Vacations & Holidays 2010-14

And I love you...

Us leavingThere are times when words simply can't convey just how deeply you feel about something.

That's how I feel today... my ninth anniversary with the woman I love and with whom I want to spend the rest of my life.

I wish I could come up with something profound to say...

Something that can make me sound like the ultimate romantic...

But I cannot other than to just say that these last nine years have been more amazing than I ever thought possible.

And it's all because, nine years ago, Katie said "I do."

And she continues to say "I do" every day.

And I continue to say "I do" right back to her and to our life together.

I hope that's enough.

I love you with all my heart and soul, hon.

Declare independence...

Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow U.S.ians!

The U.S. Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays second only to Halloween. Katie and I love to sit out and watch the various fireworks displays in the area. On Friday night, we were down in Aurora for one show and tonight we'll be in St. Charles for another with her brother and his fiancee.

I did take some photos on Friday. They didn't necessarily turn out great, though. Due to a little physical instability of the camera, the in-focus ones look like they're double exposed. So I decided to do something a little different and intentionally take a bunch of them with semi- to very-soft focus. I really kinda like the result.

Here you go...

Hope you celebrate safely.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'd like to offer up a very special Happy Independence Day wish to my friend Marie. This is, after all, her first time celebrating as a naturalized U.S. Citizen.

Even as I left Florida...

I think I shall tackle the post about our recent vacation to Florida all Clint Eastwood style!

The Good

  • We got to see Nano for several days
  • All three of our flights arrived ahead of schedule (anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour)
  • We rented a really nice 2010 Ford Fusion and I was quite comfortable driving it
  • We had free Sirius/XM satellite radio in the rental car and I fell in love with the Lithium channel (24)
  • We spent several days poolside and got tans but did not burn
  • I took a boatload of photos and managed to complete my weekly photo challenge with Disney photos
  • We did not overspend on anything really
  • We hit up two parks in the Disney compound - Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom
  • We pretty much bought nothing at Disney other than food
  • We learned how to play the system at Disney for free ice water
  • We hit up most of the major rides at the two parks and even rode several of them twice with time to spare
  • I watched as someone was viewing porn on their laptop computer at the airport
  • We started and finished season four of Monk on our portable DVD player
  • We rarely used our cellphones and didn't even carry them on some days
  • We left our laptop at home - you cannot imagine how freeing this felt

The Bad

  • We waited a little too long and our airfare jumped up a bit from when we originally priced it
  • We pretty much bought nothing at Disney other than food (food is expensive and we were hoping to get at least a little Christmas shopping done)
  • We had to deal with huge crowds at the park - the worst was Animal Kingdom where we were sardines in a sweat lodge
  • We saw parental neglect at its worst as parents sat talking or browsing the web on their phones as their kids ran around wrecking havoc (it's hard to blame the kids when the parents are paying zero attention)
  • Our Illinois iPass still isn't compatible with Florida's tollway autopay system (works in 14 other states, though)
  • Dinoland USA just does not fit in with the rest of Animal Kingdom at all; it upends what is otherwise a nicely themed park
  • Strollers are evil - people should be given size limitations for strollers in crowded public areas like amusement parks as well as on public transportation
    Clarification (before parents tear me a new one) - I have no problem with strollers on general principle, but the Cadillacs these parents were pushing around taking up literally 6-10 square feet of space were just ridiculous. We saw one parent fold over a tandem stroller and shove it into a tram then, with baby in hand, climb over the top of it and slide down into the last available seat to get to the parking lot. He not only held up the tram for five minutes extra (with the conductor instructing him to wait for a new one where he would have plenty of room) but packed in all the other people to a point of discomfort and endangered his kid while scaling Mount Stroller.

The Ugly

  • The heat - it was ridiculously hot and it was only May. We were sweating horribly both days at Disney and our energy levels got sapped very quickly

The Photos

'nuff said.

As I arrived home tonight after work, I noticed a little bird fluttering around near our front door. I walked up there and, in a flight of fear, just started flapping everywhere and wound up running into walls and doors and everything you can imagine.

For his own good, I tried to shoo him away from the entryway and into the wide open outdoors. Instead he flew into my garage and would not (or could not) leave. He kept flying into the walls or into the side of my truck or flapping like mad against the bottom edge of our garage door. At one point, he clung to the door and hung upside down like a bat.

I finally got him outside, but couldn't help but wonder if he was blind or if it was just severe fear and confusion. I wasn't sure what to make of it.

Here he is...

Blind Bird

I hope he's okay.

Holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oad...

We meant to do it about a month or so ago, but for whatever reason, we waited. But we did it this morning. We booked our vacation for May!

EarsWe're going to Florida!

We'll be spending most of the time with my grandma north of Orlando. But we will be staying a couple nights in Orlando proper, so we can go to Magic Kingdom and, hopefully, hang out with some Blogger and Twitter peeps as well!

If you live in or are going to be in the area in mid-May-ish, let me know and maybe we can get together.

Katie and I are stoked.

Last night, my dad and I were going out for some food after attending Nuclear Cowboyz and we had an interesting discussion about the recent spate of natural disasters and their clean-up and relief efforts.

My dad mentioned how several of these disasters have happened in countries where the drug trade is strong. And he asked why you haven't seen any drug dealers or kingpins come forth with donations to help with their country's relief.

While it's possible that they have made donations anonymously, why not make some big public display of donating millions of dollars to the rebuilding effort? Think about it, sure it would bring them out in the open, but it would make them almost God-like to their citizens. If police had trouble with them before, they would be practically untouchable after doing something like that.

Just sayin'.

You are my lover, my life...

On this day, an undisclosed number of years ago, the Good Lord (or whatever you choose to call Him/Her) had the good sense to grace the world with Katie.

While I wouldn't know her until 21 years later, she did finally come into my life at a time when I wasn't sure anyone would ever become a part of it.

But she did.

And I love her for it.

Happy birthday, Katie.

I love you with all my heart and always will.

Snow kiss 2

That's snow, by the way.

Come and sail away with me...

Today we did it. We booked our first vacation in nearly two years. Of course, we won't be going on it for more than a year, but it's booked!

Come March 2011, Katie and I will be going on a cruise of the eastern Caribbean as part of a crew of folks celebrating the wedding of Katie's brother, Scott, and our FSiL, Becca. Big woot!

This cruise is going to rock for many reasons:

  • It's seven days of changing scenery without having to repack bags in between
  • We will be hitting four locations we've never been to before including the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk...
  • There are a ton of cool shore excursions to choose from (although the list can change between now and then)
  • We're there with friends and family
  • We get a stateroom with a balcony as opposed to the no-window room from our cruise in 2003...


  • It's already half paid off
  • There will be some killer photo opps
  • Even though we're with family, Katie and I will get a lot of great quality time together

Oh yeah, we're stoked.

I blogged every week day through the entire month of January!

Been a long time since I've been that consistent.

Blog fiber, FTW!

Woo hoo!

Then we're gonna give him a best friend hug...

The plan behind the reason why this post is coming on New Year's Day instead of prior to the New Year was a complete and dismal failure. We had hoped to see a movie or two on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and we did no such thing. Our local theater was so horrifically packed

I actually started by creating a list of all the movies we've seen, but, for whatever reason, it didn't save in the e-mail draft I had written. Thankfully, the list of finalists did save.

With no further ado, here are mine and Katie's top movies of the year starting with #10:

  1. Away We Go
    This movie almost never had a chance to charm us the way it did. Starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as a couple struggling to find themselves as they're about to have a baby, I thought this film had come and gone before it even came. Luckily, it finally started airing in the Chicago suburbs nearly a month after most other places got it. It was worth the wait.
  1. Taken
    Liam Neeson kicking serious ass while trying to rescue his daughter who was kidnapped and sold into sex slavery while vacationing in Paris? Yeah, the equation for a great film!
  1. (500) Days of Summer
    I had high hopes for this film and it did not fail me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hopeless romantic falling for Zooey Deschanel's hopeless singleton. Can it possibly work? Well, the voice-over introduction does tell you right off the bat that this is not a love story.
  1. Inglourious Basterds
    I know I'm not rating this nearly as high as many other people have this year end, but I loved this revisionist take on WWII until just around the end when something happens that makes this film go from a "could this have actually happened and just never been reported" to a "no possible way." I really preferred believing the former as opposed to realizing the latter. But it does contain the finest acting I've yet seen in a Quentin Tarantino film. Had this maintained the illusion of semi-reality in my head, I think it would've rated much higher.
  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Wes Anderson + Stop-Motion Animation + the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray = a surprisingly good film based on a classic Roald Dahl children's book about a fox who returns to his thieving ways despite promising his wife he'd become an upstanding citizen.
  1. Up In the Air
    I really have no idea how the films of Jason Reitman remain so consistently good. From Thank You For Smoking to Juno to this gem about a normal guy (George Clooney) who jetsets around the U.S. firing employees for spineless bosses. He believes that this is the way he is meant to live until he meets Vera Farmiga and realizes that there may actually be more to life.
  1. Star Trek
    Apparently, my earlier review led people to believe I didn't like this movie. That is not true. I liked it, just not as much as some other people. However, on subsequent viewings, I love this film. I'm not a Trekkie. I never aim to be one. But this is a thoroughly enjoyable film with some incredibly unique and spot-on casting. I can't wait for a sequel.
  1. District 9
    Easily the best scifi film I've seen in years mostly because it's presented as another one of those "so real it seems real" sorts of films. The scratchy, over-the-shoulder documentary style of filming really brought this film to life and helped hide any imperfections in the CGIs making them blend seamlessly with the live action acting. And, like any good scifi, it uses false characters and situations to bring to light real social issues (segregation and genocide) in terms that even regular joes can understand.
  1. Up!
    Can Pixar ever do any wrong? It sure doesn't seem that way. As good as this film is, though, I could handle just watching the opening segment which brings greater emotionality to a movie using animation and no dialogue than almost any live-action film I've ever seen.
  1. Hangoverposter09 The Hangover
    Four friends, Las Vegas, date-rape drugs, a tiger, a hooker, a baby, a stolen police car, Chinese mobsters, and Mike Tyson. Need I say more? Nah, didn't think so.

Oh, and the following movies are ones we have yet to see although I'm pretty sure they may have fared pretty well on our list had we gotten around to them.

  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hurt Locker
  • The Informant!
  • Zombieland
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Invictus
  • Crazy Heart

I also really liked Marty's idea of listing movies that kinda let me down. I'm just listing a single movie here because I lost my list of films we watched. I'm sure there'd be more, but...

  •  The Men Who Stare At Goats
    In concept, this movie about soldiers who are trained to use their minds as their greatest weapon should have been great. And for about the first hour it was. The final half really was terrible, though. It felt like a film that fell victim to the writer's strike of 2007 and just never was properly finished. Or maybe it had a great, but controversial, ending that studio execs nixed in favor of one they deemed would fare much better with audiences. If this is the case, Studio Exec Tampering FAIL!

What films did you enjoy this year?

Katie and I learned a few things about ourselves last night during our stay-at-home New Year's Eve celebration.

Thought we'd share:

  • We are not late-night people.
  • We are not party people.
  • Unless it is mixed with orange juice, we are not champagne people.
  • I do not have my finger on the pulse of popular music as evidenced by my not knowing half the people performing on New Year's Rockin' Eve. Justin Bieber who?
  • Unlike the Black Eyed Peas, I do not got your boom boom pow. Hell, I don't even know what your boom boom pow is. Sorry.