Props to You at YVR

We had an excellent, relaxing vacation at Whistler earlier this week. Dave was there for a work conference, and we tagged along. Initially, we didn’t have helmets, but after Natasha Richardson’s tragedy, we decided to rent some on our last day - even for Ben, who just had sledding on his agenda. Luckily for us, the hotel let us use their helmets for free.

Anyway, when I post our pictures I’ll tell you a little more about the vacation. For today’s post, I just wanted to give a little shout out to my peeps at YVR, better known as the Vancouver International Airport.

I was kind of dreading our whole airport experience, since we’d have to go through customs. I was ready for a barrage of questions, “What are you doing in Canada? Where are you staying? How are you getting there?” etc once we met with the customs agent. In the past, I’ve always had a hard time with the interrogation that happens before I’m allowed out into Canada.

Luckily for us, Ben slept through the whole 4 hour flight from Minneapolis to Vancouver…I had an assortment of snacks and toys for him to play with, just in case. Our flight came in at around 11:30am, and Dave’s parents, who were also coming along for the trip, were getting in at around 12:30 so we decided to catch some lunch while we waited. We were a little unsure if there was a food court available after we went through customs.

So when in doubt, you ask someone, rather than find out too late. We approached the customs area, where you get in line to meet a gate agent and they check your customs form and your passports and grill you on why you’re entering the country. There was a massive line of people waiting to go through. Before we got stuck in line, I decided to ask one of the workers if there was someplace to eat after customs. He told me that there was a pretty big food court on the second floor, right after customs. I thanked him, and he saw Dave and Ben with me, and said, “Hey, since you have a baby with you, why don’t you take this line” and pointed at an area to his left, an area that I didn’t even notice, since no one was going there. Turns out that it was the special lane (special for who? I don’t know) and we walked right through, passing the massive line of others waiting for customs. We walked right up to the gate agent, who processed us quickly, without too many questions (which always gets me a little flustered). We went through customs so quickly that we had to wait a bit before our luggage came out.

While waiting, I needed to use the bathroom. So once again, I asked someone who worked there where the nearest bathroom was. He motioned to the other end of the luggage area (which was pretty far), but then looked down and saw Ben (who pretty much goes wherever I go) and then said, “Since you’ve got the kid, go ahead and use the staff bathroom, right behind you.” Score! Benjamin’s my golden ticket.

After our trip, back at YVR, we were checking in our luggage. The woman checking us in was very sweet, and was playing with Ben the whole time…she even gave him his own wings. He really got a kick out of it.

The only unpleasantness we had at YVR was at security. In the US, we’re allowed to bring juice for Ben, as long as it’s outside of our bags in an unopened container. Since it was a long trip, I packed Ben a juice box. We got stopped at security, because I guess in Canada they don’t allow liquids, even for kids. Security was very nice about it, talking to Ben and asking him if he wanted to drink his juice before going through security. So I stood at the side of security, holding Ben’s hand as he drank his juice. I fought the urge to chant, “CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!” as he drank to hurry him up. Finally, he was finished, security clapped for him, and we were through.

While we waited before our flight, we tried to get rid of the rest of our Canadian money, buying little souvenirs and food. Right before we boarded, I had forgotten that I didn’t have juice for Ben. I looked in my pocket and all I had left was $2.10 (one of those crazy $2 coins they use out there and a dime. I’ll never get used to that!). I went to the vending machines and orange juice was $2.25. I went to Orange Julius, and juice was $2.95. Finally, I went to Starbucks, and saw they had orange juice there, but there was no price. So I asked the cashier how much their juice was, and he said, “Um, I think it’s $2.10 after tax.”

“Awesome!” I said, “That’s exactly how much money I have left” as I waved my toonie and dime. He smiled and rang me up, and the cashier next to him gave him a weird look. I looked at the register, and it read, “$3.25″. I started digging into my pockets, hoping to find more change, but the cashier just waved me off and said, “Don’t worry about it” as he reached into his pocket and put in the remainder of the money. I thanked him a lot and told him how awesome he was, and he wished me a safe trip.

So I’d like to say thank you, people at YVR, for being such an awesome representation of the Canadian people. Airports to me are usually associated with frustration and annoyances, so thank you for making the process a little less painful.

Ben and His Friends

It’s been a couple weeks since we got back from Disneyworld, and I’m putting up pictures in record time. I took about 1400 pictures, which I narrowed down to about 200 to post my flickr.

Ben was really excited to go to Disney to meet his favorite characters, especially Mickey Mouse, who we managed to see several times while we were there. Going to Disney this time around was very different - in my other trips there we only saw characters when we were walking around, but this time we made an effort to see them. Ben loved seeing the characters - he developed a little routine when he saw them - say “hi”, say “cheese” to take a picture, give a hug, give a hi five and go. Most kids had autograph books, but we decided he was a little young for them…maybe next time.

So here’s my first set of pictures to share, enjoy!


With Pluto Meeting His Idols Mickey and Friends With Buzz Lightyear With Chip and Dale
Hugs for Chip and Dale With Goofy Donald's Little Follower With Donald With Mickey
A Mickey Hi-Five With Daisy Hugs for Daisy With Baloo and King Louie Hugs for Baloo
With Bears With Pooh With Eyeore With Tigger Tigger Hi-Five
With Stitch With Lilo Hawaiian Mickey Breakfast Parade With Pluto
Dancing with Lilo Hugging June With June and Quincy With McQueen and Mater With Handy Manny
Hi Fiving Frozone With Frozone With Bolt and Rhino    

If you’d like to see all my Disneyworld photos (which also has descriptions), you can see them here

Disney: Day 3

FYI, I’m in Orlando on vacation. Just got internet today, and we’ve gotta get up really early tomorrow morning for breakfast with Lilo and Stitch, so I’ll keep this short.

  • I was worried that Ben might not see Mickey Mouse, who he had been talking about all the week before we left. Luckily, we saw him on the first day.
  • We’ve also seen the rest of “the sensational six” - Goofy, Donald, Minnie, Daisy and Pluto. The only ones left that he had been mentioning are Clarabelle and Pete
  • Ben has already been in 2 parades.
  • Ben LOVES the new Nemo show! He was quoting it all night long.
  • The Disney Dining plan is an AWESOME deal.
  • I’m sick. Deathly sick. I have no voice. But I’m pushing on, ‘cuz I’m a trooper.
  • It feels like we’ve been here for a week. Part of it is because I’m sick. The other part is we’ve been spending long days at the parks. We’re pooped!
  • Epcot is so much more fun when you’re drinking. When you’re walking around with a sleeping child —- kinda boring.
  • It rained all day on Monday. Somehow, we still had an awesome time at the Animal Kingdom.
  • It’s FREEZING here. They’re talking about record low temperatures here. Tomorrow they’re expecting it to be 50 degrees - the average is 70. Why does Chicago weather follow me wherever I go?
  • We are having the time of our lives here. Ben is having so much fun, and we are, too.

This is how I feel right now, so goodbye!

4th of July (Vote for Redpac!)

This is several months late, but there’s a point to all this…

In July, we went to Detroit (well, a little bit outside of it) to visit Claudine and Dan for 4th of July weekend. Their neighbor across the street always puts on a good fireworks show. It was a pretty awesome show, except for the time that the cops came by and told them to stop. No big accidents, just a little law breaking. We had a great time, and some DELICIOUS bratwurst that Dan picked up while driving around in Ohio.

What was pretty cool is that Dan got his party sponsored by Greased Lightning. He got a party kit, complete with plates, napkins, t-shirts, foam lightning bolts, temporary tattoos - all the fixings for a fun party. All he had to do was submit a video to enter their contest. So click on this link to see (and vote for) the video that was made - that’s Johnny and Frank singing Greased Lightning, and my sister Fatima who’s spelling out the words with sparklers (I took the pictures). Make sure you vote for Dan’s video to win!!!

Here’s all the letters strung together:

Greased Lightning

Here’s more pictures from the weekend:

Redpac's Beer Stash Ice Wine is Awesome Tambourine Boy Carnivore Heaven The Band
Playing for Food Our Heavenly Bratwurst He Likes Rocker Chicks Party People II
Party People Fireworks Party's Over! The After Party With Lolo
Making S'mores See Steve Jump Disco Dancing Sparkler Circle Playing with Sparklers

Wedding in Santa Monica

We had a great time in California last weekend. We were there for Dave’s cousin Cathy, who was getting married. We met her husband Marc several years ago when we went on a snowboarding trip to Mammoth. We immediately got along and had an awesome time, snowboarding/skiing and quoting Napoleon Dynamite the whole time.

We started off the weekend at Cathy’s place, with a mini reunion of the relatives. It had been a while since Dave’s mom and all her siblings had been together with all their kids. We all just hung out and watched “Dancing with the Stars” (Benjamin’s idea, of course). I got a really great pictures of Dave’s grandmother and all of her grandkids and her one great grandkid.

We were honored to have Cathy ask Ben to be her ring bearer. We were a little nervous that he wouldn’t be able to do it, so we practiced with him a lot. During the wedding rehearsal, he did a great job walking down the aisle. We practiced a million times, during the rehearsal and before the wedding. The kid had it down! He was walking like a pro!

We had a plan to have Dave be in the back with Ben and me in the front of the room, since it would be more likely that he would want to walk to me than the other way around. Dave would give Ben the cue to start walking and Ben would walk down to me. We prayed that it would go off without a hitch and that he wouldn’t throw the pillow at someone, since the actual rings were on the pillow. When the time came, they had put down the cloth aisle runner and sprinkled flower petals down the aisle. I was starting to get nervous - Ben didn’t practice with all the extra fluff!

So all the bridesmaids and groomsmen came down the aisle, and it was time for Ben’s performance. The door opened, Dave and Ben came through. As soon as he stood on the aisle, he started whining, “I don’t want to! I’m finished!” and as soon as he saw the petals, he said, “I want to play! I want to play!” He put down the pillow next to Dave and tried to pick up the petals. I was loudly whispering, “Benjamin! Come here!” But he paid no attention to me. By this time people were laughing and to me it felt like an hour had passed - I had no idea what to do! Do I go down the aisle, pick him up and drag him down the aisle? Dave eventually picked him up, to which Ben did the “i have no bones” things where he just becomes limp so you can’t pick him up, and he dragged Ben down the aisle. I took Ben from Dave, put the pillow next to the chair in front of me and we sat down, allowing the wedding procession to go on as planned.

It was a great wedding. The priest was a hoot. I was still a little anxious because there was still the moment where Ben had to bring the pillow up to the priest for the blessing of the wedding rings. He was already getting bored and fussy, and a pack of m&m’s was the only thing stopping him from starting chaos. It wasn’t a big room, so all his little comments were easily heard. When the priest mentioned the rings, I knew it was time. Time for redemption.

I stood Ben in the aisle and reached for the pillow. When I tried to give it to him, I realized that the lace on the pillow was stuck in the zipper of Ben’s diaper bag. I started pulling, but nothing happened. Dave was trying to help, too. Finally, the lace was unstuck and we got the pillow loose. I handed it to Ben and gave him a little push to send him down the aisle. Nothing. The kid was as still as a stone. Marc bent down and opened his arms and made a “come here” motion. I gave Ben one last push (some say it was a big shove, I say it was a gentle nudge) and he finally toddled up the aisle into Marc’s waiting arms. People aww’d. Some clapped. Me? A sigh of relief.

The rest of the wedding was pretty uneventful, in terms of Ben drama. Ben had a good time dancing with the flowergirl on the dancefloor as people were coming in for dinner. When we were waiting outside of the reception for the bridal party to be announced, Ben kept on wanting to go to Cathy and give her kisses, saying, "I want to go to the princess!" I was surprised that he was ok walking into the reception hall with the flowergirl without me, but I guess they had bonded throughout the weekend, so he was comfortable with her. Afterwards, he danced and had a good time, by the end of the night exhausted.

Here's some pictures from the weekend (hover near the top corners for navigation):

Cathy and Marc's Wedding-7 Practicing With his Great Grandma Cathy and Marc's Wedding-18 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-17 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-20
Cathy and Marc's Wedding-21 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-24 With the Flower Girl Cathy and Marc's Wedding-28 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-29 Eating Papa
Superman! Cathy and Marc's Wedding-34 With Tito Vinnie Empty Seats Dusty Pink Roses Box of Flowers 2
Introducing the Groom Cathy and Marc's Wedding-49 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-51 First Kiss The Kids Table Cathy and Marc's Wedding-59
Cathy and Marc's Wedding-62 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-65 Warming Up the Dance Floor With the Ready to Walk In Cathy and Marc's Wedding-73
Corrupting the Youth They Start so Young! First Dance Cathy and Marc's Wedding-78 Cathy and Marc's Wedding-81 Pooped!

Alaska Scenery

Here’s one of my last Alaskan posts…I’ll probably have an “All Ben” one, but that one wouldn’t really feature much of Alaska, just Ben hamming it up for the camera.

Alaska was incredible. I would have to say that if you ever have a chance to go there, go, and if it’s a cruise, get a room with a balcony. Every time you look out of your window, it looks like a postcard. The mountains are breathtaking. As for the glaciers, well, I never thought that I’d take so many pictures of a block of ice. It’s the coolest thing to see a glacier calf (when a part of the glacier falls off into the water) - it makes this big cracking sound like thunder and falls into the water with a huge splash, creating giant waves in its wake. Every time it would happen, the whole boat would cheer. We were also fortunate to be at the Hubbard Glacier on a clear day, something that they said was rare at this time of the year.


After passing through some fog, sailing through Disenchantment Bay.
See all the mini-icebergs?


Gilbert point, the entrance to Russell Fjord


Looks like a small piece of ice, but look closer, to the right
It’s bigger than it seems!

More favorites - hover over the top right and left for navigation buttons

Anchorage Sculpture The Cook Inlet Overcast Day Portage Glacier 1 Checking Out the Train Waterfall
Exit Glacier Alaskan Landscape Every Scene is a Post Card Waiting for Hubbard Foggy Times Ahead A Beautiful Day
Valerie Glacier Jagged Peaks Ice Fresh Ice Wide View of Hubbard Glacier The Governor's Mansion
Seeing Scats Means SCAT! Mendenhall's Icebergs Mendenhall and Iceberg Floating Ice Salmon in the Stream Mural in Downtown Juneau
Filipino Food in Alaska! The Red Dog Saloon Skagway View Totems Icy Strait View 1 Little Islands
Working the Zipline Pier Cloudy Day Creek Street Closeup of the Salmon Ladder Island Line

To see the whole gallery, click here. You’ll see all of my pictures I’ve posted so far as well as some I haven’t. You’ll also see a lot more description in the photos.

Alaska: Animals and People

The pictures from Alaska just keep coming!

We saw a lot of animals in Alaska. We took a stop at the Anchorage zoo, which really was a big forest with pens to hold animals (with the exception of the Polar Bear habitat). It was a really great place, even though it’s smaller than most zoos I’ve seen. But outside of the zoo, there was a ton of wildlife to be seen! We saw two moose (mooses? meese? mice?) when we were in a shuttle. They were just outside someone’s yard, chewing on some bushes. They didn’t look like I expected, but I guess it’s because it’s not the season for horns yet. There were also a ton of bald eagles everywhere, though they were usually high up in the trees or far away (as you can see from the two golf ball looking like things in one of my pictures). From the train going to Seward we saw the white backsides of beluga whales popping above the water every now and then (no WAY I was going to catch those guys in a pictures - they’re too fast and it’s hard to tell when they’re coming up for air). From the boat we could see dolphins/porpoises, seals and jellyfish. At port, we saw a “wild” cat, and there were lots of dogs for Benjamin to play with.

We also saw a couple shows. In Anchorage, when taking the free trolley Ben met a little puppy that the driver let him play with. She told us that the puppy’s parents were in the Wildride Sled Dog Show, a show that features dogs that compete in the Iditarod. We had some free time, so we went to the show. Since Ben had already met one of the mushers (people who race and care for the dogs) he got one of the prizes during the show, which was pretty cool. It was a fun show to watch and it was really interesting to learn about how tough the conditions out there and how important the bond is between leader and their dogs and their proper care.

In Ketchikan, we saw the Great Lumberjack Show. I didn’t think I’d be entertained too much, but it was actually a lot of fun to watch the lumberjacks compete at various events. The emcee was so personable and made the whole audience feel comfortable. The crowd was divided between two different “camps” and cheered for the lumberjacks in their own camp. There were a lot of events to show off their skills, but I think my favorite was the logrolling. The springboard chop was the most impressive, though…

Here’s more for ya:

Wild Moose Snow Owl Wolf Sleeping Tiger Big Brown Bear
Waiting Alpaca Mush! Flapjack Dog Sled Race
Koda The Mushed Becomes the Musher Flapjack Yawning Bald Eagles Tlingit Man
Jellyfish Porpoises Lumberjack Jake Lumberjack Andrew Underhand Chop
Axe Throwing Speed Climb Boom Running Log Rolling Salmon

Alaska Family Pictures

As I may have mentioned before, I went on vacation with Ben and my in-laws. Dave didn’t come because he was studying for his board exam. It was a perfect time for us to go to Alaska, because I’ve always wanted to go and Dave’s not a fan of non-tropical/snowboarding-free vacations. Having my in-laws around was a great help, because they would take care of Ben if I wanted to explore a little bit (I liked exploring the different towns, Dave’s dad liked hanging out on the boat with Ben).

In today’s vacation picture installment, I’ve got the various family pictures. I’m not in a lot of them because I’d rather be behind the lens than in front of it. Also, Ben will have his very own “solo shots” post, because he’s such a ham that he had a TON of pictures taken by himself.

I’m using a different gallery program for these shots - if you want to go to the next picture without having to close the picture, hover your mouse near the top right hand corner of the photo and you’ll see an arrow appear. Click on it and you’ll go to the next picture.

Behind the Visitor Center With Koda In Front of the Visitor Center Ready to Ride the Railroad Forehead Kisses Ma on Deck 1
Icy Strait Photo Op Tallest Baby in the World At the Glacier 1 Formal Night Ben and Lola Formal Formal Night with the Grandparents
Asleep at the Mendenhall Glacier Ma and Pa in Front of Mendenhall Small Boat Harbor at Skagway A Cloudy Day at Sea Ma and Pa with the Millennium Having a Great Time
Steamed Crab Lunch With a Real Life Lumberjack Silly Faces Formal Night 2 With a Showgirl Dancing the Night Away

Alaskan Cruise Pt. 1: The Food

Since I had around 2200 pictures that I took during my Alaskan vacation (who knew I would take so many pictures of a block of ice?!?) I’ve decided to break down my pictures into several groups, with today’s being FOOD.

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This is my third cruise, and I have to say that the food during this cruise was pretty awesome. However, having been on Norwegian’s “FreeStyle” cruise last year, I think I prefer not having a set time to eat. You see, for most cruises, you have a set dinner time that you have to attend, which I can understand - so they can make all the food all at once. Also, you’ve got assigned seating. I guess you can request to have a private table, but that’s unlikely to happen. In our case, we were seated at a table for 10, but there were actually 12 of us there since the other group that was seated with us had two children. If you’re a social person, I guess sitting with strangers for your whole trip isn’t a big deal, but when it comes down to it, I suck at small talk. Luckily, my mother in law is pretty good at it.

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Now you don’t have to eat in the main dining room for the general sitting time, you could always go to the cafe and eat, but the food isn’t as good, and there isn’t much selection. It was pretty much pasta or pizza, with some exceptions.

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But as I said before, the food was pretty incredible. I think I only had one dish that I wasn’t incredibly fond of, but everything else was tasty. Our waiters were great - you get the same waiter for the cruise. He got to know Ben and that he was pretty much going to have a hot dog every night, as well as chocolate ice cream for dessert. Outside of the main dining room, the food was still excellent. There were many choices for breakfast (we had it in the cafe, not the main restaurant) though I’m a little disappointed that Eggs Benedict wasn’t an option. Ben enjoyed pancakes, fruit, eggs and bacon every morning and I swear it’s the most I’ve ever seen him eat - he had to have gained at least 2lbs during the trip!

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Outside of the cruise ship, the food was great as well. We had crab legs, fresh steamed crab, salmon sushi and all sorts of great stuff. However, I would have to say that the most disappointing thing I had during my trip was salmon chowder. It was pretty much potatoes with a dash of salmon. Eh!

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So without further ado, here are my food pictures, starting off with my favorites:

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Mussels in Puff Pastry with Sauce


Poached Pears with Blueberry Sauce and Ice Cream


Escargot with Garlic Herb Butter

…and here’s the rest:

Mussels in Puff Pastry and Sauce Chicken Coq Au Vin Poached Pears in Blueberry Sauce DSC_8271 French Onion Soup Rose Wine Sorbet
Beef and Chicken Medallions Chocolate Mousse Cake Seafood in Broth Escargot in Garlic Herb Butter Braised Lamb Shank Tiramisu
Whole Crab Lunch Beef Carpaccio Fruit Cup Beef Stew Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce Salmon Chowder
Seafood Ceviche Lobster and Shrimp Baked Alaska Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding Ice Cream Cream Puffs and Chocolate Sauce

Haven’t Seen Any Real Bears Yet…

…but we’ve seen a lot of fake ones…

We’ve also seen some bald eagles, jellyfish, and a sea lion…

Off to Ketchikan tomorrow!