Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

All Things Celtic

I’m a big fan of Celtic music. When the film Titanic came out in 1997, I was in my element. My wife’s background is Nova Scotian. So imagine if you will what it must have been like for me when the Irish influence hit North America back in the mid to late 90’s. I realized I couldn’t turn a channel without a Celtic-themed program playing on one station or another. The media knew how to take a good thing and make it better.

Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings

Today, I’d like to dedicate my Freedom Friday post to all that is Celtic.

As I was saying, since my wife is from Nova Scotia, whenever we visit there, we’d always have an invitation extended to us to attend a cèilidh–a social gathering featuring song and dance. Sometimes we’d host it as well. Our typical cèilidh consists of lots of snacks and music performed by family members. Back in the day, my wife’s parents were a famous singing duo, touring and appearing on the CBC. They eventually ended up inducted into Nova Scotia’s Country Music Hall of Fame. That would account for the musical talent running through her side of the family. From my side, I had a relative in South America who was a classical conductor and maestro. And I studied baroque composition for a while at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

Music runs through our blood.

There was a time my wife and I were also performing for the crowds. I played the guitar and my wife sang. We’d perform such tunes as Song for the Mira and other Celtic favorites. Members of the audience who knew my in-laws would come up to us after the show and tell us how we reminded them of the Hall of Famers. I took it as one of the biggest compliments anyone could have received.

Anyway, how did we get on to that? Right, I was talking about our family cèilidh. Yes, we still have them whenever we visit Nova Scotia.

Riverdance
Riverdance

Going back to the mid to late 90’s, that era was a highpoint for all that was Celtic. Riverdance was one of our favorite shows to go see. Although we didn’t get the opportunity to watch Jean Butler or Michael Flatley perform, their understudies’ interpretation was more than what we had hoped for in a show. I’m a wild fanatic of the spectacle, having purchased all the soundtracks and videos. It really was the thing to watch live in those days.

Then there was Titanic. Gosh, when that hit the screen, no one could get enough of the film. It was the first movie I can classify as an event. It came out December 19, 1997, and except for a few of my friends, everyone had gone to see it. We talked about Jack and Rose as if the characters were part of the family. At one point, I knew everything there was to know about the making of the film. I had become obsessed with the era, and I wanted to understand how such a tragedy could have happened to the unsinkable ship.

Finally, no talk about all things Celtic would be complete without a special mention regarding The Lord of the Rings.

I’ll have to admit this—when the trilogy came out, I wasn’t a fan. I thought the films were overly long, drawn-out vehicles for stoking the egos of the filmmakers.

I was terribly wrong.

It wasn’t until years later, when my kids got into the series, that I’d become fascinated with the features. I recognized how incredibly detailed the filming process must have been for director Peter Jackson. Not only that, but more importantly, the emotion behind the performances of Elijah Wood as Frodo and Sean Astin as Sam rattles me to this day. The films also represent a brilliant setting for life in simpler times.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could live in a time when we didn’t have to check our phones every two minutes to see who liked or commented on our content?

To me, The Lord or the Rings world, with all its Celtic flavor, is that time.

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What do you think of Celtic music? Have you seen Riverdance? What do you like about The Lord of the Rings trilogy?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Ray Ferrier

One of the most unforgettable movie-going events my wife and I experienced happened ten years ago when we went to watch Steven Spielberg‘s War of the Worlds. We were in Nova Scotia at the time, and it was two years after Hurricane Juan had hit the Dartmouth/Halifax area. Naturally, we were all apprehensive when storms were brewing off the coast that summer, and that night was no exception. To add to the creepiness, it was ice-cold inside the theater. I was sure it would take me a week to thaw from the air conditioning.

Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier
Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier

If you’ve been following this site long, you’ll know I write my feature Wednesday Warriors for those characters I feel are larger than life or strong in overcoming tribulation. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is one of those characters.

I have to say one thing about Tom Cruise. A lot of folks are not into Tom Cruise the man, mainly for his views on psychology or his ties with Scientology or the highly publicized couch-jumping incident on Oprah. War of the Worlds came out while he was courting Katie Holmes. However, regarding Tom Cruise the actor, it is my opinion he is one of the most overlooked actors in the film industry. He should have won an Oscar for his work in Magnolia. The characters he portrays have a quiet vulnerability that shows well on the big screen.

Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier
Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier

The film War of the Worlds revolves around a father’s quest to protect his children at all costs. Not alien, human or anything else can get in his way to earning the title “Dad”. In a story where one thing goes wrong after another, and the state of the main characters spirals into a dark pit of depression, Ray takes it upon himself to keep everyone sane and safe.

Dealing with an alien invasion is one thing, but in this movie, the audience can feel the frost as Ray’s breath turns to vapor while dashing between buildings with the hope of seeing the storm that is brewing overhead. Unknown to him, the storm is more than a natural occurrence. The churning in the sky signals an ominous force ready to change his life and the lives of those he loves.

Unlike the regular Hollywood heroes who can fight through anything and come out of a battle unscathed, Ray has a complex personality. He’s not likable. He’s not the best father in the world. And, if anything, he is one of the most selfish characters a moviegoer will ever encounter. But when the invasion finally hits, Ray’s instincts kick in and he becomes the one who leads those who depend on him for freedom.

Ray’s fears take a major role in the plot, making him as ordinary as the audience viewing his growth throughout the film. What was once a man filled with assertion of his abilities, transforms into an unlikely hero with weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The key to Ray is his kids. Without his kids, he might as well not live, as denoted in one scene where he had to let one of them go.

Soon after having watched the film and exiting the theater, it had begun to rain. My wife and I dashed to our car and wondered if an alien invasion was in the midst of those clouds.

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Have you seen War of the Worlds? What are your thoughts about Ray Ferrier in the film?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Canada Day 2015

Canada Day has always held a special meaning for my family and I. Given we live in a small town an hour north of Toronto, our celebrations are not as low-key as one might expect. We have crowds from the surrounding towns. We have lots of food to consume. And we have fireworks.

This year was no different.

For those not familiar with the holiday, Canada Day is equivalent to the American Fourth of July. Instead of red, white and blue washing the crowds with color, we dawn our own colors to create a sea of red and white. It really is an awesome experience when traveling through Main Street to the lake in the middle of our town where all the festivities take place.

Canada Day Celebrations
Canada Day Celebrations

This year, my family and I took advantage of the silence on our street to sleep in until late in the morning before we decided to head to the lake. I can’t say how wonderful it feels to actually sleep in again after years of battling with insomnia. You can read about it from my previous articles I’d written about the subject.

We left home just before noon and drove five minutes to where the town had cordoned off the area to foot traffic. In this case, timing was everything. We found one of the last parking spots available. You can imagine how happy we all were when that happened.

Our leisurely walk began with a live band playing Celtic music on Main Street. While some of the crowd negotiated their way around the platform, we stayed and listened. I don’t know how anyone else feels about Celtic music, but I love the emotion behind the genre. Given my wife is also from Nova Scotia, when listening to the guitars and vocals, I’m right at home stomping and clapping along.

Celtic music
Celtic music

Booths and specialty tables outlined the street featuring various services available to the locals. One such booth was giving away free popcorn while another highlighted produce from the local farms in the area. I’ll have to write an article specifically for the farmers in our region dedicated to producing quality foods at low prices. I’m telling you, the fruits and vegetables are delicious.

The other part I enjoyed about our celebratory activities is that they are kids-friendly. Event participants had brought in blowup castles where the children could jump to their heart’s desire without hurting anyone. This was a great way for the little ones to expend all their energy before heading home. What parent does not like that?

Blowup jumping castle
Blowup jumping castle

We then headed to the lake where the activities shifted to a more grownup theme. There still were the face-painting tables and the free food samplers given to all visitors, but added was the live band that played modern music. More than any other place, the teens and young adults centered their attention here. It was great nonetheless to see everyone have a great time.

The lake in the center of our town
The lake in the center of our town

One of the most interesting parts of the journey was the cheerleading school that put on a show for everyone. Funny thing about it was how we found it. Actually—I found it. I heard the thump of a bass. I heard the clips of music strung together with a beat. I turned to my wife and said, “That’s cheerleading music.” Seriously. I ran to the where the sound was coming from and there I saw them, tossing each other in the air and making others believe they could fly. For a moment, I believed they could fly. I wasn’t sure how long the school had opened in town, but I’m looking forward to what these kids have planned in the future.

Town's cheerleaders
Town’s cheerleaders

Our walk ended with having a treat from one of the ice cream trucks parked nearby and a few photos of the town’s historical society. I once explained our town was a colonial settlement back in the 1800’s that eventually grew into a bustling commercial center for weary travelers. The historical society preserves the artifacts of that bygone era and our family had the privilege to appreciate them during these Canada Day celebrations.

Historical society
Historical society
Historical society pose for the camera
Historical society pose for the camera

And if you haven’t guessed, it didn’t end there. Like every special occasion, we went out to eat. If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you’ll probably know what type of food we had. I won’t describe it, but when we came back home, we were not only tired but stuffed!

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How do you celebrate Canada Day or the Fourth of July? If not those, do you celebrate a similar holiday?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Experiencing the Moment

I love playing with my camera. My camera has served me well over the years. During the past eleven years, since the time I’d purchase my first digital camera, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to visit. From Niagara Falls all the way to Nova Scotia, I have an archive full of memories I’d love to share with you this Freedom Friday.

To start—I’ve learned a lesson. The lesson I’ve learned is this: To enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it. What I mean by that has a lot more to do with experiencing the moment than it is to relive the moment. Photography has a way of capturing a photographer’s imagination to the point where the subject becomes just that—the subject. I had that happen to me where I did what I could to capture the subject that I’d forgotten to capture one thing. I’d forgotten to live the moment.

Nowadays, I’m careful to put my camera away and take a deep breath to look at what’s going on around me. It’s amazing what I see when I do that. Gone is the worry of thinking I’d miss a shot if I don’t have my camera readily available. Now I see an event for what it is—an experience. And because it’s an experience, I enjoy myself more knowing it’s there to capture not with the camera, but with my heart.

Pretty sentimental stuff, eh?

Okay, I have a whole lot of photos I want to share with you, so I think I’ll start with a few of my favorites from the East Coast. My wife’s family comes from Nova Scotia. Every time I’m there, I end up taking a gazillion photos of the area. One of my favorite places happens to be Citadel Hill in Halifax. The first time I’d visited there, the clouds hung low and gray, and my family and I were afraid of a thunderstorm catching us unaware. Luckily, subsequent years provided a different experience. Here, have a peek:

Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Path leading to Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Soldiers march in Citadel Hill, Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Rock beach somewhere in Nova Scotia
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Fishing trawler near Dartmouth
Marshes in Nova Scotia
Marshes in Nova Scotia

Next up, Niagara Falls. I love this place. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Since it takes less than a couple of hours to get there from where we live, we end up going there quite often. You can read about some of our trips I’d written from past posts. Whenever we go to Niagara Falls it’s a mini vacation with lots to do and plenty of restaurants to visit during our stay.

Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Nightlife in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls' Canadian Midway
Niagara Falls’ Canadian Midway
Attractions in Niagara
Attractions in Niagara
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada
Niagara Falls, Canada

Lastly, here is a collection of some of my favorite photos I’ve had hanging around collecting dust (not really). Some are random shots I’d taken in the heat of the moment, and some I’ve planned. Try to guess which is which, ’cause honestly, I can’t remember.

My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
My view on the train one day coming back from the city.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
On the set of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.
First snow of the season.
First snow of the season.
Buried in snow.
Buried in snow.
My love for making sushi.
My love for making sushi.
A game of Mousetrap.
A game of Mousetrap.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.
The story of the stationary Canadian quarter. This actually happened.

I hope you enjoyed this little slideshow of memories. Granted, they are my memories, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, too. Nevertheless, they are but a glimpse into my life and why I think experiences are special to have and to hold as captured moments of time to relive forever.

[Author’s note: In celebration of spring, I’ve changed the header color to reflect the season. I hope you like it!]

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Do you like photography? Have you taken many pictures that remind you of the memories?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Vacation Planning

I have yet to remember a winter as brutal as the one we had. It’s still holding on with its last dying breath. The east coast has had it rough, too. Many experienced leaky roofs, flooded basements and broken eaves troughs. I know our roof had a one-foot ice accumulation that took forever to melt. Thankfully, from now on, any storms coming our way will have the sun to deal with, which is a perfect introduction to my Freedom Friday post—summer vacation planning.

Ottawa
Ottawa

Last year, my family and I took to the highway to visit our country’s capital, Ottawa. I must say, we had a great time. We stayed at a well-known hotel, took in the museums, the restaurants, planned activities for the kids, and made it a point to have some much-needed downtime, something my wife and I always appreciate during a vacation.

This year, we’re not sure where we want to go. We talked about hopping in the car to head north where the resort communities lie. However, we haven’t made definite arrangements. Most of our travel plans involve extensive packing and unpacking. My natural inclination is to stay home, but where would the fun be in that? Although years ago, we did set up a gazebo in our backyard, plenty of deck chairs and enjoyed our virtual paradise all summer with BBQs and pool activities. Boy, we had fun.

Nova Scotia has been kind to us in past years, too. We traveled there in 2011 and in 2012. I wrote about the 2012 trip in my Nova Scotia post a year ago. We went twice because in 2011 the whole vacation was a washout. Rained the whole time we were there. I figured, the same thing couldn’t happen again the following year, so we took a chance and tried a second time. Sure enough, the sun apologized for the previous year’s misstep and obliged us with gorgeous sunny days.

Vacation Planning
Peggy’s Cove

I think what we’ll do this year is take a few weekend jaunts throughout the summer to various destinations throughout our province. We haven’t been to Algonquin Park, and I know many of my friends have raved about it from past conversations with them. Maybe we’ll take it as it comes and travel by the seat of our pants. After all, that’s how I write on occasion, so why not travel the same way?

All of a sudden, I remember about Jack Dawson, the character from James Cameron’s movie Titanic. He said, “I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up.”

Perhaps it’s time to toss our planning and go with the wind to see where it carries us. I know we’ve done it before. Who’s to say we can’t do it again? The most fun we had has always involved no GPS, plenty of time on our hands and an open itinerary.

Sounds to me it’s time once again to seize the day!

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Have you decided where to go for your vacation this summer? If so, what made you decide on going there?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Nostalgia

It’s raining here. I’m not sure what the weather will be like in a few weeks, but it’s been raining quite often this summer. I’m almost certain it’ll probably rain again when this publishes for my Freedom Friday post.

Storm clouds over our home (June 14, 2005)
Storm clouds over our home (June 14, 2005)

Rain makes me nostalgic. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think about the bad stuff that’s happened in the past. I think about how things used to be, what my life was like at particular points in time. I think everyone goes through these self-reflective moods where we ponder on the wins and losses, the births and deaths, the joy and pain. In some respect, there’s that temptation to want to go back to those times to do things over in an effort to fix that of which we made a mess.

I understand that. I do. I think it’s a natural process in our makeup as humans that as we age, the inevitable reality reveals itself that we’re only on this earth for a certain time and we should make the most of what we’re given.

Maybe that last part didn’t make much sense. I don’t know. Maybe I’m talking gibberish again.

When I look back, I measure my life’s journey by the movies I’ve watched, the music I’ve listened to, and the people I’ve met. Whenever I think of having watched Titanic in the theater in 1998, I remember how I had long hair, a bit of an attitude, and I wasn’t about to let anyone tell me what I will do, should do, or have to do. At the same time, I remember this magical time when a spotlight shined on Celtic music. Since my wife is from Nova Scotia, I felt rather proud too that it was Ireland’s time.

Storm brewing over our neighborhood (June 14, 2005)
Storm brewing over our neighborhood (June 14, 2005)

The little things also are what get me. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store and an Eighties song would play in the background shooting me back to my teens when I had my whole life ahead of me with no cares in the world except maybe not having a date for Friday night and the homework assignment due on Monday.

What else was there? I’m certain it was not that acne blowout three minutes before going on stage for my student council acceptance speech.

During these summer months, I have a very strange ritual. It’s a strange ritual because I don’t think anyone else does this. Maybe they do, but I haven’t found anyone who does. If you’re one of those people, let me know. We can be strange together. When it rains, I walk outside in my bare feet and shorts, sit under the front canopy to my house and stretch my legs. I allow the water to pour on my feet. The more powerful the storm, the happier I get. And if lightening should crack in the sky, I’m in my element, grinning from ear to ear.

Didn’t I say it was a strange ritual? I’m not sure why something like a storm would bring such happiness. Maybe it goes with the nostalgia I feel in the rain.

Or maybe, I’m strange. Either way, I’m learning something new every day.

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Do you ever get nostalgic? What is it that you think about?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Vacation Destinations

Living near the Canadian/U.S. border affords my family the perfect strategic point of departure for our vacations. Two hours away is the U.S. A couple of days’ journey we’re on the East Coast. Freedom Friday provides me the opportunity to share some of the vacation destinations we’re thinking about traveling to this summer.

Old Montreal / Place Jacques-Cartier - Vieux-Montréal
Old Montreal / Place Jacques-Cartier – Vieux-Montréal

In the past few years, our vacations consisted of visiting my wife’s family in Nova Scotia. If you’ve never been there, I suggest you hightail it over and enjoy some East Coast hospitality. When I went there for the first time to meet my future in-laws, I barely had enough time to see the splendor that Dartmouth and Halifax had to offer. It wasn’t until later years that I’d fallen to appreciate Citadel Hill, Peggy’s Cove, and the incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean.

We wanted to try something different this year, something closer to home, in fact. We didn’t want to take away from our weekend getaway destinations (Barrie, Ontario in the spring and Niagara Falls in the autumn), but we didn’t want to trek far either. Ah, the joys of travel, eh?

Rideau Canal overlooking the Ottawa River
Rideau Canal overlooking the Ottawa River

Two locations came to mind: Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario. From our numerous journeys passing through these cities on our way to the East Coast, the idea grabbed hold of wanting to visit there one day.

Montreal is an amazing city I would recommend to anyone who is looking to enhance their cultural experience. The majority of its residence speaks French. I can get by ordering dinner, taking care of our accommodations, and asking for directions. It’s with the complicated matters I slip back into English, hoping the person I’m talking to will feel that I tried my best communicating with them in their own language. I’ve never had a problem. They’re great and a very warm people.

The hospitality in Montreal is equally amazing. One year, staying overnight, the hotel we’d chosen was reminiscent of an old-style ship. The hallways had portholes painted on the walls, railings affixed underneath. I felt as if I was on the Titanic, which incidentally was the top grossing movie of all time the year before. Coincidence? I think not. Nonetheless, the rooms had plush pillows, a spacious bathroom, generous closet space, and all the frills anyone could ask of a room. The hotel staff was superb with all our requests.

Which leaves Ottawa, our nation’s capital. We’ve never been. Not even overnight as we’ve done with Montreal. So, this may actually be where we’ll end up this summer. Having a peek at the vacation packages available online, I see a few attractions we may benefit from such as Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa River Parkway, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Notre Dame Basilica, National Gallery of Canada, National War Memorial, Peace Tower, Changing of the Guard, Laurier House, Rideau Hall, National Arts Centre, etc.

I’m excited already! This trip is a homeschooler’s delight, and I can’t wait!

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Have you ever been to Ottawa? Do you have any recommendations of attractions to visit?