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Today is February twenty-ninth. It’s a special day that comes once every four years.  Essentially a “bonus” day.  I’m going to use only twenty-nine words for today’s blog.

Ta-da!

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Waffles

I love making big breakfasts.  My family loves it when I make breakfast.  I’m constantly trying new things.  Sometimes I make deep fried hashbrowns, bacon and sunny side up eggs for everyone.  Scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese served with farmer sausage and country fried seasoned potatoes are another favorite.  Recently I made an amazing baked egg in avacado served with warm salsa and bacon bits.  In the summer with fresh vegetables and herbs I find myself making omelettes in a variety of fashions. 

 

Mmmm freshness.

 
Ah, summer.  I love making breakfast in the summer, sitting outside enjoying a fresh cup of coffee, and looking out into my wooded backyard.  Fresh air, birds chirping, and lush plants make it such a pleasure to be alive.  We live a few blocks away from the Krause Berry Farms and I am a sucker for fresh fruit.  We make smoothies or put the fresh berries into sparkling wine at breakfast (if we don’t have mimosas mind you).  But the best is fresh fruit on home made waffles with fresh whipped cream.  

During our travels, we do our best to stay at hotels that offer breakfast.  A few years ago we noticed that there was often these waffle irons and waffle batter available to make in the mornings at most hotels.  Much better than stale donuts and toast.  When we got home, we ended up buying a flipable waffle iron for us to use.  It has gotten such a good work out, we bought a second one in order to make twice as many waffles in half the time.

 

Chocolate cake mix waffles. So good.

 
Now, here’s a little secret I learned for making amazing waffles:  Use a boxed cake mix.  Chocolate cake waffles end up tasting like cupcakes.  Even a lemon cake mix stays light and fluffy in the middle. Serve with some ice cream and fresh blue berries or strawberries for a wonderful summer brunch.  Now I’m hungry…

This summer, feel free to come over for some brunch, I’d love to cook for all my friends!

Success

I’m not successful in many aspects of my life.  I’m not a financial mogul or have zero debt.  I’m not well travelled.  I don’t consider myself to be holding a career.  I don’t really know how to measure success either.  Perhaps success doesn’t need to be measured by numbers.

I have a job that pays me quite well.  It provides me with enough money to live contentedly.  I have a house with some property in a market that is out of control these days.  I have a wife of fifteen years who cares about me.  I have three children, all of whom are fantastic and generally happy.  I also have friends.  Friends who have been there for me throughout the years.  

I am on a new journey lately of writing out my opinions and memories.  I’m doing this as a way to share a more in-depth look into who I am with my friends.  So, I began to blog.  I write about 500 words/day to keep it an easy read.  Maybe I’ll make money off my writing, or maybe I won’t.  No big deal.  

As most of you know, sharing on Facebook can be difficult.  So, I made a page this past Wednesday devoted to the greatest man in my life-me.  To my astonishment, within two days, nearly one hundred of my friends chose to follow and like it.  I’m thinking some of you enjoy reading my thoughts, some of you just click “like” to shut me up, and some a bit of both.  Also, if you like my writing, by all means share with your friends my little Facebook page (shameless self promotion Saturday).

 

“Without obsession, life is nothing.” -John Waters

 
Like most people, I decided to look myself up online (I do believe this is called ego-surfing) to see if people could find my page, as well as to see what was out there.  Apparently, I’m not the only Josef Havelka who lives in the social media land.  Most other “Josefs” live in European countries.  One is a photographer/artist.  Most of the others are just regular guys.  I’m impressed that my name drew a few hits in return.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from  a Josef Havelka:

“Either sit at home in the corner, cry over… what you screwed up and throw it on the other mistakes… Or start doing something, get up and fight, then you can say, I did… that’s why everything…”

It’s poorly translated, but hey, it gets right to the point.  Sort of.

Tall Guy

I am kind of a big deal.  Ok, not really in the popular sense.  I mean I’m sorta tall.  But that counts, right?

I always stood head and shoulders above everyone.  That’s probably the reason I use Head & Shoulders Shampoo by P&G when washing my hair. (If I do product placement, eventually I’ll get paid, right?  Right?)  I get the same questions every tall person gets.

“How tall are you?”

“Do you play basketball?”

“What’s the weather like up there?”

“Can you reach this for me?”

Over the years, these questions have been a regular occurrence no matter where I go.  Sometimes it bothers me, most of the time it doesn’t.  I just play along and smile awkwardly.  I’m also pretty easy to spot in a crowd.  Whenever someone of similar stature is within the vicinity of me, one of two things happens.  Either we avoid each other like the plague and pretend we don’t acknowledge the other’s presence.  Or we end up talking about how annoying it is to be singled out and talked to like freaks by average people.  At one point in my life, my friends nicknamed me “Tall Guy”.  I was never bothered by that, but the name faded like the friendships of that time.

Most people who aren’t my height don’t realize how they sound.  If I spoke to a short person and asked if they were a horse jockey, that’d be kind of offensive.  Or if I went up to a rotund person and commented about how big they are and asked if they did sumo wrestling, it might be considered really offensive .  I have discovered that children are at least in awe of my height and genuinely excited and astonished by it.  A boy in my daughter’s preschool at their graduation said, “I want to grow up and be tall like Random’s dad.” 

 

She’s not tall enough yet to be in my selfie.

 
For almost five years I worked as a manager at the local Chuck E. Cheese’s.  The majority of kids were fantastic and fun to be around.  If they asked me a question, I would crouch down to their height and talk to them like real people.  I still do that if a child approaches me in public because of my height.  They are genuinely curious and really happy to talk.

Being tall can suck in other ways.  Me personally, I have lower back issues.  I also have a slight scoliosis.  I often limp when suffering from my back pains or exhaustion.  Because I’m also thin, buying pants has been a challenge most of my life until recently.  I found out that people in the farming area like to buy pants that are slightly longer in order to go over their cowboy boots.  Score for me that I can wear jeans that don’t look like I’m wearing capris!

Perhaps there’s something in the water that makes me tall.

Being tall is part of who I am.  I get to look down on most of you and not in a egotistical way.  Although being awesome is also part of who I am.

Crossing Over

Being a Canadian we are blessed with pretty decent “free” health care, decent wages, beautiful scenery, and a reputation worldwide of being nice.  There are plenty of other benefits of being Canadian, but our southern counterparts have many luxuries that we don’t.  Don’t even get me started on Netflix differences…

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Peace Arch Border Crossing

We live a fifteen minute drive from our home to the nearest border crossing.  It may seem odd, but I notice a difference as soon as we leave our country and enter the USA.  The roads are wider, the trees are fewer, there’s more concrete, more billboards, better prices.  The Canadian dollar took a bit of a dive recently, so the exchange rate isn’t worth the travel to find great deals Stateside.  I’m frugal, so finding good deals is always the plan.  The United States has a lot going for it, just like Canada, and often it feels that there are so many similarities that why aren’t we just one big country?  Unfortunately, there’s too much to give up on either side to become one solid entity.  I can still complain about what I don’t have, I can still have an idea of what “The American Dream” is, I can still admire from afar the luxuries that Americans have.  Here is a short list of 15 Ways Americans Are Different Than Canadians that is a fairly accurate read.

The US is rich in history, both good and bad.  Often times I know more about American politics than Canadian politics, but that’s okay.  The way information is shared these days, I wouldn’t really call most news “news”.  It’s more a ratings grab or shock value created  by the media networks in order to get advertising revenue.  Watching American TV up in Canada, I have learned that cellular plans are far superior in the USA. More coverage, better data, and cheaper.  That’s not all- the cost of food, gas, and most merchandise can be less than half the cost we pay in Canada.  Insurance rates, buying homes or cars, even eating out at a McDonald’s is far cheaper.

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Obligatory beach shot. 

When we travel, I try and find any place with free WiFi.   From the hotels we stay at to the coffee shops we stop at.  WiFi is the lifeblood that keeps me sane.  Sure, I’m enjoying my roadtrips with the family, but a quick downtime for my brain is also needed.  These vacations make me appreciate what I do have back home.  It’s always fun to daydream about never going back, especially when laying on a sandy beach in the winter months, but there is the reality that hits.  It’s not likely to happen, so just enjoy the moment.
I love my country, but as they say, the grass is always greener…

Disneyland

Last Sunday night my family sat down to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney:Disneyland 60”.  It started off with a wonderful ten minute tribute to Mr. Walt Disney and the creation of his park.  Then the next two hours were filled with advertising for everything Disney.

With inflation since 1989, I wonder what this is worth now…

 
Maybe my children didn’t notice or maybe I’m a bit cynical.  But it was basically a two hour commercial for one of the biggest money making machines in the world.  Nowadays, Disney can basically print its own money.  The company owns Marvel and Star Wars! Why bother to advertise anyways?

 

Graph with numbers and a red line.

Simple.  The parks are always getting upgrades.  No one would visit 1950’s Disneyland today if it had never changed.  Disneyland had a tough time bringing in people during the early 90’s because it had become stagnant.  Then Pixar happened.  And the changes were inevitable. 20,000 Leauges Under the Sea became Finding Nemo. Astro Blasters with Buzz Lightyear was created. Woody showing up in It’s a Small World.  The park began a new era.  Plus California Adventure opened in 2001, thus expanding the park- although poorly attended at first.

1st Trip

Our first trip to Disneyland Spring 2009.

Sixty years in the making, Disneyland is a Theme Park that the world knows about.  Many have visited.  My family and I have made the 24 hour road trip there about once a year since 2009.  I love the place.  Every time we go, we experience something new and memorable.  Simple things like eating at Ariel’s Grotto and meeting the Princesses, riding in the Lilly Belle around the park, or a ride in the front of the Monorail (and having the engineer more excited to find out I work for a railroad instead of me being excited that I was in the front of the Monorail!), enjoying a lunch near the water of the Pirates ride in the Blue Bayou Restaurant, finding new Hidden Mickeys, Jedi Academy, the first time our children were each tall enough to ride the bigger coasters, meeting all of our favorite characters, Trick or Treating in Disneyland, eating a fabled turkey leg, Dole Whip,  and the list goes on.

This year we are going to Disneyland to see the Diamond Celebration before it ends.  The Season of The Force is also going on.  In a few years, we will attend in order to see Star Wars Land (ya, I’m a bit of a Star wars fan).  Perhaps one day, we will stay in a Disneyland Resort Hotel and immerse ourselves in all things Disney.  Or a night in The Dream Suite inside the park would be the ultimate experience.  Hey, sometimes dreams really do come true.

Until then, I look forward to making memories with family and friends for many years to come.

 

The Great Outdoors

As much as I love technology, I’m also a fan of nature.  My home is surrounded by trees and we will be growing another vegetable garden this year.  In our last home, I spent four years pruning our two apple trees and kept the cherry blossom tree shaped like a weeping willow.  It sucked to find out that the people who moved in there immediately cut the trees down.  I’m not innocent here either- we cut down about a dozen trees the first year we moved into our current home as well.  But those were for safety reasons.  The trees were either too close to the house, almost dead, or were close to falling down anyways.

We live in a forest, so why not build an AT-ST?

I have a favorite tree in our yard.  We call it the elephant ear tree.  It is a tall crooked tree with large leaves (hence the name elephant ear tree) and it stands alone in the middle of the back of our property.  The tree feels like Tim Burton himself created it.  Throughout the rest of our yard there are firs, cedars, evergreens, vine maples and birch trees.  None of them as majestic as the elephant ear tree (I have no idea what it’s really called).

Living in British Columbia is a real pleasure.  As a family, we often find ourselves going for walks through various nature trails.  We can see many amazing wonders within about a 45 minute drive.  

There’s North Vancouver which had Lynn Canyon Park.  Or head out to Chilliwack and see Bridal Veil Falls.  Or head a little further east and visit the Othello Tunnels located at Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. Or if water is more your thing, check out one of the many Vancouver area lakes.

We found a little spot five minutes away from home to cool off in fresh water.  We also hike into another spot that remains uncrowded.  Our kids and dog love cooling off in the water and we spend a nice picnic relaxing.

We also have beaches in the Lower Mainland.  My personal favorite is Crescent Beach in White Rock.  During the week in the summer is the best time to go.  Parking is free and there’s always a spot to sit on the sand.  Plus there’s really good fish and chips that you can enjoy while watching the sunset.

  
It’s great to have so much to do and see so close to home.  But even when we travel, we try and find sights that are awe inspiring.  In Alberta, we drove to the Hoodoos.  In Idaho, we drove out to Balanced Rock and Snake River Canyon.  We stopped numerous times as we drove from Death Valley through Nevada where the sky, the desert, the trails, are all amazing.

Orthodontics

The perfect smile.  Almost everyone I know has had orthodontics done.  Some people had to wait until adulthood to get braces, others like myself, had the joy of getting them as a teenager.  The orthodontist from my teenage years is now the same orthodontist that my children are seeing.

   

Having straight teeth is aesthetically pleasing to see, but comes at a price.  The price is a few thousand dollars.  It is also years of pain as your teeth get forced into position that is somehow supposed to be natural.  The human mouth works hard daily masticating food numerous times throughout the day.  We also spend a large amount of time speaking, singing or yelling.  We show our teeth to display feelings of happiness or anger.  We are often so self-conscious of our looks and how we look to others that sometimes it prevents us from sharing our true feelings.  I’m convinced that it’s all a ploy from Hollywood and dentists in order to make more money and make everyone look the same.

  

Even after getting braces and a perfect smile, people still refuse to show their teeth.  Whether you have crooked teeth, straight teeth, yellow teeth, missing teeth, etc… your smile is your smile.  I have a smile that shows off my gums and an overbite.  But I don’t care.

After everything is said and done, if you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it… Clap your hands.

Crosswords and musicals

I always challenge my mind and brain power.  Crosswords are something that I enjoy doing even though I’ve rarely done any on my own.  My wife and I have being doing crossword puzzles since we met.  The one thing I’ve noticed with newspaper puzzles over the years?  They repeat answers.  Which is good, since I know 100% that Aida is the Giuseppe Verdi opera.  A fact I knew before these puzzles because I saw the opera when it came to Vancouver back in 1989.

Sing for me angel of music.

It’s the only true opera that I have ever seen.  Foreign language, outrageous sets, over the top performances, live elephants, and a fat lady singing.  It was an experience to remember, and one that changed my life. I fell in love with classical music and stage performances.  I received an Aida advertising banner from a friend of my mother’s and it hung on my bedroom door for years.  A couple of years later, in 1991, I saw “The Phantom Of The Opera.” Musicals now ruled my life.

Over the years I have enjoyed watching musical theater.  I’ve seen every Andrew Llyod Webber show that has come to town.  I have almost all of them on CD (you know, those things that are physical copies containing music).  But my favorite musical has to be Les Misérables.  I’ve seen it performed twice at The Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver.  I also enjoy watching the PBS concert DVD with friends and sing along.  Especially to “Master of the House” that one is my favorite song.

“This only goes to show, what little people can do!”

When South Park: Bigger Longer  & Uncut came out in 1999, Matt Stone claimed in an interview that the film was inspired by Les Miz.  I believe it.  Even in it’s vulgarity, the South Park film contains some of the most catchiest tunes ever.  Songs that are still fun to sing when drunk.

As I get older and my tastes change, I still have a soft spot for the familiarity of a good musical.  Even Disney films that I re-watched with my children as they grew up bring me joy.  Having an eclectic taste has allowed me to appreciate a good satire or a classical piece without judgement.

Now back to my crossword and finding a five letter word to complete this phrase, “Oh my god! They killed _____!”

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

As much as I love technology it also pisses my off.  My hatred comes from the fact that bugs and failures happen far too often as technology gets older.  This means that you need to upgrade more often.  

Even in the future, nothing works.

If/when humanity gets integrated with technology, I would hope that this would be sorted out.  I’d love to get an ocular implant to allow me to view the Internet without a screen.  Or have nanobots injected into my blood stream to combat cancer or strengthen my muscles.  These are all very strong possibilities in our lifetime.  I fear that if nanobots glitch out, they could make a mess of people, taking over their bodies uncontrollably like the end scene from Akira.
 

Look at me! I’m huge!

 

In this day and age all we do is turn a computer or videogame system off and on to reboot the software.  This usually resolves the issues.  I’m not ready to get rebooted on a regular basis if something screws up.  Already my body is deteriorating as I get older.  Damage has been incurred to my body/mind (both accidentally and purposefully, mind you) and the idea of getting a reboot scares me.

Chances are, the next time I get shut down, there won’t be a chance of getting fired up again.  So for now, I need to make sure everything is running at peak performance in order to prevent malfunction.