Jon Here is a video of me Krumping with my teacher. Krumping is a type of dance where you move your arms to rhythmic music.



Jon On Tuesday December 10th we went to the stage show of Aladdin. Just like the movie it started with the song Arabian Nights, but unlike the movie there were three men singing it, throughout the musical, to help the plot.

It had a lot of the same songs that are in the movie like One Jump Ahead, Friend like me, and Prince Ali, which were big song and dance numbers. It also had new songs like Proud Of Your Boy and a new song sung by Jasmine that they were trying for the first time that night.

My favourite song was A Whole New World in the second act. As the song started the actors floated on a magic carpet into the stars and planets.

I really enjoyed Aladdin and a big thanks to Grandma for the tickets.

James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie
James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie in Aladdin
(Photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann, Entertainment Weekly)


Halloween 2013: Year of the Spider

Laura Jack-o-lanterns Jon announced in September that he wanted to be a spider, which struck us as a relatively straighforward* project to do. This was a good thing, since this year’s construction was a real race against the clock. Because of work deadlines, costume building wasn’t able to start until the last minute, so it was really down to the wire whether it would get done in time for the little trick or treaters!

So we assumed our usual spheres of responsibility: I covered the small amount that was sewing-related, while Peter took on the vast majority of costume construction. On the day before Halloween trips to office supply shops, art stores and Queen St. fabric stores ensued.

Mailing tubes
Mailing tubes and fabric.

Frame of spider almost done
The same mailing tubes, painted and shaped, and cardboard. As ever, hot-melt glue is your costuming friend.

Fabric carapace getting stuffed
Spider carapace glued on and starting to get stuffed with bubble wrap and plastic bags—a LOT of them.

In the meantime Jon got fitted with a tunic with a cape-like flap, sewn from the spider fabric. The spider then got hung over our front porch (no time to construct a web, alas) and the flap got pinned to the spider body so that Jon was attached to the spider as its head and front legs.

Spider hung and attached to Jon
Ta daah! One man-sized spider, ready to give out treats! We were going to make a hood with spider eyes for Jon to wear, but the night was so warm—and Jon hates hats sooo much—that we nixxed the idea.

Halloween show
Warm, but unfortunately rainy. The poor Riverdale Halloween Show players had to perform on a slickly wet stage in the pouring rain. But the show went on, and it was fabulously topical (the show creators couldn’t have asked for a better news tie-in thanks to the shenanigans of our mayor!

* It was also a bit of a relief, because earlier this year he announced that he wanted to be a Cyberman from Doctor Who, which is a bit more complicated.


Merrywood 2013

Jon I had another great session at Camp Merrywood. I went kayaking. I got wet in the water. During the ride I heard a Carly Rae Jepsen song. The song is Call Me Maybe.

At arts and crafts I made star jars which are jars lined with foil. When you shine a light in holes in the foil you get stars. I also made light sabers with Jackie. I like that.

I went on the overnight camping trip again. I really enjoyed it, especially the locks.

I saw a rainbow on day 7.

I went to the media program with Sam and made sock puppets. I performed a song for the sock puppet. As I was singing the song I recorded it. The song was about saying thank you and staying in touch.

Again this year, I told five funny jokes at the talent show on day 9.

We had the goodbye banquet on the last day.

It was another really good session this year at Camp Merrywood.



Arts and Crafts and Daleks, Oh My!

Laura A few weeks back friend Virginia mentioned that Raymond Cusick, the designer of the daleks from Doctor Who, had died at the age of 84. We exchanged emails with simultaneous suggestions that we should raise a toast to his memory by making a dalek cake. Since the debut of the new season of Doctor Who was imminent, this somewhat tongue-in-cheek notion got added oomph; yesterday Vee, Peter and I concocted the following hijinx:

I made a pattern of the cake tiers we would need, and cut three 8-inch marble cakes (made the night before) into approximate shapes:

After my disastrous attempt at a cooked buttercream icing, which curdled horribly (icings not being in my areas of cooking competence), Virginia came to the rescue with a lovely buttercream with a perfect spreading consistency. We layered the cake pieces together, gluing them in place with a 7-minute frosting between slabs.

This was the point when we were thinking “what the hell are we doing?”:

Things didn’t improve much after priming (this icing layer was solely to catch and weld down stray crumbs):

Though once Peter started on the finishing icing layers it started looking better:

And after getting blinged out with accessories, it looked – well, maybe not fabulous, but certainly cute! The “dalek balls” were halved chocolate eggs; the brown panels and base were my attempt at chocolate fondant (a bit too stiff). The one arm and eyestalk were strawberry Pocky (we couldn’t find chocolate!) with fondant accoutrements (and mini M&Ms for the lens and “ears”), while the gun arm (a bit short) was a scored Trix bar. Finished dalek, looking warily at the knife:

And staring down a pineapple, placed for scale:

And apparently after firing a laser beam at said pineapple:

But as all good dramatists know, if you feature a knife in Act I you have to use it by Act III:

Mmmm! Dalekalicious!

Our fatally wounded dalek in its containment unit, ready to go into hypothermic stasis:

Huge thanks to Virginia for great fun and lotsa yuks doing creative stuff waaay out of any of our usual comfort zones!


Jeopardy! Epilogue

Laura Jon got something in the mail a few weeks back (forgot to post it here):

Jon with Johnny Gilbert photo
Jon and Johnny

Since one of my five prepared stories for Jeopardy! included one about how much Jon loves the show and Johnny Gilbert’s voice, the show staff got Gilbert to autograph a picture for him. What a lovely thing to do!


Cutting the cord

Laura After all the game show posts we’ve had lately you’d think that we were big TV watchers. But we aren’t, really; not as much as our cable bills would warrant. So over the last year we started seriously considering quitting cable and switching to antenna.

Over the air (OTA) TV isn’t quite like the old days of snowy pictures, rabbit-eared TV sets that you have to wiggle every time a cloud passes by, or towering antenna towers on top of your house. The signal is now HD digital, clean and crisp (no rabbit ears needed); and the antennas are much smaller. You can even use an HD-DVR to record your shows.

First, we took stock of our viewing habits. The shows we watched the most were the Daily Show and Colbert Report on Comedy, a few shows on Discovery, and Jon’s Weather Network. We figured we could DVR Stewart and Colbert from CTV and watch most of the relevant Discovery shows (not all—no Mythbusters) via Discovery’s iPad app beamed to the TV. The one thing holding us back was not being able to get the Weather Network without cable. But after several months of truly eye-popping bills (we had changed our internet service to a different provider, so we were no longer getting “bundle” discounts from Rogers) we decided to bite the bullet, withstand any potential tantrums, and cut the cord.

How many stations you get via OTA depends on your antenna’s direct line of sight from the broadcasting signals. Luckily for us our house is not in a depression (so our antenna wouldn’t have to be too tall), and most of the local channels beam from the CN Tower, which is easily visible from our neighbourhood. The local US stations broadcast from across Lake Ontario, but from a different direction—good, since the strong Canadian signals wouldn’t drown them out. We would actually get two PBS channels, yay!

When we notified Rogers of our plans to leave (because for some reason they need a month’s notice) we got a lot of the expected “hey baby, don’t leave me!”-type calls from them (we had been through this rigmarole before when we switched phone carriers). Interestingly the calls did not also include any great discount deals, so we weren’t even close to tempted. And then, amusingly, after the month was up, we got a pamphlet from Rogers for “New Resident”: Apparently the only possible reason for us quitting cable was that we had moved away!


We’ve been without cable for a couple of months now, and it’s worked out tolerably. After a few days of pouting Jon weaned off his Weather Network reasonably well (with the iPad app to get actual forecast info, and regular forays onto YouTube to hear some of the old, beloved local forecast tunes.)

The one fly in the ointment is the DVR. To my surprise, there isn’t much of a selection of HD-DVR recorders for digital OTA. We have one that is apparently state of the art—when it works it works well, giving us recordings of amazing resolution and quality, from two separate tuners (you can record from two channels at once, woo-hoo!) But the machine is somewhat flawed: The software is buggy, and it occasionally fails to boot (so it can’t record that session) or it crashes for no apparent reason. And due to the manufacturer’s choice of  chipset, it can’t record for more than 45 minutes in any one recording session (though because it has two tuners and can record from both at once, there is a more labour-intensive workaround). Edit: The recording length limitation was due to the format of the external hard drive we had hooked up to the DVR. It was originally PC-formatted, which our Mac computers could easily read and allow us to grab files off the drive. When we formatted the drive to Linux we found we could record to any length but our Macs could no longer read it. We had to purchase software so our computers could read the drive and get files off it. Ain’t technology fun?

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