old map of New Orleans.
When I added the big map it meant I had to take down my WordPress wall as that was really the only wall in my office which would fit it. This caused me to rethink the other walls. The map sits on the wall directly behind me when I’m sitting at my desk, on the wall right behind my desk I’ve had a print of a photo I’d taken of the look off area of the Annapolis Valley where I live for the longest time. I’ve not been happy with it for a while though as the color in the print never really turned out right. It’s also a spliced together panorama from three individual pictures and I didn’t notice until after three copies were printed, framed, and two given out as gifts, that in the splicing there was a little bush in the foreground that was duplicated.
With that picture in the middle, there were a couple of small plaques with pictures of Apple Blossoms I had received years ago from being a Sponsor of our local Apple Blossom Festival on one side, and my diploma from University on the other. During the reorganization, I tossed the plaques, but I’m certainly keeping the diploma up on a different wall though, it’s the most expensive piece of paper I own.
Here’s what the wall above my desk looks like now.
It has my three previous frames from my WordPress wall up in the middle with two smaller items on either side. The far one is a print I picked up at the French Market in New Orleans. The artist is Tesfaye Nequsse and I really liked his work. It sat on my desk for a while but with the adjustment, I bought a frame for it and put it up.
The print closest I’ve had for a while. It was a gift from my mother to Noah, but it has ended up in my office for a while now. It is a print of a painting by Liz Lemon Swindle. It was in a different frame but it didn’t really match the other black frames on the wall so I bought a matching frame to the print above. I should have measured first though as it didn’t fit the new frame. Luckily my sister came to my rescue and made me a new mat for the frame and now it looks great.
I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out in the end even though it meant a bit of work moving it all around. I’m running out of wall space now though so I might have to start choosing what stays and what goes as I add more in the future.
Here’s a gallery showing most of the items on my wall now including some better images of the prints themselves.
This is something I came across a few years ago and have thought about it off and on ever since. After coming back from our big trip I began thinking about it again and finally decided to get to it. It’s a big old map printed in a rough home made frame.
As it had been a while since I thought about it I couldn’t find the old bookmark I had made, but found the tutorial online again pretty easily to follow along with. There were a couple adjustments, but followed this pretty close. It really was pretty straight forward to do and I’m so happy with the results. The map came from the site the tutorial suggested, Big Map Blog, and I found a birds eye view of New Orleans from 1885. We spent a week in New Orleans during the trip and it holds a special place in my heart, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
One of the adjustments I made from the tutorial is where I had the image printed. It cost a bit more than what they described but Acadia University has a print shop who has printed some large format images for me in the past and done a good job so I had them print this too. It came out really nice and was only $40 for a 3′ x 2′ colored print.
The other adjustment I made was the wood and finish I added to it. From Home Depot I picked up a couple knotty pine 1″ x 4″ x 8′ boards and cut them to size. The tutorial called for pickets and the only ones I could find when I looked close were pressure treated and seemed heavier than the pine boards. I wanted it to be as light as it could be. For the finish I used a technique my sister let me know about called the baby wipe method. It’s really easy. You put any color toll paint you want to use on a baby wipe and essentially use it to paint the wood. It’s really quick to do, and it dries quick as well. I tested on a piece of the left over wood with a couple of colors but settled on black as it better matched the picture and the other frames in my office.
It’s hardly a complex project, but I’m really happy with how it turned out!
Good fun ride tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve been out. Nice to have some company too. Starting to feel comfortable enough to go with others.
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We made out so well last year with a big long road trip that this year we decided to do it again. This time however instead of crossing the country we headed south.
Driving this way it allowed us to accomplish two things we had been wanting to do for a long time. For years we have said that once all the kids were old enough we would take them to Disney. Also for years we’ve wanted to take the kids to New Orleans to show them the city Jen and I were married and spent some of our honeymoon in. So we tied the two together into one long trip. Of course it has the added bonus of being along the coast for a lot of our path where there are amazing beaches which is a highlight for our family.
This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else to help ensure I remember all the highlights and use as a resource later on when I say to myself, what year did we do that?
It still amazes me at how well the whole family travels when we drive as much as we do, or are staying with everyone in a single hotel room. There were of course some moments where people were getting on each others nerves, or someone just needed a little space to themselves, but overall everyone gets along well and it helps make the trip that much more enjoyable.
Similar to last year again we spent some of our vacation just our family and some of it with close friends and family. This year the Fisher family met us for the Florida / Disney part of the trip. We shared a place to stay for the week and did just about everything together. It’s awesome to get to share these experiences and memories with them.
Hampton Beach, NH
Same as last year one of the first stops we made was at Hampton Beach. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to stop there just about every time we pass through. It’s a great beach and everyone loves it.
Madame Tussauds – Washington DC
We stayed for a couple nights at the same AirBnB we’ve stayed at a few times now. Donna is a great host and has a comfortable place that the kids even get excited about when ever we go to stay there. Taught the kids a bit about playing pool even while we were there. As we’ve been to Washington a few times now we wanted to try something different. We’ve never been to a wax museum so went and tried Madame Tussauds. The characters were pretty impressive.
When we were done we still had lots of time so we walked around a bit and found a Rita’s Italian Ice shop which is Caile’s favourite. It was really hot so it was a nice cool treat. We stopped on the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum to eat and then went in and checked out the art for a while as well. We’ve been to a number of the Smithsonian museums but this one was a first for us as well.
For July 4th we were able to get together with a friend and former co-worker Andrea Badgley. It was great to catch up and get to meet her husband and for her to meet the rest of our family. We had an awesome meal and enjoying our time together so much we decided not to go see fireworks and just stayed in and talked more. We did manage to catch a few on the car ride home though.
Discovery Place Science Center – Charlotte, NC
Jen has always wanted to visit Charlotte. I’d been once for a work trip but it was pretty packed so I didn’t get to see much of the city. What I did see was nice though. We took the kids to the Discovery Space Science Center. It’s included as part of our local Discovery Center pass but was a lot of fun.
Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta GA
Years ago when researching a different vacation Alex found the Georgia Aquarium. It has one of the biggest tanks around and they have whale sharks. It was one of the must see things on this trip.
On our way to the aquarium we were caught in a crazy rain, thunder and lightning storm. There was no way to get into the aquarium from the car without getting soaked. We had already bought the tickets and there were for that day, there was no way to change the date so we sat in the car and luckily it wasn’t too long before the rain passed and we were able to get in. We’ve been to a fair number of aquariums now but this one was really nice. It was cool seeing the whale sharks especially.
New Orleans, LA
Up until this point we were only staying one or two nights in an area on our way to New Orleans where we would stay for a week. This was one of the highlight weeks for me that I’ve been looking forward to for almost 15 years to come back to this city. We had a nice little AirBnB type place to ourselves for the week and just a short drive into the city.
We spent time exploring the French Quarter, eating beignets, visited the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, ate beignets, went through the aquarium, took the same paddle wheel river boat tour where Jen and I were married, took a swamp tour, visited city park, and ate beignets 🙂
It was cool to meet up with two co-workers while we were there as well. One day we went out to eat Po’boys with Charlie who used to be on my team and is now on Jen’s team. Then we met up with Pam and her boys. Another perk of working for a distributed company is you get to know people all over the world.
The time we spent there was great but just makes me want to go back again, and not just for the beignets. So much more food to try, we didn’t get to take in any music like I would have liked, and going on the swamp tour again in a different time of year would be on my list as well.
Pensacola Beach, FL
We love beaches, so of course we would have to stop at a Gulf Coast beach on our way. The beach was pretty crowded but we were able to find free parking right beside one of the walk ways to the beach. There was also an air show happening that same day so we were treated to a show. The Blue Angels US flight demonstration team practices there, but this was a full on show. The beach was beautiful and didn’t disappoint.
Florida Natural History Museum – Gainesville, FL
When we left Pensacola we headed towards Orlando and stopped the Florida Natural History Museum in Gainesville, FL to break up the trip. It certainly made a good stop and was also included in our local Discovery Center pass.
Universal Studios – Orlando, FL
This begins our week of theme parks. One of the main reasons we wanted to come here was Harry Potter. The Fisher family are all big Potter fans and Ella is too. It was a jam packed day as the Harry Potter portion spans across two parks and we tried to do them both in one day. It ended up being really busy and hot. There were some issues with power and so some rides weren’t working which caused us to move away from Harry Potter to other areas of the parks.
The Dr. Seuss area was pretty fun. Bright and it turned Noah’s mood around with rides he enjoyed. Earlier we were going to do Escape from Gringotts and went through the whole lineup right until we were to start the ride and it was a bit much for him so we bailed and left. He did throughly enjoy playing with the wand we bought and casting spells to have things happen.
There were a few people who really wanted to ride the Hulk roller coaster so while they waited in line there we played in an arcade for a bit. They ended up waiting 2 hours in line due to long waits and having to close for a while because of weather. It was thunder and lightening off and on throughout the day.
All said Harry Potter was really neat, and the Forbidden Journey Ride was one of the best ones I was on all week, but we didn’t do much else there. There didn’t seem to be any good places to get out of the heat for a bit or any areas where you could just sit and rest. There are likely places where we could have done that, but we didn’t find any. Out of all the parks this was everyone’s least favourite.
SeaWorld – Orlando, FL
After the day at Universal I wasn’t sure I was much of a theme park fan. Luckily SeaWorld helped change my mind. The lineups were much more reasonable which was a huge plus. This allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and try some roller coasters. Thankfully I did because I ended up enjoying them a lot.
We started with the Manta which has you essentially laying on your stomach facing straight down like a Manta Ray would and then sore around. You start out sitting in the seat as normal and get fastened in and then the seat tilts back so your in that position. This was some of the most freakiest parts. Once we started going it was really fun.
We went on the Mako which is advertised as Orlando’s tallest and fastest roller coaster and it was a wild ride. There were so many times where I was coming up right out of my seat as we made like a Mako shark chasing food.
The Kraken was another fun ride. There is a virtual reality option that you can go through the ride while wearing the headset, we didn’t realize you had to book that in advance, but the ride was very fun even without it. If we go back I’d definitely try with the VR though.
We also went on the Antartica Penguin ride which seemed was the first time in weeks that I felt relief from the heat. The employees inside all had winter coats and hats on, all bundled up. I was very comfortable in shorts for our short time in there.
The other great part out SeaWorld were the shows and other sights you could take in if you didn’t want to go on rides. The One Ocean killer whale show was really fun, and the sea lion high school show was funny and entertaining.
We came back that night and took in night show Electric Ocean with the killer whales again, and Ignite a fireworks and light show out on the water which was very well put together.
SeaWorld ended up being a lot of ours favourite park of the week and somethings we’ll do again if we are ever back there as a family.
Cocoa Beach, FL
We broke up our week of theme parks with a trip over to the coast to visit Cocoa Beach. We’ve struggled in the past with finding parking at popular beaches like this, but we must have arrived at a good time and found parking no problem. It was a really nice beach and nice to relax.
We prepared a bit ahead of time and picked up a beach umbrella, at one point I must not have it in the sand well enough as it started to blow away. Caile chased it down though and we managed to get it secure. Alex was able to use her new mermaid tail she bought at SeaWorld at a beach.
Near the end of the day we saw dolphins swim past us which was really cool to see them just swim by like it was totally normal. One of Jen’s highlights was the man walking down the beach with a bird perched on his shoulder. You know, just taking my bird for a walk.
Magic Kingdom – Orlando, FL
This was the day we were all waiting for, Disney! We arrived before the park opened, and we ended up staying all day until after the fireworks and light show on the castle.
Walking into Main Street USA with the iconic castle as a backdrop was a bit surreal. I’m not a die hard Disney fan, but there was something about seeing that castle that I used to see only on TV or in the intro to the Sunday Night Disney Movie was something else.
We were most prepared for this park which I think made it so much nicer. The FastPass system they offer paired with the MagicBands that the Fishers got for us all made so much of the day smooth. We couldn’t book fast passes for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs mine ride but we rushed right there as soon as the park opened and didn’t have to wait a crazy long time to get on. After that we pretty much cycled through planned fast pass rides and then booked new ones as we went. This meant we never had to wait a real long time for a ride. The Fishers also bought the PhotoPass which meant we were able to all get really cool photos with the photographers at the Disney parks.
Besides the rides we took in some shows which were also really cool. The Monster’s Inc Comedy show was really funny. It was animated but they had live comedians doing the voice and involved the audience as well, really well done. The Main Street Parade was also very cool to see, all the characters going by and amazing floats.
By the time we made it to the end of the day we were all pretty tired, but the fireworks and light show at the castle was well worth the wait, pictures didn’t do it justice.
Animal Kingdom – Orlando, FL
Animal Kingdom was another fun park and as it was Disney the FastPasses helped so much. We did similar to Magic Kingdom where we arrived for opening and rushed to one of the popular rides that we couldn’t fast pass, the Avatar Flight of Passage. This was very cool and probably my top ride of the week. It was a simulation where you ride on the back of a banshee. It felt so real.
The shows we took in at Animal Kingdom were about my favourite thing though. We saw the Lion King show which was a live production as well as a live musical Nemo production. Both so well done. The fact that they were inside where we could sit didn’t hurt matters either 🙂
We tried a few times to get on the Kali River Rapids ride but struggled as it closed due to weather for a bit. Luckily when it opened we could still use our Fast Pass and made it on. The ride description was that you’d get wet, and maybe soaked. For us that was so true. Just as the ride started the rain started pouring on us like from buckets. I tried to dig out ponchos for people to put on but was only able to get one out before it was too late. I couldn’t even open it fully, Noah just held it over his head. We were so wet and it rained so hard we could barely see at points on the ride. It was a lot of fun, though I wasn’t overly sad when I could change out of my wet clothes at the end of the day. For the rest of the day every time I took a step it felt like I was stepping into a puddle my shoes were so soaked.
Disney Springs – Orlando, FL
Our last real day at Disney we went to hangout in Disney Springs. We did some shopping or at least exploring the shops. The Lego store there was a big hit as well as the World of Disney.
They had a little photo studio there as well which we used to take advantage of the Photo Pass and got some nice photos as a result.
From Disney Springs we hopped on one of the boats over to one of the Disney Resorts, Port Orleans. We thought we’d see what the resorts were like. The pool area looked amazing and it really did look like New Orleans with the way the buildings were setup. There was an arcade which really interested Noah so we stopped there and played for a while.
The taste of beignets were still fresh in my mind from New Orleans, and lucky for me they serve them at this resort so we treated the Fishers to my new favourite treat. I was able to watch them being made and they of course were in the shape of Mickey.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – Ocean City, MD
After saying our good byes to the Fishers in Florida we started our drive home. Stayed the night in Charleston SC the first night where I had a bit of BBQ for dinner and then was woken up good and early in the morning by a rooster who apparently lives behind the hotel.
On our way over to Ocean City we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is pretty amazing. Its a long bridge across the bay which also has two areas which takes you down into tunnels below the Bay so that boats can cross over top.
Once we made it to Ocean City we did walk the boardwalk a bit and stepped barely onto the beach but we were racing the rain which had stayed with us most of the drive that day but had stopped at that point. We knew it called for rain so we planned to be inside and visited the Ripley’s Believe it or Not. We had never been to one before and it’s worth a visit. Lots of interesting and very weird things. Even things that seemed a bit gross.
Beardsley Zoo – Bridgeport, CT
We stayed a couple nights in Connecticut before we finished our trip and decided to visit the Beardsley Zoo on our last day. It was not very busy but was a nice little zoo with a number of endangered animals they keep to try and help preserve.
We ended up buying an annual membership for the zoo. Not so much because we might be back but it also offers big discounts at a number of other Zoo’s across Canada and the US. It didn’t cost much more than our one day admission and we’ll likely take advantage of the discount at at least one of the zoo’s on the list which will make it worth the price.
The Cat Ferry – Portland, ME to Yarmouth, NS
We hadn’t booked our last nights hotel right up until the very end. The plan was to drive somewhere into Maine book a hotel, then drive the rest of the way home the next day. We were all tired of driving and so we looked into The Cat Ferry which saves a bunch of driving, would save us a night hotel, food associated with another day on the road.
Although we were all thankful for being home a night early, the day just didn’t go well. We ran into rough traffic on the way to the ferry so it took us much longer than it should have to get us there. The ferry was then late leaving and it was a terribly rough ride. No one felt good. There were passengers throwing up pretty regularly with some not even making it to a washroom.
After we first booked we talked about taking the ferry again for future trips, but after we arrived home so late, and no one feeling good, I don’t think we’ll ever take that ferry again.
We finally made it home really late, but at least we could sleep in our own bed and had an extra day at home before we had to dive back into reality. Though reality didn’t take long to catch up with us.
Here’s a map of the rough path we took for this trip.
Welcome back to reality
When we were getting ready for this trip Noah badly wanted for us to pack a basketball so he could use it and at least dribble around at times. We were pretty tight for space and there wouldn’t really be any spot to use it while we were staying in hotels and other rentals so we left them home. Having a break would probably be good too right?
At least two of the hotels we stayed at ended up having little half courts setup and the rental we’ve been staying in this week has a net setup almost right outside our door. He used these as opportunities to break out the old “I told you so”, but really it was too hot to play anyway.
On a couple of occasions so far we’ve let the kids play at arcades and both times Noah ended up right at the basketball free throw games for a lot of the time. The first arcade was one where you could win tickets to trade in for cheap toys so he used them to pick up a tiny little net and ball he could play with in the house.
At SeaWorld there was one of the games you could pay to play for a chance to win prizes based on the number of shots you made. It wasn’t open which was the only reason he didn’t end up sinking a bunch of his own money into trying to win a Raptors flag there.
Tonight is our last night at the rental here in Florida so after we made it home we let the kids go for a swim. There were three teenage boys who had a mini basketball and were throwing it around the pool with each other. They could tell Noah wanted to play after a while and they let him join them just like he was a long friend. Except it was even better. They talked to him and asked him questions like his name, how old he is, if he played basketball normally, and built up his confidence by letting him know he had skills. Before long he was jumping off the side into the pool and throwing it while in the air, and they were throwing him passes he could catch mid air as well.
When it was time for us to leave they high five’d him and said good by. I thanked them for including Noah and told them he was missing basketball this trip. Right away one of the boys yelled to the other who had the ball telling them to give it to Noah so he could take it with him. We thanked them but declined so they could keep playing, and we have lots of basketballs at home.
There have been times on this trip already where I was frustrated with groups of teenagers who couldn’t seem to keep their language or volume at a PG level in public spaces with kids around, so it was extra nice to see these boys not only be respectful that way, but also be kind enough to include a much younger boy. I remember what it was like to have older kids include me in things when I was little, always made me feel good and a bit more grown up. Watching the smile on Noah’s face and the excitement when we got back and he told Jen the story was heart warming. Thank you boys!