Now That We’re Back

I have several ideas for relatively short, Wil-Wheaton-esque vignettes from our recent vacation. The only thing that’s stopping me from writing them is my desire to get all my photos posted first. After that, I’m sure I’ll want to edit together the small amount (less than an hour) of video we shot, and hopefully integrate the snippets of video from our iPhones and my point-and-shoot digital into the DV footage.

It’s all about priorities.

So, in the meantime, enjoy this short snippet of how we spent much of our vacation.

T-minus 20 Days and Counting

YouTube user alexkelowna1963 has uploaded several videos of the Royal Playa del Carmen, including this one of the resort’s beach. They’re only serving to make me even more excited about our trip.

We’re really not beach people. I swear. We spent one afternoon sunning and swimming at Waikiki back in 2008 before we got bored of it. Granted, this was after we’d already experienced things like parasailing and snorkeling, and had walked up and down the beach both by day and by night.

As for this trip, we have one tour already booked — on my birthday, no less — and are planning to do some other excursions on the fly: snorkeling, maybe parasailing, and definitely exploring Playa. And exploring the menu options at the Royal — it’s all-inclusive, after all.

As for now, though, we’re focusing on the little things. Making sure our shorts still fit, and buying new ones if necessary. Procuring swimsuits. Making sure the sunscreen we bought for Hawaii is still good. For me, getting a haircut (and getting my nails done). Finding cute sundresses at the thrift. Getting new glasses (and prescription sunglasses). Checking to see if any exit-row seats have opened up on our flight. Refreshing our rudimentary knowledge of Spanish.

The build-up is half the fun of vacation! So, while I might seem like I’m wishing the days away, it’s really kind of like Christmas — the waiting is what makes it exciting.

Meet Linda

Linda, my Weight Watchers Leader, was featured on 13abc last month in their “4 Ways To Lose 100 Pounds” series. In this interview, she shares her before and after pictures (which still amaze me) and a very abbreviated overview of what losing 120 pounds meant to her — and how she did it on Weight Watchers.

(Incidentally, the interviewer, Rebecca Regnier, was also in one of Linda’s Weight Watchers meeting groups, so I understand.)

News In Our Neighborhood

I hadn’t known what happened that afternoon. All I knew was that I was trying to get home from work, and my dead-end street was blocked off by a fire truck and a couple of police cars. I contemplated going off-road and getting around the fire truck by driving through the field across the street; there was a cop car hanging out in the field, though, so I just parked the car a good five houses down and walked the rest of the way home.

I started out quite irritated, but felt my face soften when I saw the family huddled together on the sidewalk. Something had happened, I knew — something tragic.

I didn’t find out exactly how tragic until two days later, when a neighbor came to our door and asked for a donation for the family. Aaron and I were taken by surprise, and told the gentleman that we didn’t have any cash on us, before it occurred to us that we probably could have written him a check.

Fast-forward about six weeks. This evening, right before Aaron left for work, the 13 ABC remote van pulled into the field across the street from our house, near the tree where the incident occurred. Let me tell you, it’s a surreal experience to be watching a live remote on the local news, then to look out your front door and see the live remote happening right there.

Our neighborhood isn’t exactly close-knit. I only know the first name of our next-door neighbor’s son because he dropped his driver’s license in the street one day a couple years back. The gentleman who came to our door, who lives a few houses down, has offered to snowblow our driveway for $20 in years past. After about five years in our house, that’s about all the contact we’ve had with our neighbors.

Even so, even though I don’t know them personally, I feel for this bereaved family, and I do hope that they learn the truth about their son’s death soon.

Chicago Illinois Is Like A Shiny Toy

So, Aaron and I are planning a quick getaway to Chicago over Labor Day Weekend. We decided that there’s enough interesting and fun things to do within a day’s drive of Toledo that there’s no excuse for us not to get out and experience them. Right?

We have a few ideas of things to do: check out the view from the Sears Tower, eat some pizza, walk around Millennium Park and enjoy sounds of the jazz festival, and hit Mitsuwa Marketplace, the giant Japanese market northwest of town. One friend suggested the planetarium, which sounds totally cool. Another friend is trying to convince us to go see Blue Man Group, too, but we’re not totally sold on it yet.

In order to generate ideas for things to do and places to visit, I decided to Google the phrase, “in Chicago, you have to…

Here’s what I came up with, vacation-appropriate or not:

  • In order to brave the elements in Chicago, you have to dress yourself accordingly—three fleeces layered on top of each other and a ski mask.
  • If you are in Chicago, you have to go here [Giordano’s Pizza] for dinner at least one night.
  • You’re in Chicago- you have to pay a visit to River North.
  • When running in Chicago you have to run along the lake.
  • But [Sears Tower]’s the third tallest building in the world and once you are in Chicago you have to go!
  • I still don’t understand why in Chicago you have to pay for parking at the hotel you are paying to stay at.
  • Are you still in Chicago? You have to make a pilgrimage to Hot Doug’s! Gourmet hot dogs.
  • (In Chicago, you have to ask for ketchup on your hot dog.)
  • Also, when you’re in Chicago you have to try chicago style hot dogs and Italian Beef.
  • In Chicago, you have to pay double tolls if you don’t use the automated system, and it’s a lot slower.
  • If you are in Chicago, you have to go and see a concert to get the real summer in Chicago experience.
  • In Chicago, you have to get the deep dish.
  • If you’re in Chicago, you have to visit Michigan Avenue, and since you’re seeing Michigan Avenue, you have to amble down Oak Street.
  • I started out in Chicago. You have to learn the business.
  • If you are in Chicago, you have to try Goose Island and it’s even better if you drink it at one of their fine establishments.
  • If you’re in Chicago, you have to have a potbelly [sandwich].
  • Now, since you’re in Chicago, you have to get a flame broiled steak at the Weber Grill (yeah, sounds touristy, but the quality is excellent) and a stuffed pizza at Giordano’s – just don’t have the pizza for lunch before a game.

Well, then. That should keep us busy.

To wrap up, I’ll leave you with this little number from the 1982 movie Victor/Victoria:

Video: Trip to Nikko

While I didn’t get our entire vacation video edited in time for last night’s party, I did manage to get our Nikko video edited down to a brisk four minutes. Expect more shorts from our Japan vacation in the coming weeks!

Ah, Courtship.

Aaron and I had been dating for less than a year when he moved out of his dad’s house at age 22. After that, we were finally able to spend weekend nights together (as the twin bed in my dorm room wasn’t terribly conducive to overnight stays, and I couldn’t exactly sleep over at his house with his dad around).

Those days were lean for Aaron, monetarily speaking, so he’d make food for us most Saturdays, except when we went to the $5 Chinese Buffet for lunch. There were a couple of years, one in particular, that I remember spending entire Saturdays in his apartment, eating Chicken Helper Shake-N-Bake for lunch or dinner — rather, the more generic but still tasty Chicken Bakin’ Magic or Chicken Bakin’ Miracle — and playing video games ALL DAY LONG. Broken up by rounds of snoo-snoo, of course.

Recently, Aaron ripped the audio from the Puyo Puyo Sun PlayStation game, and we listened to a few select tracks on his computer, including the intro:

We played the shit out of this game back in the day, so I didn’t even need the visuals. I pantomimed everything that went on during the intro, even though I hadn’t played the game for years. And when the track got to about 1:35, I made the funny face I used to always make, mocking the main villain character (who, incidentally, is named Satan).

Yep, those were the days.

So, what else did we play? Let’s see… we started out on Saturn and SNES, mainly, then moved to Dreamcast and PlayStation. I remember playing Bust A Move, and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and Dr. Mario. [Edit: And how could I forget Tetris Attack? We played the shit out of that one, too.] We didn’t just do puzzle games, though; I held my own quite well in Soul Calibur and the occasional Bushido Blade. Later on, we got hopelessly addicted to the Tony Hawk games, with 2 and 3 being our favorites. As we got a little less rabid in our gaming days, we’d play Cool Boarders 2 and SSX Tricky and the later Tony Hawk games and Dave Mirra.

These days, we don’t do a whole lot of gaming together on the weekends. When we do, we tend to stick with Carcassone on Xbox 360, or Boom Blox, or sometimes Wii Sports or Rock Band.

We should really get back into gaming together, though, even if we have to drag out the Saturn or the Dreamcast to do it right. Those days were so much fun.

Playing For Keeps

Today is the official release date of Mur Lafferty‘s novel, Playing For Keeps. My husband, Aaron, was a big fan of the podiobook version, so I gladly purchased the print version today (published by Swarm Press).

Mur held a contest, asking all her fans to record a video clip for a portion of the book’s theme song by Beatnik Turtle. Alas, I forgot that Mur is a Mac girl, and sent my submission in WMV format, so my clip didn’t get included in the final cut:

I’d like to imagine that my submission would end up as an extra on the (fictitious) Playing For Keeps promotional DVD:The Pop-Up Video version of my clip might include trivia such as:

  • Diana recorded this in the evening in her basement, with ambient light. This is why the video is so dark.
  • Diana moved the Rock Band drums into the basement specifically to record in front of her husband’s video game collection.
  • Note that Diana is not actually playing the offbeats during the first half of the clip, but corrects herself after her “cymbal” crash. She did not notice this error until after the video was complete and submitted.
  • Diana had considered tying a blanket cape around her neck to tie in with the superhero theme of the book. It’s probably best that she didn’t, as she had to do four takes, running over to her computer to restart the song each time.
  • Watch closely, and you’ll see the drumstick fly out of Diana’s right hand at the very end of the clip.

As it is, I’m fine with the fact that my video didn’t make it into the final cut. It was fun, anyway, and I’m still looking forward to reading Playing For Keeps when it arrives.

Hey… maybe you should order one, too.