Posted in Monday Mayhem

A Piece of Utopia—Family Day

Stay tuned this Friday when I make a major announcement regarding the direction of JackFlacco.com.

I have to admit something. I’ve been thinking a lot about Utopia. I don’t find it a difficult thought to think about. All I have to do is to think of what would make me happy and I’m there. Given today is a holiday here in my province, I thought instead of writing a dark Monday Mayhem post filled with zombies, the undead and creatures from the abyss, I would concentrate on something light—Family Day.

A game of Apples to Apples
A game of Apples to Apples

Every year, the third Monday in February is when we Ontarians dedicate time toward the family.

Our household celebrates the day off big with board games, a special meal and perhaps some other things that we’ve wanted to do but never seem to have the time to accomplish—like tobogganing.

Casa Flacco loves board games. Over the holidays, we played a fierce battle of Monopoly while gorging on snacks. This year’s version of Monopoly featured characters from cartoons. Have I told you how much I love animated movies? The game went well and we negotiated Park Place, something my younger child was adamant to not bargain away. In the end, I lost to said younger child and it reminded me of when I was young to decline deals from my relatives ultimately winning the game.

I’m not sure what we’ll be playing today, but I’m sure whatever it is we’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

As of the time of this writing, a week ago, I had yet to decide what I wanted to make for our special meal today. In reality, I’ve been preparing the same meal every year. What meal is it? you might ask. Sushi, of course. Would you expect anything less?

I learned how to make sushi a long time ago when a friend introduced me to the delicacy during a long trip from home. I eventually loved it so much that when I returned, I scoured Google to find recipes to satisfy my palate.

If you’re interested in how I make sushi, you can find it in this Freedom Friday post I had published several years ago. The entire process does take time, but it is well worth the effort.

Okay, we spend the day playing games, eating food—basically, having fun. This year is different in that I planned to take the entire weekend off. To me it means not doing any writing whatsoever. You have to understand what that means. I take pride writing every day except Saturdays. Therefore, taking yesterday and today off to spend time with the family is a huge bonus. It means no committed deadlines. Nothing looming to review. But more importantly, it means…

Sleeping in!

There was a time I never used to be able to sleep in. Having suffered from severe bouts of insomnia, it prevented me from functioning like a normal human being. That was then. Nowadays, I live for my bed. It’s cozy. It’s comfy. It’s quiet. Gosh, I love weekends.

All right, I had better stop. I think I’ve deviated from the Family Day theme, but somehow you might not think that.

Anyway, to all those who have today off here in Ontario, Happy Family Day!

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Does your state or province have today as a day dedicated to the family?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Cottage Zombies

Given it’s a holiday where I live, and most townsfolk around these parts have gone away for the weekend, I thought for today’s Monday Mayhem feature I’d talk about zombies in cottage country. As weird as the subject sounds, I would find it interesting should the zombie apocalypse occur on a long weekend in an isolated area. Let me explain what I mean.

Boat on the lake
Boat on the lake

What if you’re sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake fishing to your heart’s content while you hear awful noises coming from the woods? Would you row the boat to investigate or would you simply sit there hoping no one or anything notices you? The idea that the zombie apocalypse could occur in a rural area is remote—no pun intended. In a city, if there is an infection of undead proportions, not everyone would have a chance to make it out alive. The infection would spread from person to person, and those caught by the the roaming hordes will become part of the crowd.

However, in rural areas, there is a slim possibility that whatever happens in the city will also happen on the farms. The likelihood of that happening is slim, since people would be further away from each other in order for anyone to infect others.

What about cottage country? Wouldn’t the zombies have the time of their lives hunting humans, since the environment would be quieter than the city and anyone making any noise would alert the chewers to their location? What if it were a long weekend?

Running through the woods
Running through the woods

To me, if such a scenario does take place, I can only relate the incident to one thing—those caught on the beach on Amity Island in the film Jaws. In the film, the small island becomes a feeding ground to a great white shark. The town is small and it relies on summer dollars from tourists to keep the economy afloat. Similarly, many of cottage towns in our vicinity thrive on summer dollars to stay in business, therefore, there is a heavy push for towns to bring in city-folk into the region.

Again, I ask, would it be possible a zombie apocalypse could occur in cottage country?

My answer is a resounding yes. An ordinary cottage town of a thousand people mushrooms in the summer to ten to fifteen thousand. If one should have the zombie infection, the whole region could come under scrutiny. Furthermore, since many of these cottage towns border on a lake, most if not all the people will be on the beach enjoying the sun while the rampage occurs.

Ah, yes. But someone may ask, how could it affect other towns?

Remember that guy in the boat? Do you think he has a chance of getting out if he knows the whole town has turned zombie? Would he row to another area of the lake as a means to escape? He could. It is possible. Unfortunately, it isn’t probable. He has one of two decisions to act upon. Either a) he stays in the boat hoping he has enough provisions to outlast the apocalypse, which I doubt, or b) he could land his dingy ashore, take a chance and run through the woods for an escape.

Either way, he won’t make it.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, folks!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you think a zombie apocalypse could take place in the rural backwoods of cottage country? What do you think would be the best way to prevent such an event from occurring?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Our Anniversary Weekend

The cool thing about being married for over twenty years is that we finish each other’s sentences.

Me: Honey, where did you put my slippers?
Her: Did you check under the bed?
Me: Yep.
Her: Did you check the closet?
Me: Yep.
Her: Did you check—
Together: The bathroom?

The other cool thing about being married for over twenty years is that we can go on an anniversary weekend getaway without worrying about the kids.

Our walk by the marina.
Our walk by the marina.

In fact, just recently, that’s exactly what we did. For a number of years now, we’ve packed our bags, loaded the car and headed to wherever the wind would take us. This year we ended up going north into cottage country where the moose are aplenty and the wilderness is our friend. We booked a hotel in Barrie, Ontario and took each day as a blessing without worrying about what came next.

My wife took the liberty to grab the honeymoon suite with a gorgeous Jacuzzi in the middle of the room. I must say, she knows me so well. I should have been a water baby.

The first thing we did when arriving on the Friday night was to unpack, jump on the bed, then relax a bit before heading to our favorite sushi restaurant. It’s a tradition of ours to find a sushi restaurant and stick with it for life. We have a modest dive in our town that only seats twenty. The food is incredible, and we wouldn’t give it up for the world. Similarly, in the town where we were staying, we found a sushi place a few years ago that we always go to regardless of the drive.

I would say the best part of the trip is the unwinding part. Whatever we had brought on the trip, we left in the sushi restaurant when talking about the day. A funny thing happens when we do that. It feels like a cloud lifts and we officially hit vacation mode. In between the Salmon Maki and the Chicken Fried Rice, our life suddenly become less complicated after knowing we have a few days of relaxation to do whatever we want.

Salmon Maki, my favorite of all.
Salmon Maki, my favorite of all.
Seriously, Sashimi is incredible.
Seriously, Sashimi is incredible.

From there, we headed to the theater to watch Tomorrowland. My wife enjoyed it. I, however, was so tired by the week that I fell asleep about halfway through the thing. Interesting tidbit of the evening: A couple of teenagers were sitting next to me doing nothing more than kissing up a storm. I was surprised to find by the end of the night their seats hadn’t caught fire with me going up in flames next to them.

On the Saturday, we spent the entire day in the hotel room. Yes, some of you might be thinking what a waste, but if you knew the hectic schedule my wife and I have during the week, you would take a month in deep cryogenic stasis to regain your energy. Besides, it had a Jacuzzi in the middle of the room—I mention that, didn’t I? I don’t think I need to say anything else.

That evening, we headed over to Boston Pizza then took in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This time, I did not fall asleep. What a great movie.

It looks like an abstract but it's really the blue lights illuminating the outside of our hotel.
It looks like an abstract but it’s really the blue lights illuminating the outside of our hotel.
The marina where my wife and I took our walk.
The marina where my wife and I took our walk.
I'm not sure what this is, but it was awesome to photograph.
I’m not sure what this is, but it was awesome to photograph.

The next day, we checked out early. My wife suggested we try out the marina about ten minutes away. Wow, if there ever was an idea so awesome, this was it. We stayed there a few hours taking a walk on the boardwalk, talking about our future. We dreamed of having a boat someday. Actually, it was I dreaming about the boat and it was her saying, “You’ll have to take care of it. You know that, right?” My feet came back to earth and we continued hand-in-hand talking about other dreams.

We wound the day by heading home, sweet, home where we took the kids out to eat in the evening while talking about our weekend getaway.

I don't eat them often, but chicken wings sure hit the spot.
I don’t eat them often, but chicken wings sure hit the spot.

In the midst of it all, my wife and I eventually concluded as much as we love our getaways, there’s nothing quite like family.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you take weekend getaways with your significant other? What is your fondest memory?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Weekend Getaway

I’ve sat here for the past fifteen minutes trying to come up with a witty and funny intro to last weekend’s getaway I spent with my wife in Barrie, Ontario. But the more I tried, the less I accomplished. I suppose trying too hard, if that is possible, makes for an unproductive experience. In some ways, I can see why.

Barrie, Ontario, Shore
Barrie, Ontario, Shore

Welcome to my Freedom Friday post where I talk about whatever comes to mind. And what’s on my mind at this moment is last weekend. What did we do that was so special? My wife and I loaded the car, dropped the kids at friends, and spent three days away from it all. We enjoyed a mini-vacation, if you will, without the cares and worries of life’s little inconveniences. You know the ones. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, dusting, shopping, mowing the lawn, washing the windows, picking up and dropping off the kids to their activities, and a myriad of life’s other chores we do, but have only so many hours in the day to accomplish.

Barrie, Ontario, Rocks
Barrie, Ontario, Rocks
Barrie, Ontario, Fountain
Barrie, Ontario, Fountain

When we arrived at our hotel last Friday night, I unloaded the car while my wife took care of our room. The first thing that’d happened, which set the tone for the rest of our stay, was my wife’s chitchat with the desk clerk led to a free upgrade to the room. There was a lacrosse tournament happening that same weekend, and rather than have us stuck on a floor with partying teenagers, the desk clerk booked us in the honeymoon suite complete with a king-size bed and Jacuzzi. When I say Jacuzzi, I mean hot-tub-in-the-center-of-the-room Jacuzzi. It gets better.

Our hotel was close to the highway, making it easy for us to travel from one activity to another. Most of our time, however, we spent in the throes of relaxation. The word downtime comes to mind. It doesn’t even come close to describing what we experienced. Believe me, a weekend without the kids does not inspire a time of planned recreation.

Inside the hotel room, we dropped our bags on the spot and left for dinner. We have a special restaurant we visit whenever we’re in town called Ling’s Cuisine. I can describe their food as delicious, yet somehow the phrase needs some work. Beyond delectable? How’s that for a description? Their atmosphere is quiet, and their service is perfect. Their servers know their menus, having the ability to recommend plates and understanding their ingredients. For instance, I didn’t know what tobiko was until our server said they were flying fish eggs. The eggs don’t fly, it’s the fish that breed the eggs that fly. Good to know, anyway. I ordered a couple of plates of salmon maki while my wife chose a Miso (vegetable) soup and Salmon Teriyaki. As we enjoyed our dinner, my wife nodded regarding the couple behind me. They, too, were enjoying time alone. They had a full bottle of white wine with their meal. By the end of the evening, it was all gone. She smiled at me knowing where they were going.

Ling's Cuisine
Ling’s Cuisine
Philadelphia Maki
Philadelphia Maki
Salmon Teriyaki
Salmon Teriyaki

Our Saturday consisted of waking up late and heading to the pool. The water was cold yet manageable. I spent most of my time in the hot tub gazing out the ceiling windows into the clouds. One cloud in particular caught my attention. It was the puffy white kind set on a crystal blue background. It shifted. First, it turned into a genie, then it became a cowboy. As the minutes passed, it became apparent it was disappearing before my eyes. It sparked a thought. Our lives are like the clouds, passing so fast that one day we’ll also disappear into nothingness. One day we’re here and the next—poof—we’re gone. Well, that was the morbid portion of my post. I also do song and dance on demand and recite funny limericks.

That afternoon we headed to Boston Pizza, a Canadian gourmet pizza franchise that also specializes in serving gluten-free pizza. My wife was happy, and as I said once beforehappy wife, happy life. This time our conversation centered on how nice it was not to have any responsibilities for the weekend. Both of us had dopey eyes for most of the meal. Boy, we thought, we should do this more often. Amazing what alone time will do. You young parents will know what I mean when you’re away from the kids for some time. It’s like a natural sedative.

Boston Pizza (Exterior)
Boston Pizza (Exterior)
Boston Pizza (Interior)
Boston Pizza (Interior)

For our Saturday night entertainment, we enjoyed that wonderful Jacuzzi and went back to Ling’s. Good things go a long way. You know, it’s funny. We were driving to the restaurant and I notice a biker in all his glory on this amazing-looking bike. I mentioned this to my wife, telling her how much I admired it. She said, “Yeah, Jack, but it isn’t a Harley.” I thought, who is this woman who I’ve known for almost half my life. Is there something she hasn’t told me about her past? How does she know what a Harley looks like?

On Sunday, we wanted to head over to see the new Star Trek movie Into the Darkness, but we had the complimentary breakfast in the guest lounge downstairs, and went back upstairs in the serenity of silence instead. Without a doubt, we got our money’s worth from our room. The explanation I have for you there is when you get free time away with the person you love most in this world, you don’t want to spend it watching a movie. So we sat next to each other on the bed reading.

Salmon Lover Roll
Salmon Lover Roll

And, as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end. We got back home late that evening after having treated the kids to the Sushi Garden. I guess you can say we all enjoyed a sushi-filled weekend.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever gone on a getaway weekend with your love? What did you end up doing?