How I Destroyed Christmas as a Child

Have you ever told someone a story that’s so preposterous just to see if they’d believe it? I have, and my story made me cry, and destroyed Christmas.

I was probably 7 or 8, and Christmas was just around the corner. I remember standing in my kitchen with my little brother, and he was driving me crazy, so I told him a little lie.

“Mom and Dad are Santa Claus,” I said. It was silly to say, because obviously Santa was real, and his elves worked throughout the year making toys for good boys and girls in the North Pole. My brother just had a blank look on his face; he’s two-and-a-half years younger than me. Then I felt a strong yank on my arm, and I was whisked down the hall and practically thrown onto the bed. It was my mom, and she looked really pissed off!

“Just because you know your father and I are Santa doesn’t mean you should wreck it for your brother!” she practically yelled at me.

I didn’t know what to do! The jolly old man that brought presents every year… he wasn’t real! It really WAS my parents that pretended to be Santa! I cried, and my mom quickly realized that she had jumped the gun, and I still believed Santa existed, or rather, I HAD believed until she told me the truth.

I remember leaving the room and telling my brother that I lied and Santa was real, and for a few more years he believed in Santa. The truth was my little secret, but I wish I could have kept believing for a few more years.

I need a hobby

Watching Kat create all these neat things with her sewing machine and serger have made me realize that I need a hobby. Not something like “playing videogames” (which I do enjoy), but an actual hobby. I think I’ve decided on woodworking, but specifically woodworking with a scroll saw.

A scroll saw has a thin blade that moves up and down and allows you to make precise cuts, which is great for making toys for kids. We were in a baby store a few weeks ago and I saw a wooden letter that was selling for $10. A single letter! How hard could that be to make? You’re just essentially tracing something drawn onto wood, then sanding it. I think it would also be pretty neat to make my son some little toys he could play with. With all the fears of lead in toys coming from China (and pretty much all the toys being made in China), it would be nice to know the piece of wood he’s sticking in his mouth is safe. Plus there are tons of books available from the library with instructions on how to make various things.

So, I think in the next few weeks, or maybe a month, I’ll invest in a nice scroll saw to play with. It’ll be nice to have a hobby that doesn’t involve some kind of glowing screen sitting in front of me.

Ukrainian Kinder Surprise Time!

So, I finally cracked the case of Kinder Surprises Kat got me… about 5 years ago. No, I’m not going to eat the chocolate (it looks kinda nasty), but here’s the first Surprise I got. It’s one of the featured toys on the box (some kind of magic club) – a witch. She has a magnet in the bottom of her, and there’s a magnet in the bottom of the broom so she can magically push the broom away from her. Kinda neat!

Witch

Witch with Broom

Turning a Corner

No, “turning a corner” isn’t a metaphor for something more profound, this is actually about turning a corner, and how people in Edmonton don’t know how to do it. I’m so tired of people nearly driving into me that I need to vent, and I’m doing that in this blog post.

My biggest complain are people that don’t know how to properly turn a corner, and the most dangerous turn is one involving two turning lanes. I took this graphic from the Alberta Driver Handbook and modified it to fit the situation I commonly see:

Proper Turn

This is a proper turn

See how both cars turn the corner? That’s how it’s SUPPOSED to be done. This is how people in Edmonton turn:

Improper Turn

Anything wrong with this?

For whatever reason the people of Edmonton can’t follow the lines on the road and they turn into the middle lane, not the inside lane where they should be. This results in two cars going into the same lane, and an accident if people aren’t paying attention. Luckily I haven’t been hit yet, but I’m always aware of the other cars around me, and I enjoy using my horn.I often see the driver in the middle lane turning into the outside lane as well, and this is also incorrect because that lane should be free so cars facing South can make a right-hand turn.

So next time you make a left-hand turn, please be aware of which lane you’re turning into. I’d hate to run into you.

Thanks for reading my rant. What drives you crazy when you’re on the road?

I Like My Popcorn Spicy!

Freshly popped popcorn

Freshly popped popcorn, ready to eat!

There’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch to watch a movie or TV show with a big bowl of popcorn in your lap. Popcorn has been my snack of choice since I was a kid, and I’ve grown to become a popcorn snob. I’ve never been a fan of microwave popcorn unless I’m traveling and need a fix – read the list of ingredients sometime if you want to be disgusted. I used to enjoy air popped popcorn, until I discovered the Whirley Pop (I’ve linked to Amazon.ca for ease, but you can find it cheaper at Bed Bath and Beyond, or even Lee Valley tools).

The Whirley Pop is a medium-sized pot with a crank in the handle that’s used to pop the popcorn on a stove. A small amount of oil, usually 1-2 tbsp is placed in the bottom of the pot in order to help the corn pop, and to lightly season it. This method produces popcorn that has more moisture in it compared to an air popper, and after trying it once I haven’t used my air popper again. I first started using sunflower oil with the Whirley Pop, as the oil is good under high heat (never try olive oil, as it’ll burn), and provides a nice, subtle flavor. I’ve since switched to two other oils, coconut oil, which can be purchased at a grocery store, and a special oil that takes a little bit of work – chili-infused sunflower oil. The chili-infused sunflower oil provides a nice spice to the popcorn, and I absolutely looove spicy stuff!

We had a friend over to the house the other day and somehow the topic of popcorn and spice came up, and I offered to make some spicy popcorn for her. She’s since asked me how I made it, so I thought it would make for a great blog post. Making the oil is quite easy; you’ll need 2 cups of sunflower oil, and 1/2 cup of crushed chilies. Place the sunflower oil in a saucepan on the stove under medium heat, then add your chilies. I stir the oil every minute or two until small bubbles start appearing in the oil (you may have to turn the heat up a bit at a time to produce the bubbles), then I remove it from the heat. Place the oil into a container and put it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, keeping in mind the longer it sits, the spicier the oil will become. I rarely wait the 2 weeks before using it, especially if I want to use it on popcorn; the other day I made the oil and immediately started making popcorn. Once the oil has sat for a few weeks, pour it through a strainer to remove the chili flakes. If you want to remove any sediment from the oil you can strain it through a wine strainer, though I’ve never done this. Feel free to alter the amount of chili flakes you use, either increasing or decreasing to change the spice level, and I usually use 1-1 1/2 tbsp in the Whirley Pop when I make the popcorn. You can also use the oil in cooking to add a little spice to pasta, or other dishes. Top the popcorn with a little salt and butter, and you have a tasty treat to go along with your show or movie. Mmmm!

P.S. If you ever visit my house, this popcorn can be make upon request πŸ˜‰

Spicy sunflower oil

Spicy sunflower oil

My Fascination with Kinder Surprise Eggs

I really like those little Kinder Surprise eggs you can find alongside the grocery check-outs. I think the chocolate is okay, but I buy them for the toys inside. The first time I really remember buying them was at a school track meet held at Strathcona High School when I was in grade 7 (12). There was a 7-11 nearby, and I walked over and bought a few of them, opened them up, and went back for more. I was fascinated by the various toys you could get inside, things that would come in small pieces and had to be put together. I’ve often wondered who designs these wonderful things, and how smart they must be to create a little model that has to be interesting, yet also fit into a tiny egg. Have you ever taken a single piece out of a Kinder egg and been unable to get it back inside? How on Earth do they get all those pieces to fit so perfectly? It’s either brilliance, or dark magic.

When I was 14 I went to Israel with my school, and I found Kinder Surprise eggs there as well. The toys were different from the ones we had in Canada, and at the time they had a special series featuring Asterix, a character that’s very popular in Europe, but a bit less popular in North America. It was on this trip that I realized the eggs held different surprises around the world, and I became interested in what other toys could be found in other countries. I’ve bought eggs, or had them given to me, from Canada, Israel, Mexico, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, UK, Germany, Italy, Ukraine… and probably one or two other countries. I usually get the small toys, but around Christmas and Easter they bring out a line of over-sized eggs, which I usually buy a day or two after the holiday at heavily discounted prices. I’ve often taken cases of them down to friends in the US because you can’t buy them there (unless they were illegally imported) because of FDA rules (I believe they don’t allow toys to be inside food items).

Out of all the eggs I’ve ever opened, there’s one that I’ll never forget, and it was given to me by my wonderful wife, Kat. We went out to Von’s, one of our favorite restaurants, for dinner, and she pulled the egg out of her purse. I opened it up, but I didn’t find a toy inside, I found a little note that said “Will you marry me?” The answer, of course, was yes.

Though I enjoy the Kinder Surprise Eggs, and I probably have all the toys I’ve received, I don’t have an obsession with collecting them. I’ve never completed a series, and I’ve never tried to either. I enjoy the toys that do something interesting, or ones you have to build. I don’t like the puzzles, or the little figures that don’t do anything. When Kat was in Germany a few years ago she brought me back a German catalog that contains photos and information on all the Kinder Surprise toys ever made. It’s a massive book, with nearly 1,600 pages, and has tons of toys per page. It’s broken up by category, and by year, and provides a neat visual history of the various toys you could find in the eggs. If only I read German!

I have a ton of Kinder eggs that I haven’t opened yet, and I thought it may be fun to start opening them and posting photos on my blog. I have a couple of cases from Canada, two cases from Ukraine, and various eggs from all over Europe. Look for photos coming soon.

P.S. I will gladly accept donations of Kinder Surprises πŸ˜€

20111211-222034.jpg

Just some of the eggs I have to open

I love pinball!

Playing pinball, shortly after our wedding

Pinball is awesome – I love it – and I’ve recently been feeding my addiction with a new iOS game from Zen Studios called “Zen Pinball.” Now, I already own Zen Pinball on the PS3, along with all 11 of the tables they’ve released, plus Marvel Pinball, a game from the same company featuring Marvel-themes pinball tables (6 tables for that).

Anyway, last week they released Zen Pinball for iOS as a Universal app (meaning the same app runs on the iPad and the iPhone), and I’m in heaven. My favorite table from the PS3 version is “Sorcerer’s Lair,” and they’ve bundled that for free with the iOS game, and the game itself is a free download! They’ve also made Wolverine and Captain America tables available for download at just $1.99 each. Though I own them both, I jumped at the opportunity to buy them again because I could now play them “on the go.”

The game plays beautifully on the iPad, with its nice large screen. It’s a bit more difficult on the iPhone, because the table is quiet detailed, and the screen is very small, but it’s still a blast to play. I used to routinely drop $20 into pinball machines as a teen, so these tables are a steal at $2. I expect we’ll see a lot more tables released for the game in the coming months, especially considering the backlog of tables they have from the console release, and Marvel Pinball (which will get another 4 tables added to it next week).

Also coming in 2012 is “Pinball Arcade,” a new game from Farsight Studios. These guys have been around for a long time, and they’ve released a number of games under the “Pinball Hall of Fame” series (Williams, Bally and Gottlieb). While Zen Studios focuses on creating new tables, Farsight focuses on recreating existing tables in digital form. This is great for fans of the classic pinball machines, as it gives us an opportunity to play games that cost thousands of dollars, for just a few bucks. While they’ve released a few trailers showing off the first four tables, and promised lots more available as downloadable content, they haven’t mentioned a price yet. The game will be available on PS3, X-Box 360, iOS, Android and Nintendo 3DS. I expect I’ll buy all the tables on the PS3 and iOS, and I’ll love playing them all.

That photo was taken at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, just a few hours after Kat and I were married. Look closely and you can see the ball is still in play (down near the flippers).

Hello universe!

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to start a blog. Four? Five? Maybe this is the sixth attempt. I decided to try again because I found the 140 characters of Twitter to be too limiting for some things I wanted to say, and this appeared to be the best solution. I have no idea what I’ll end up publishing here, but since I have a cat, a dog, and a baby on the way, posts could be related to some of those things. Or they could be about my job (watching DVDs), my wife (she’s awesome), or the things I do around the house (finishing some renos).

The name “Gordovision” came from an assignment I had to do in college. We were to create an interactive resume that fit on a floppy disk using Macromedia Director. Of course the idea seems silly now, because no one uses a disk at all. Limited to just 1.4 MB, I decided I would have my interface scrolling TV listings, and clicking on a listing would take you to a section. While many of my classmates complained that 1 disk wasn’t enough, and the instructor expanded it to 2 disks, I was able to keep mine to just 1. The name of my fake TV channel was “Gordovision.” Oh, I got 25/25 on that disk assignment πŸ˜€

Someone should start a pool to see how long this lasts…

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