muggles and wizards and way bigger fans than me, oh my!

At the tail-end of our trip last month, we went to The Making of Harry Potter studio tour just outside of London. David and I had just finished reading the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and watched the first four movies. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it’s a studio tour and not an adventure park. It sounded kind of boring, the cost was no joke and commute was long (2 hours, both ways via train, subway, and bus!) But despite my reservations, I knew it’d be exciting for David – he put up with running around Berlin, watching my marathon so we could do this.

I thought it’d be fun to share our top 10 favourite things from the day since it is Halloween and all…

  1. The fans. They’re legit and come in all shapes and sizes. I will admit, seeing the kids *and big kids* freak out when the bus pulled up to the studio was…. dare I say… magical.
  2. The staircase. The very first thing you see is the room under the stairs – it’s where it all started. The tour begins with a guided introduction with what I think is the better story, J.K. Rowling’s imagination and her ability to dream up this magical world and then how even after the first book was written, it was a little girl that convinced her dad that the movie(s) would be worth making… Lesson: Listen to kids, they know what’s good! Once we were given this little bit of history, the curtains were drawn, and the doors to the Great Hall were revealed (yes, I got goosebumps!)
  3. The Great Hall and the Goblet of Fire. This is where the guided tour ends. I won’t tell you whose name flew out from the Goblet of Fire.
  4. The sets. Once you’re out of the Great Hall, it’s up to you how fast you want to go through the rest of the building. There are tons of props, sets, costumes, and details about the production of the movie. The cast is just a small part of it all. It’s huge and full of many gems so make sure you eat before the journey.
  5. The props. Oh, so many props! As an art student who majored in design, learning about the makers of props and sets was pretty cool, they deserve so much credit.
  6. Butterbeer. Not going to lie, I went for the butterbeer. What the heck does it taste like?!? David and Mike were not fans, it’s fricking sweet, but I endured, got the picture and checked the experience off the list.
  7. The wands. David wanted a wand. I wanted a wand. David got a wand, but I resisted the temptation. I was pretty excited however that he chose Hermione’s wand. Throughout the tour, there are a few fun experiences you can partake in (broom flying with a green screen, photo opts, broomstick spells, etc.) but a quick lesson on how to use a wand was pretty cool.
  8. The Hogwarts Express. You can walk inside and see the passenger rooms – one decorated for each movie.
  9. Diagon Alley. It really felt like you were winding your way through an alley and you see all of the familiar store signs.
  10. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I can’t put into words how cool this was – a massive model of the castle that you can walk around – look down on, look up at, examine and see how they took it to the big screen. I am pretty sure if I was ten and seeing this, I’d want to be an architect. It was breathtaking.

If you are a big or little fan, I’d highly recommend the tour.

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” – J.k. Rowling

#teamGryffindor

big (not) little houses

Who watched Big Little Lies?

Forget the murder mystery, I was in it for the houses! Every single one of them… even Jane’s. But Bonnie – oh my god. Bonnie. Your house is everything!

I listened to the audiobook last year and loved it – the women, the drama – it was all very enjoyable and the story got me through some tough long runs however, when I heard it was being made into a mini series staring Reese Witherspoon and the location was changed to Monterey, California, I was hooked before episode 1 aired. Have I mentioned that central California is my very favourite place?

We went when David was seven months old:

and I went back with my Mom and Dad 4 years later:

But enough about me and my obsession. Let me know which house was your favourite?

CELESTE – She nailed outdoor living JANE – Needs work but I love a bungalow MADELINE – great kitchen and karaoke set up RENATA – my least favourite but I’ll take the pool BONNIE – I want it all

 

The photos are all from the Vulture article: Here’s How Much Those Stunning Homes on Big Little Lies Cost. I recommend checking out the prices… it may surprise you (but probably not).

psst. I want Reese to play me in the movie about my life

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life lately (on the hill)

Itching to see 200 photos of mountains with a some cute kids mixed in? Here’s life lately. In February we travelled across to the country to spend a late Christmas holiday with our family from another country. Mike’s parents came as well and we enjoyed a five glorious days skiing  at Whistler with some Vancouver sightseeing to bookend the adventure.

Day 1

With the time-change, I was wide -awake at 5:00 am and went out for a run around Stanley Park. Not the smartest thing to do alone in a big city, but it was a bucket-list item … It was really dark (which is why these pics are so grainy) and also why I thought the statue in the water was a real person. img_0153 img_0150img_0155After breakfast we met up with Mike’s brother and his family and went back to Stanley Park to the see the totem poles and visit the Vancouver Aquarium.img_0158In daylight, she looks a lot less real.img_0169Joel, David, Evan and Celeste:img_0162img_0160 img_0178As a devote DANGER BAY fan, I was excited to see where Dr. Robert’s worked:img_0171 Sting Ray touch tank:img_0176 img_0174 img_0173 img_0172Afterwards, we took a bus to Whistler and made it in time to see the fire show.img_0183img_0181

Day 2

The kids went to ski school for the first three days and had a blast.img_0188… And here are the mountain photos – I mostly skied alone on the first day.img_0190 img_0191 img_0192 img_0194 img_0197 img_0199 img_0200 img_0205At the end of the day, I rode the peak-to-peak – the gondola that takes you on a +4km  ride from Whistler to Blackcomb mountain:img_0205c img_0205d img_0206 img_0207

Day 3

I skied with my father-in-law. He was incredibly patient (with my skiing and photo taking) and I convinced him to ride a t-bar up to Blackcomb Glacier… then we hiked up a hill just to snap some more pics.img_0208 img_0209 img_0210 img_0215 img_0216 Carl and me on the top:img_0217 img_0218 img_0219 img_0226Lunch with the Ackermans:img_0213Whistler village has totem poles too.img_0227img_0230img_0231Terrible photo (sorry) but it’s the only one I have of Jeff and Allie. It was great to see them again!img_0242

Day 4

It was rainy at the bottom and wet snow at the top so I only skied in the morning. img_0245 img_0248But I enjoyed the mitten warmers in the bathroom at one of the hill-top restaurants:img_0249 img_0250 img_0251 img_0252 img_0253After lunch, I roamed around the village and grabbed a coffee.img_0256

Day 5

We got in line super early for the first-tracks breakfast at the top of the hill. Steve, Celeste and Rachel on one side:img_0257 And me and Pauline on the other:img_0258 David and Evan own the podium:img_0259 img_0260 After breakfast we attempted to all ski down together… which did not happen. Turns out, families that ski together, don’t stay together. img_0264 Half of us headed over to Blackcomb for the rest of the day:img_0267 Back on the peak-to-peak, this time with Mike, Evan and David.img_0269

Day 6

Our last ski day at Whistler – it was great to see how much the kids improved with just 3 days at ski school. They’re so much better than me, and brave! img_0273 The best part about skiing:img_0276 img_0277 img_0278

Day 7

Our last bit of time with the family before they travelled back to England. Joel is already taller than me… and I am guessing Evan will be too the next time we meet…img_0280 img_0281 img_0286 The village rink and playground:img_0287 img_0291 img_0292 Cousin time is the best time:img_0293 img_0294 img_0296

Day 8

Back in Vancouver, we explored the city and rode the mini taxi boats to Granville Island.img_0301img_0308img_0309img_0312img_0311David thought I was taking a picture of him but obviously, I was taking pictures of the palm trees:img_0313We had lunch with Nelson and his lovely family – Nelson and I met in University and it’s been years since we’ve seen each other – what a treat!img_0314img_0315img_0316Earl’s in Yaletown:img_0305 And finally, hockey night to wrap up the holiday.img_0326 img_0327 img_0332psst. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe and share. xomegimg_0298

mountains, nothing but mountains

Unless you are one of my sisters, you likely do not know the movie reference:

Mountains, nothing but mountains. We’ve had it. We’ve, we’ve completely had it.

No we haven’t. Between these mountains somewhere there’s a green valley. See these mountains over here? There’s no snow on them.

Those mountains must be fifty miles away. You think you can walk fifty miles?

If we have to, we will.

I can’t.

Yes, you can.

I can’t. I’m not as strong as you.

Do you know what it is that we’ve lived this long the way we have? Seventy days? That we climbed this mountain. You know what it is? It’s impossible. It’s impossible and we did it. I’m proud to be a man on a day like this. Alive. That I lived to see it, and see it in such a place. Take it in. I love you, man. Look, it’s magnificent. It’s God. And it’ll carry us over every stone, I swear. I swear to you.

***

Best movie ever. My sisters and I were oddly obsessed with ALIVE. Our love for Ethan Hawke probably started it all but, we went through a phase of watching the VHS weekly then read all of the books and absorbed every bit of information regarding this amazing true story about a rugby team whose plane crashed and they had to save themselves. Yes, they ate the bodies of the deceased but they SURVIVED and walked out of the freaking Andes! Unreal.

But I digress… I am actually here to talk about how mountains bookend the week for me. Last weekend was STORM THE MOUNTAIN and this coming weekend we are heading to Whistler for an Ackerman family ski trip (it’s our late Christmas).

My top priority for both adventures is warmth. I’m always cold and do my best to dress for the elements.

Case in point: This is how I feel (Another ALIVE reference):alive-1993-movie-free-download-720p-bluray-4-1And this is how I go outside every day: img_0091

Last month I wrote here and here about these new mittens I discovered and ordered for me and my mom. They’re microwavable and I’ve worn them a few times now. Here is my unbiased (not sponsored) review of the HXT Marathon Mittens.

Cons:

  • Not cheap. $80 US (which is like a bajillion dollars Canadian) + shipping (but we had ours shipped to my sister’s house in the States so it was a none issue).
  • They don’t show sizing information on their site – I emailed the company, it took a week to hear back, and was told the small-mediums would be best… They are big. I think the x-small would be better. Like my head, my hands are small. On the flip side, I can easily wear a pair of gloves under them for extra protection.
  • They are not HOT like the disposable hand-warmers. I was expecting my hands to feel like they’re in an oven but they feel more like a warmish late spring day and although they claim to last up to 4 hours, I’d say 2-3 hours is more realistic. (see the pro side to this).
  • They’re heavier and bulkier than a basic pair of mitts. If you don’t want to wear them, it’s hard to subtlety stuff them in the back of your running tights.
  • You need a microwave. Most ski hills have one in they lobby so I am not too concerned. As for running, even long-long runs don’t go much beyond 4 hours so I should be okay.
  • They’re not the most attractive pair of mitts on the market.

Pros:

  • They have nose wipes. No joke, this is smart. Gross but handy.
  • They have reflectors. I run at 5:30 am so this is good.
  • The cuffs are long and fit nicely under my jacket sleeves. Easy on and off, tuck-ins.
  • Because they’re not HOT like the disposable hand-warmers, the severity of taking them on and off outside is less shocking. During the eco challenge, I had to take them off a lot in order to use the compass and my hands stayed warm the whole time. Mike was shocked. My hands were so happy that I actually walked without the mitts on at times.
  • They have extra pockets for more warmers so if it’s really bad out there, you can add more disposable hand-warmers to them.
  • Less wasteful and although the upfront cost is pricy, disposable hand-warmers are not cheap. Plus, once you open the package of hand-warmers, you have them for 8 hours.

Are they the cure to cold? No. Am I keeping them? Yes. I love that I can heat them up whenever I want. I pop the whole mitt right into the microwave for 35 seconds and I’m ready to go! This means I can have warm hands for my morning run + then again for my morning walk to school + then again for my after school walk + then again if I go out in the evening. That would be at least two sets warmers a day!

I hope this helps. Stay warm friends. I’ll be sure to let you know how they make out on the mountains out west!

By the way, Storm the Mountain is a winter eco-endurance challenge put on by the Pugwash Ground Search and Rescue. A really fun 4 or 8 orienteering adventure in Wentworth.img_0087img_0081img_0085

psst. Random “fact” about my sister… her son’s actual name is Nando although everyone calls him Sam. He’s named after the rugby player which Erin swore she’d do when she was 15. 
psst. The full movie can be found on YouTube. You’re welcome. Movie image from here.

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where in the world

Got the travel bug? Looking for something a little more exciting than a snow globe or postcard?

My parents are going to Germany and they’ll be passing through the Black Forest. The first things I said when I heard this was, DO NOT bring me home a cuckoo clock! Turns out they had no intention to do so however, I had to make it clear that one day, I will go to the Black Forest and pick out the most perfect, be it slightly ridiculous, cuckoo clock. It’s on my bucket list!

This conversation got me thinking about the sub-sections on my bucket list (yes, my bucket list is categorized) and I realized I have two distinct travel categories:

  • Places I want to visit (Maui, Italy, Amsterdam, India, South American, to name a few)
  • Souvenirs from places around the world

Souvenirs from places may seem like and odd category however hear me out, they’re the most perfect way to remember a holiday. Sure, I can get a cuckoo clock anywhere but one from Germany would be so much more special. Same goes for a beautiful rug or a new blanket. I often bring home prints (posters), tea towels or Christmas ornaments, which are all great but below are the things that I’m holding out for when I hopefully make it to these places one day.

Germany : The Black Forest : A cuckoo clock

Germany is a country both Mike and I really want to visit so it’s made both categories. He wants to go to Oktoberfest, I’d like to run the Berlin Marathon but mostly, I have always wanted to go to the Black Forest and get a Cuckoo Clock!

hellosunshine_blackforest_cuckooImage (L / R)

Morocco : Marrakech : A wedding blanket / rugs! / pillows

Editing down what I’d want from Morocco would be my biggest problem. That, and figuring out how to transport several 8 x 10 rugs home. I think a wedding blanket would be more practical. Toss in some pillows and a pouf too please!

hellosunshine_moroccoImage (L / R)

New Zealand : Something warm & fuzzy

Ideally I’d like a sheep but, I’ll take a nice wool blanket. My Dad worked in New Zealand when I was little and he brought back Maori dolls which were pretty fantastic. Sheep are my very favourite animal and I may loose my mind with excitement over there.

hellosunshine_nz_sheepImage (L / R)

Russia : Matryoshka doll (nesting doll)

Ignoring the cold temps, Russia is a place I’d love to visit. Holy architecture! I’ve always loved Matryoshka dolls and remember playing with a friend’s set when we were kids. Now that I think about it, we were likely not supposed to be playing with them, but I digress. They’re so beautiful and I love the colours. My bookshelf needs this.

hellosunshine_russia_dollsImage (L / R)

Switzerland : A Swatch (and throw in some chocolate)

I have been to Switzerland and I already have a few too many Swatches but I think they’re the most perfect souvenir for anyone planning to travel there – something that will always remind you of a good time. hah! (I’d also like a St Bernard)

hellosunshine_swiss_swatchImage (L / R)

***

We’re heading out west next month for an Ackerman Family Ski Holiday and the one thing I hope to NOT bring home is a cast.

hellosunshine_whistlerImage (L / R)

Let me know what’s on your souvenir bucket list? And let me know what’s the best souvenir you brought home. I am very curious!

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