A Birthday To Remember For My Wife

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. Besides enjoying Mexico, I added a day excursion for her and I to enjoy. All three activities were a blast!

First was a visit to Tulum. We learned about the ancient civilization and had a wonderful view of the ocean from up top. Shortly after we had some fun snorkeling with manta rays and sea turtles. This was immediately followed by a visit to swim through the Cenote caves.

When we got back to the resort, there was a lovely birthday plate waiting in our room for my wife. We met some friends for a Teppanyaki dinner. Great show with excellent food. Again, my wife was treated to a birthday dessert.

It was a great birthday for my wife who doesn’t always like being in the spotlight. The resort has been wonderful so far.

Happy Birthday Lee-Anne

Today is my wife’s birthday. That’s a big part of the reason we are in Mexico! One of her biggest goals in life was to be somewhere warm for her December birthday. Finally I was able to achieve it for her. She was gracious enough to take me along on for the vacation!

I’m happy that Lee-Anne has been a great big part of my life. Giving her this trip was a much needed excursion that she is worthy of and deserved more than anyone else I know. Her smile on this vacation has lit up the atmosphere everywhere we walk.

So far we have spent two days of over indulging in food, drinks and siestas. Today we are off on an adventure that I am hoping goes smoothly. It’s another of her bucket list items that she wants to do on this trip. I’m pretty sure she will be smiling even more by the end of the day.

Happy Birthday Love!

Valentin Imperial Day 1

“Set amid lavish gardens on a half-mile-long stretch of pearlescent beach named Playa Del Secreto (The Secret Beach), the adults-only, all-inclusive Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya boasts one of the most breathtaking swimming pools in Riviera Maya, Mexico!”

That blurb doesn’t do this resort justice. Having never traveled to Mexico, this is our first taste of what the country, and an all-inclusive, has to offer. It has been nothing but friendly and fun for our first day. Pools, beaches, booze and friends made us feel welcome and comfortable.

We arrived by 9am, and check in wasn’t until 3pm. The resort held our luggage and we were off to begin enjoying the amenities. First thing was to get some breakfast and coffee into us. Of course mimosas began flowing steadily as well. My wife and I were warned by our tenants to not over indulge on the booze on day one. That was going to be challenging. But since water and food was also in abundance- we survived day one without issue.

Drinks were coming pretty regularly mind you. So we tried a bunch of new drinks. We also enjoyed some food truck tacos and an elegant dinner with some friends.

The night ended with my wife and I going for a stroll and enjoying the stars. Relaxing without concern is a great feeling. I can get used to this life and am already able to see what people find appealing about this style of vacationing.

Red Eye

It’s been a very long time since I have been on a “Red Eye” flight. The first time was a trip to Scotland as a child. The worst one was a trip home from Toronto.

Today, we got off the flight early this morning after six hours in the air. My wife and I chose to do it this way so that we could have a siesta on the beach or by the pool in case we didn’t get much sleep on the plane. No point in spending an extra $400 for a night of sleep.

Traveling during these strange times is well, strange. I’d much rather sleep away the awkwardness instead of interacting with strangers on a plane. Anyways, on to the first day of vacation! Exhausted but ready for it!

Weather Or Not

Being on vacation is wonderful. Yesterday and today we had some nice weather with sunshine peaking out. The rest of the week- not so good. A chance of snow tomorrow and a miserable looking week continues on. I’m glad our Christmas lights are up.

Good thing my wife and I fly out to Mexico tonight on the red eye. Besides getting away to beautiful weather, we are leaving the teenagers behind! Grandma is in charge and our tenants are watching over things as well. This is the first real vacation for just the two of us, ever.

My wife and I have taken a weekend away every couple of years. Usually just a drive into Vancouver or a quick escape to Seattle. Our honeymoon was also a short drive to Harrison Hot Springs and lasted for only three days. Every other trip we have been on, we brought the entire family. It’s about time to focus on just the two of us.

My wife is also excited to spend her birthday in a warmer climate. We would have done this last year for her big 5-0, but the world wasn’t ready to open up. Even the trip this week has some hurdles to jump through. But I think it’ll all work out nicely in the end.

Mostly because we won’t be here for the start of the snow season.

Three Nights of Music

Tonight is the third night of performances at our kids’ school. Last year didn’t happen due to Covid restrictions. This year is limited tickets but four shows are happening. Two of them are tonight. I was lucky enough to get tickets for both.

The cost was also much higher than usual because they are losing half the capacity. So tonight I will be taking my mother for the first time to see the performance. I am a big fan of the orchestra and classical pieces. It’s always a pleasure to see our kids shine on stage. Total proud parent moment.

Are you seeing any Christmas or holiday performances by your kids this year? Do you get as prideful as I do? Let me know in the comments.

Spotify Wrapped 2021

Spotify released the yearly playlists for everyone’s top 100. Here is a link to mine: Josef’s 2021 Top Spotify . I always like to see what makes my top songs. 97 different genres to be precise.

My top 5 songs are fantastic songs from years ago- late 90’s early 2000’s. Most of my playlist comes from songs I chose to enjoy in the backyard this summer hanging out poolside. A few of the songs surprised me as I didn’t realize I had listened to them that much.

My audio aura was two extreme levels. ANGST AND HAPPY. That humors me to no end.

But I also worked hard on my relaxation techniques. I listened to a lot of Enya and my top podcast was a wellness one. I spent almost 3000 minutes listening to calming music and sounds. I was zen AF.

So take a listen to my music if you wish. How was your 2021 Spotify Wrapped? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear your playlists.

November Can End

This month has been a challenging one- it sure will be nice when it ends.

The majority of us are wanting the Flooding to be over with. But with rain still coming down, this November has been rough for the last couple of weeks for many families. The last day is no different.

The media is utilizing phrases to instill a bit of panic though. Prior to this year, I had never heard the term “Atmospheric River” and quite frankly had to look up the definition. Any other year and the media would call this type of weather a “Pineapple Express”. That doesn’t sound as ominous.

Either way, heavy rain is here but hopefully not much longer. Let’s get December started and end the year with some positivity.

Get Back

The new Beatles documentary “Get Back” released on Disney+ on the weekend. It was put together from 60 hours of film and 150 hours of audio tape that has been sitting in a vault for half a century. The final three part series is nearly 8 hours of footage.

I watched each episode as they appeared on Disney+. This is one of the first times as of late, that I gave a show my undivided attention. My phone was not a distraction as I watched the series. I was enthralled by the showcase of creativity coming to fruition of some classics songs. For 50 year old footage, I could only imagine how difficult it was to sift through and make a great series.

For me, it brought back memories of when I would hang out with friends at their jam sessions and recording studios. Those days were filled with loads of egos filling a room, and amazing talent that would piece together a few songs. Seeing the Beatles in a more raw form made me appreciate the hard work that many artists go through in the creative process.

I have always been a fan of the Beatles. At one point when I was 19, I had a loud car stereo. With 500 watts and two 12” subwoofers, I would play music of all varieties. Back then, I would have a rotation of cds available. One day I stopped at a liquor store with some friends. I was playing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and an older lady watched me step out of the car. She commented on how it was nice that I was listening to classics, albeit very loudly.

Besides having a few Beatles albums on cd, I had also purchased the Red and Blue albums on vinyl at a flea market a few decades ago. I have since given them to our daughter, who has enjoyed playing them on her record player as well. The Beatles are timeless, and watching the documentary this past weekend was a fantastic and beautiful way to appreciate their style.

Video Game Challenge

About a month ago, my son and his friend challenged my buddy and I to a series of video game competitions. Saturday we took on the teenagers and played some PlayStation 3 games and some Nintendo Wii games. I thought for sure my buddy and I would win the majority of the games.

Boy was I wrong.

It was embarrassing losing at a game that we would spend hours playing in the arcade after work back in 1999/2000. I loved NFL Blitz and clocked a lot of hours at work playing it way back then. The boys had never played it. For whatever reason, they wiped the floor with us. Embarrassing.

My buddy and I did get our revenge on Wii Sports Resort Bowling. Bowling was something I did in high school for years. The logistics of the game were similar, so I defeated my son quite easily. My buddy and his boy had a much closer match. It was down to one point. But victory was ours!

Then MarioKart on the Wii came out. My son and his friend decimated us. It wasn’t even close. I may as well have been driving a golf cart on the Indy 500 the way I was playing. Even though the old guys lost, we still had fun and would do it again sometime.

10% More Anal Leakage

I love to experiment with food. Baking and cooking make me happy. On my days off, I tend to take the time to create new meals for the family. Last night I tried something new.

We bought some of those large shell pastas the other day. I boiled them like I was supposed to. I also fried up some ground beef and stuffed them along with a chunk of cheese. Then I wrapped another shell over top. I was a little bit clumsy at times and ripped a few shells. But was over all satisfied with them. For the next step I decided to deep fry them in order to create a crunch and melt the cheese.

Deep frying them did exactly what I wanted. However, they each fell apart in the oil. So I had to pull the basket up and fish out the bits and put them in our dinner bowls. They were served with salsa and sour cream. Taste wise- the family enjoyed… mostly. The downside? These shells turn into little scoops that collected the oil from the deep fryer. So we got the occasional slurp of oil added. Nothing like drinking canola oil at dinner.

I suspect that each of us won’t be trusting a fart all day today. Those who know, know. Next time I might just deep fry the shells alone and then strain them before adding beef. Creating little scoops for our dinner. Sometimes you win at experimenting with foods, other times you carry a roll of toilet paper with you all day.

Thirty Year Old Clubbing

I went to see my father yesterday… He’s dead mind you- so I went to visit his final resting place. I had a moment just standing there… Talking to the air, asking for advice. Something I really needed. I brought with me a peace offering of sorts…

Besides the yearly beer, I also brought his golf club that I still had in my possession. The club was a “Big Bertha” that he had bought in 1991. Thirty years later, I still have the club. I was going to leave it behind yesterday at his grave, but I still use it at the driving range; and my son uses it on occasion as well. So it came home with me once more.

Funny thing… I also have my old man’s golf umbrella. Which I happened to use yesterday when I visited his grave. Rust patterns have emerged by the metal prongs against the fabric. Yet it is fully functional and kept me dry as I shared a beer with my father.

Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of things that remind you of someone who is no longer around. The thirty year old club and the umbrella (which is far older) mean something to me. I can’t part with the items just yet. Maybe in another thirty years…

Cusp Of My Seasonal Depression

November 25th, 2000.

That was the day my father died. He had long since suffered from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy prior to his demise. He was a smoker by age thirteen and worked in a uranium mine at one point in his life. Golfing is what kept him active. But he still drank and smoked quite regularly. At age 58, his body just didn’t want to go on.

Every year I go and pay my respects to my father. Some years are not as respectful as I should be. I have a lot of emotions that run rampant from mid-September until today. There are times that I absolutely despise who that man once was. Then there are moments I wish he was here so I could ask for some advice. This is one of those years that I really need him.

But he’s not here. And I can love or hate the man for all he did or didn’t do for me as I grew up. I need him today, but he’s not available to me. Just like many of those moments as a teenager when I needed him. I’m on my own trying to work out how to move forward.

My eyes are filled with tears writing this as my heart continues to feel broken and at a loss. But I know deep down, that November 26th of every year, things start to get better. That date is the start of my yearly healing.

And this year, that healing has its work cut out for me.

Update Needed

I have mentioned Google Home and automation tech a few times over the years. I’m extremely fond of how easy it is to use. Some of my favorite aspects are the schedules and routines. I have a few like “ok Google, Good Night.” And my bedside lamp goes on and Google says “Goodnight Josef.” Totally awesome.

This week, I added some plugs for the Christmas tree lights and created a routine that turns on every tree and plays Christmas orchestral music from Spotify. “Ok Google- Merry Christmas.” Pretty straightforward. Except that I wanted an icon for the trees that didn’t look like a plug or a lightbulb. But no such luck.

Instead I used the Kettle icon. It’s triangular and kind of works. But who uses a kettle or coffee maker on a smart plug? That makes no sense to me. Most of them have clocks and timers. It would be nice if Google updated their icons on the app to represent activities that make sense. Like turning on Christmas lights. Or the outdoor lights. A lightbulb or plug icon gets kind of lost in the app settings.

In the meantime, our nine foot tree is a kettle. That’s sort of festive… we like hot chocolate.

Hakchi

Three years ago, Santa brought us the NES Mini and the SNES Mini. Christmas has always been akin to Video Games since I can remember. We played the games that were on the systems only a handful of times. After we moved, the Nintendo minis went on display in my kids’ room.

This week I decided that I was going to modify the SNES Mini. I did a bit of research online, or rather watched a couple YouTube tutorials, and decided to give it a go. I’m not going to link any of the information- as doing a modification like this is done at your own risk. But since we weren’t really using the systems, I wanted to try it out.

I spent a couple of hours downloading almost every single Super Nintendo game available. I also picked up a few Sega Genesis titles as well as some Gameboy ones. The controls on the system work similarly so it wasn’t that big a deal. I used an app called Hakchi CE to hack the system. This was one of the most straightforward things to do since my usage of Limewire and Musicmatch a couple decades ago.

Now there are 148 games installed on the SNES Mini. Each game works perfectly, each with artwork to keep it looking like the original games that the system came with. This is like hitting the jackpot of my youth- every game imaginable is available to be added to the library of titles. My favorite game ever on the Super Nintendo is also on here now- Metal Warriors. I’m hoping that my son will play it with me soon.

Next I’ll modify the NES Mini and put a bunch of Nintendo and Gameboy and Game Gear games on that one. There’s something to be said for nostalgia and gaming.

Have you done a mod on your NES or SNES mini? Let me know what features you like to use.

Panic Buying is Unnecessary

Due to the floods and slides cutting off Vancouver from the rest of Canada, a State of Emergency has been declared. This is affecting many of us locally. The biggest issue to happen is “Panic Buying”.

Until December 1st, the government has mandated that people only be allowed to purchase 30 liters of gas. For many of us, that’s somewhere between half to two thirds of a tank. More than enough fuel to get you around town for the week. Yet people lined up and bled the stations clean not following the orders. Jerry cans got filled and people went way beyond the limit.

Greed and hoarding also pushed people into clearing out the grocery store shelves. Again, no reason for it. Just fear and panic. People seem to forget that the only reason we run out is because of panic buying! The roads may be cut off for a bit longer still, and the railroads should be up and running in the next few days. Why can’t people eat what they have at home in the meantime?

If people just purchase what they need, then everyone can get what they need as well. Clearing the store shelves of food is ridiculous and it disgusts me to think that people don’t look out for one another. During panic buying times, we avoid shopping.

We keep about two weeks worth of canned and boxed goods in our garage on a regular basis. Our pantry is the size of a broom closet, so it doesn’t require much to fill the shelves. We always have pastas and keep our large freezer filled with meals to last for emergencies. Just like this one it seems.

Normally myself wife and I would be buying fruits, vegetables, and dairy products on a weekly basis. But for this week and next, we can enjoy frozen or canned vegetables instead to get our nutrients. Once people realize that there is no food shortage, perhaps they will calm down again.

Because in the end, it’s the “Panic Buyers” that are creating the shortage.

Bad Day Means Baking

I’ve been having some issues at home lately. Yeah, not every day is swimming pools and pumpkin patches. In order to take my mind off things I decided to delve into baking for the day. So I’m not going to share my plight, but I want to tell you about my baking.

I didn’t bake anything extravagant. In fact I chose to revert back to my youth. You know, comfort baking. I started with an easy recipe- Rice Krispie Treats. Maybe my misery allows me to take more care and effort, but these were doggone delicious.

Shortly after I made some peanut butter cookies. It’s a recipe I have done for years. Check out the recipe here: Cookie Baking. It is the first cookie I ever learned to bake. I have perfected the recipe over the years (8 minutes people! Don’t bake for ten to twelve.) Usually I don’t feed my feelings, but these past few days it seemed like a requirement.

So baking a bit early for Christmas made me feel better. It kept me occupied and distracted. Something I needed. Most of my family appreciated these snacks, so that part was worth it. I’m still hungry for peace of mind. Hopefully I find it soon.

Parenting Is Exhausting

It’s Saturday morning. I was awake far too early today. I went to bed shortly after midnight and tossed and turned all night. Suddenly it was six a.m. and the alarm was going off. Up and at ‘em. I had a commitment to my son to take him to skating practice.

Parents sacrifice more than their children realize. My day to sleep in was cut short. The reason I was unable to sleep was my concern about another of our kids. But it should all be fine at some point. Parenting anxiety can be debilitating and you can feel at a loss. Sometimes, all you have is doing the best you can to make your children feel safe and cared for.

Being a parent of more than one child is extremely exhausting. You don’t want to burden them with issues or concerns, but you also don’t want to keep them in the dark. It’s mentally taxing.

So as our youngest is training on the ice, I’m going to take a nap in the car. I’d be here anyway since Covid protocol prohibits me from hanging out inside. I will get a little under two hours of rest if I’m lucky. Then the rest of the day it will be some family time with my wife and the two youngest. Mostly a distraction is required. Perhaps some video games, baking or a movie will be on the table. Heck, probably all three at this point.

No one ever said parenting was easy. And as your kids turn to adults, you still want to parent and help out. It feels like it will never end. Sometimes that’s a good sensation, other times it is the reminder that they aren’t toddlers anymore and are fully capable of looking after themselves.

Big Box

We had a delivery show up yesterday. As much as I want to open the box, my wife has requested we leave it until June of next year. Normally I can do that without issue. Just put the box in a closet and forget about it.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly possible at this time. It’s a large, heavy package that required two delivery people to bring it into our home. Currently it’s home is in our bedroom. To try and ignore box, my wife placed a couple Christmas blankets over it. Once January comes around, we will have to do something else.

My suggestion is to open the box. But I highly doubt that will occur. For now, it will just taunt me every day.

Gut Wrenching Gutter Repair

Today our neighbor was getting their gutters cleaned. No, that sentence wasn’t meant inappropriately. They had a company cleaning their roof and debris from the gutters.

I had wandered outside taking out some garbage as one of the workers approached me. He asked if it was okay to use our deck to lean towards the neighbors roof. I said sure and we got to talking about the cost of doing my home. He quoted me around $300, but he already took a look when he was next door and said my gutters were fine.

I appreciated his honesty. He could’ve easily told me a price and I’d have not known any better. But since he was there, I asked if I could give him some cash to fix my one downspout. He agreed, and fifteen minutes later, my gutter was fixed.

Watching him climb the ladder that was leaning towards my house made me queasy. It was money well spent having someone else do it. Now the next set of rainfall which happens has a place to drain to.

I’m not afraid of heights, I’m afraid of falling.

Flooding 2021

British Columbia is feeling the effects of climate change and the destruction it brings with it. This summer was forest fires; which occurs every year it seems. However, Mother Nature isn’t done with wreaking havoc.

As you may know, there is a lot of damage being done because of heavy rainfall over the last few days. Places that we never thought would be hit, are now under water and mud. The Greater Vancouver area is all but shut off from the rest of the world. Our major routes in and out have been washed away.

There has been landslides before. Just not of this magnitude. Major railways are hit hard as well. Loss of bridges means that merchandise isn’t being moved. The delays will be felt for months to come for the rest of Canada as British Columbia is a major artery for import and export. The floods have finally been declared a State of Emergency.

Those of us who live here, please be on the lookout for your friends, families and coworkers. They may be affected differently and emotionally by these events. Sending “Thoughts and Prayers” on Facebook might make you feel like you’ve helped in the grief. If you really want to help, donating to the Red Cross is one of the most secure and reliable ways to do so.

City Christmas Lights

As the days remain darker for longer, I love the look of lights that fill the night. Especially as Christmas approaches, more and more people put up lights to brighten our lives.

I also love it when each city transforms their Main Street into a bright display of magic. The trees that line the sidewalks get adorned with glowing bulbs, lighting the street up in an almost daylight fashion.

I’ve always appreciated the spectacle that comes with Christmas and the season in general. When I was a child living in Edmonton, I would fall asleep staring out my window at the lights up and down the street. There was one lightbulb that I would fall asleep watching just outside my window. It was an old glass bulb that was red in colour. Over the years, I watched as the paint slowly chipped off.

Now we have LED lights that glow brighter for longer. There’s still a sense of awe, yet it feels even more artificial than it once was.

Do you like the look of Christmas lights as they fill the night?

Wet Weather Pool Draining

I got home from work this morning and made my way towards the pool shed. The torrential downpour of rain over last day or two had caused our pool to be rather full. So it was time to drain some water out.

The process is simple really. Just turn off the breaker. Then rotate the handle on the pump to “WASTE”. Turn breaker back on. Wait about ten minutes inside the pool shed (keeping dry) until the water is back to normal levels.

I’ve had to drain the overflow of our pool a few times already. This morning was probably the worst yet. Our pool cover should be about six to eight inches above the water. Not touching like it can been seen here. (That bubble looking thing in the middle is the cover resting on the water.)

Needless to say, I will be keeping up with the runoff more frequently as the rain hits. I’m not in the mood to have to deal with any type of flooding in our backyard. Especially if it can be avoided by spending ten minutes every so often to drain a bit.

I’d much rather be enjoying swimming on a hot summer day than standing in the rain making sure the pool doesn’t overflow.

Rain In Vancouver? Preposterous!

I love living in the Lower Mainland on the outskirts of Vancouver. There is plenty to see and do. Lakes, nature trails, mountains, shopping, restaurants, and plenty of local activities that go on. On a nice day, Vancouver, the outlying cities and towns, are green and lush almost all year round. But it rains. Especially in November. You know- just like the Guns ‘N Roses song…

Everybody needs some time on their own.

And when your fears subside

And shadows still remain

I know that you can love me

When there’s no one left to blame

So never mind the darkness

We still can find a way

‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever

Even cold November rain

One day it will end, but today feels like the day it begins. This week is a 100% chance of rain. Today sunrise occurred at 7:21. I woke up and it was already a deluge of water falling. Large blobs, not drizzle like the weather app states. Big, heavy, rainfall. No sun. Just grey skies dumping water.

So I’m going to stay indoors for the day. I’m also going to put on the fire, finish my artwork from yesterday (read about it Here: Up-Cycled), read a book, and take a nap. Those activities make me happy in the rain.

What do you do on a rainy day?

Up-cycled IKEA Boards

When we first moved in, my daughter needed a new bed frame. So I dismantled her old IKEA bed and saved some of the pine wood slats. Back in July I used some of the wood and created some Shelves for our kitchen. Today I created some art with six more of the boards.

I removed the fabric and staples that was holding the slats together. Then I gave the wood a quick sanding to remove the varnish and grey marks from the old metal frame. I bought a 1×2 pine board, cut out a couple pieces for each sign. Then I screwed them in the back to hold the boards together.

I coated the wood with white paint. I also blended some blue and sliver to make it look like ice. My daughter found a nice font online that looked like handwriting. So I wrote out “Merry Christmas” in German and Czech. I used our old projector and traced the image out.

Afterwards I painted the letters with the blue metallic paint. Once this paint dries, I’ll finish the signs with some more art in the blank spaces. So far I’m really happy with the results, but it’s getting late. As well, I still have six more wooden boards that I could use for future projects.

I’d like to think that by up-cycling I have gone back to my family roots. As well- writing in Eastern European adds to the homage and traditions my wife and I wish to share with our kids.

Do you ever up-cycle to create art?

Veselé Vánoce! Frohe Weihnachten!