Ringing In The New Year In A VERY Cold Way

Polar Bear DipFor the last few years, Sunshine has done the Polar Bear Dip every January 1st. Last year I somehow found the guts to try it myself. We were both set to do it again this year when we the morning of January 1st came and the temperature was well above zero. Not only that, but it was pouring rain outside and the thought of waiting with a couple hundred others for our number to be called wasn’t overly appealing.

Sunshine then decided to come up with a new idea…let’s drive to our favourite beach and simply jump into the ocean!!

So that’s what we did. We packed up our swimming gear (and the kids) and took off for the beach. Once there, we decided to live-stream the entire event on Facebook. For those who are inclined, here is the end result…

The Best Television of 2016

Favourite TV Shows of 2016

best-of-the-best

The Walking Dead

 

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Without question, this is my favourite program on television. Believe me; I have heard all of the complaints from people about the show: “I don’t like zombies”; “There aren’t enough zombies in it”; “It looks dumb”.

Listen, at the end of the day this show is about humanity and its spiral into the abyss once the apocalypse hits. Let’s say there weren’t any zombies but a monster virus still killed off 75% of the world’s population, which then led to the destruction of all utilities that we take for granted (ex: electricity, a working government, ability to communicate, etc.). How would the world react? How would people survive? That’s what this show is really about. The zombies are just another obstacle thrown into their way.

the-walking-dead-on-netflixI remember telling my wife about the show for years before she finally decided to give it a shot a couple of months ago. Thanks to Netflix, we’re now firmly entrenched into Season 4 and she’s loving it, even though she’s not a big fan of zombies at all. She loves the character development, the storylines, and the incredible acting…which are all reasons why this is still my top television program.

Game of Thrones

I’m hoping this pops up on Netflix at some point soon because I would LOVE to be able to get my wife into watching it with me. This show is incredible from top to bottom. And while I still have a difficult time trying to keep all of the character names straight, at the end of the day this show has everything you could possibly want in a television program. And honestly, if you watched GoT from the beginning and at the end of the “Hold the door” episode DIDN’T get “all the feels”, then I don’t think we can be friends.

Stranger Things

stranger-thingsI didn’t really know what to expect from this one. The word of mouth spread extremely quickly when it was released, and that normally means it’s over-hyped. Thankfully, my wife and I gave it a shot and were extremely impressed with what we saw. The story was incredibly unique, the acting top to bottom was amazing, and it left us wanting more when the season ended. If you have Netflix and HAVEN’T watched this yet, then you’re really giving yourself a massive disservice.

Orange is the New Black / Wentworth

oitnbAgain…I’m diving into Netflix here because, quite frankly, some of the best original content on television over the course of 2016 came from Netflix. My wife and I originally gave OITNB a chance because I had heard good things about it and she was willing to give me two episodes to convince her it wasn’t softcore pornography. Once Season 3 had ended, we were emotionally heartbroken and shocked…which says that we were both emotionally invested.

wentworthMy wife had also heard about this “Australian version of OITNB” that we should check out. Now that we’re done watching Season 4 of Wentworth, we can honestly say that we love both shows equally and for completely different reasons. Yes, they’re both shows that take place in female prisons, but they are extremely unique and worth watching individually.

This Is Us

this-is-usI wasn’t convinced to watch this show at first, but I caved after a request from my awesome wife. I’ll be honest…it only took one episode to get me hooked. The incredible uniqueness to storytelling with this show is only part of the reason why we both love it so much. As far as “regular” television goes, this show isn’t simply the best new program of 2016, it is far and away the best drama on TV: period. I can’t give away too much because you need to watch from the beginning to truly understand and appreciate the show (sorry…don’t jump in part-way through the series), but just know that the show continues to surprise and suck you in after the first two incredible episodes have completed.

Modern Family 

modern-familyStill, without a doubt in my mind, the best family comedy on television today. While not every episode is a winner, when the show fires on all cylinders there is no better comedy out there. Period.

Masters of Flip

masters-of-flipWhile I may have a massive crush on Kourtney Wilson, that doesn’t really take away from the fact that this is a really entertaining HDTV program. Kourtney and her husband, Dave, are a realtor/designer/construction combo team that take houses and flip them in Nashville. The flips themselves are only part of the appeal of the show, though. The primary appeal comes from the married couple, as their charisma and natural chemistry comes through in every episode. I don’t normally watch renovation programs, but I love this one.

Survivor 

survivorEven after 30+ seasons, the family loves to get together in the living room every Wednesday night and watch Jeff Probst guide a new group of people through an incredibly entertaining season. We love that even after all of this time, the show isn’t stale. This is due to a number of reasons:

  1. The people that they choose to play the game are usually quite interesting;
  2. The themes of each season are always different (for example, this past season was “Millennials vs Gen-X”)
  3. The games played are a blend of physicality and intelligence, sometimes based on previous seasons and sometimes completely original;
  4. The new players are all Survivor fans, so the game play and how votes are cast is a fascinating process to watch; and
  5. Jeff Probst himself, who continues to be the primary reason why this show is so bloody entertaining.

America’s Got Talent

agtThe family also loves getting together to watch normal-yet-talented people do incredibly entertaining things. Sure, it’s fun to watch weird people, too…but to see a vast array of singers, gymnasts, dancers, and performances that don’t fall under any particular category all compete on stage for the same prize. The chemistry of the judges is also fun to watch, too. Oh…and did I mention that Simon Cowell returned to judging, too!?!

MasterChef 

masterchefFinally, this is another show that the family loves to sit around and watch. Whether it’s MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, or MasterChef Canada, the premise of the program and how it’s directed/edited always makes for an entertaining hour of food porn.

*****

What about you? Were there any TV shows from 2016 that you’d like to share some love for? Sound off below!

The Best Movies of 2016

best-of-the-best

Deadpool 

deadpoolI was never a Deadpool comic reader. I had only heard of “The Merc With A Mouth”  in passing from time to time. It wasn’t until the test footage of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool was released that I became 100% on board with the concept. To say that this was a role that Reynolds was born to play would be a massive understatement.

deadpool-2From beginning to end, Deadpool provides a hilarious blend of action, violence, gross-out comedy, and 4th-wall-breaking comedic brilliance that makes this movie one of the most uniquely entertaining you’ll ever see. The story doesn’t suck, either…which really helps this move along.

In a year where the majority of superhero movies failed to live-up to the hype (I’m looking at you, Batman vs Superman and X-Men: Apocalypse), Deadpool exceeded expectations to provide the best movie of the year.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one-1I think it’s fair to say that this movie has exceeded expectations, both critically and financially. The way this movie is selling tickets, it just might end up being the #1 movie of the year at the box office both domestically and internationally. 

But set that all aside…Rogue One is an incredible movie reminiscent of classic war movies like Saving Private Ryan (seriously). The battle sequences are spectacular, the acting is above-par, and the characters are likable and entertaining. You can really tell that director Gareth Edwards was a massive Star Wars fan growing up.

rogue-one-2If you are a Star Wars fan, you’re probably going to end up having this movie in your Top 3 list…it’s that good. If you’re NOT a Star Wars fan, though, I’d still dare say give it a shot. It’s a stand-alone movie that is a prequel to the original Star Wars: A New Hope but doesn’t require a viewing of that film in order to understand what’s going on. 

At the end of the day, selling LucasFilm to Disney has been one of the best things to ever happen to Star Wars. It’s also one of the best things to ever happen to Marvel, too, because the next top movie of the year is…

Captain America: Civil War 

civil-war-1Of course, after finishing the initial blurb up top about how superhero movies disappointed in 2016, I’m jumping right into another superhero movie. No apologies, though…Captain America: Civil War was Marvel’s way of showing DC and Fox how a superhero movie is SUPPOSED to be done. Combining multiple storylines and characters in a way that was both believable and intelligent, Civil War was able to provide a movie experience that did not disappoint. And honestly, have you ever seen a more believable “giant” on screen than Ant-Man at the airport?

The Jungle Book 

the-jungle-bookAs a huge fan of the original (both as a child and again as a parent), I was a little hesitant to give The Jungle Book remake a chance. I’m so glad that I did, though! This movie is as good a live-action adaptation as you’re ever going to find. The CGI is so flawless that you forget you’re not really watching wolves talk to a tiger. And aside from a couple of diversions, the original’s storyline is almost completely followed in this movie. DEFINITELY a must-watch.

Warcraft 

warcraftI might get some flack and eye-rolls for this choice, but I think this movie was massively under-rated. The CGI was flawless, which is important because the majority of the movie was based on CGI-based characters and backgrounds. There were slower moments, to be sure, but for someone like myself who had never played the original game this movie was a very unique fantasy tale. My son absolutely LOVED this movie, so why should I disagree just because it wasn’t the biggest box-office hit of the year?

The Big Short

the-big-shortI honestly wouldn’t be able to explain this movie to you, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find it extremely entertaining. I thought the acting was awesome (it’s really an all-star cast here), the characters were compelling, and the story itself was easy to follow…it was just the details of the story that didn’t make much sense at first. Trust me…you’ll have to see it to truly understand. In a year where there were massive big-budget movies, this was a really welcome choice. 

*****

What were some of YOUR favourite movies in 2016? I’ll be recapping my faves in television and music as the week continues!

 

What to watch on New Year’s Eve (for families)

netflix-2017As you all probably know by now, I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team and I do what I can to promote their services on a monthly basis. I don’t just do this because I have to…I do it because I absolutely LOVE the service and think it’s totally worth the monthly fee.

One more reason to really love Netflix for families is because of what they’re doing for New Year’s Eve. They have gone and created 10 on-demand countdown programs specifically made for kids! This way, the kids get to celebrate with mom and dad and can go to bed before midnight, which can be a win-win for parents who would like to ring-in the new year in a more personal and intimate way.

This year’s on-demand countdown programs include a variety of kids’ programs for different age groups:

0862207f33cfb6ba199fd10bb0db50c8aa1d69d0Word Party
Puffin Rock
Luna Petunia
Beat Bugs
All Hail King Julien
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Skylanders Academy
Trollhunters
Project Mc2
Fuller House
Chasing Cameron

Here is a quick trailer that will give you a sense of what to expect with these countdown shows:

Not only have Netflix helped out parents for New Year’s Eve, but they realize that a lot of parents simply want to sleep-in on New Year’s Day. They have made New Year’s Morning a little bit easier by creating a strategic playlist of shows that kids will want to watch back-to-back and placing them on the Netflix Door Sign!

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Simply put, parents can print and cut out their Netflix Door Sign and hang it on their bedroom door before crashing for the night on the 31st. Parents won’t need to worry about rolling out of bed too early, as those extra zzz’s will come when the kids realize that they can watch back-to-back episodes of the shows that are listed on the door sign! Here is a copy that you can print: Printable Netflix Door Sign

I hope you all had a great holiday season and that you have a very happy new year. I’m looking forward to 2017 and hope you will continue to join me on the blog as we enter another year together. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!15589910_10154652758340985_7478488649261413402_n

What To Watch On Halloween

netflix-halloweenThis will be the first time in years that I’ll be sitting home alone on Halloween. My son will be with his mom and the girls will be out with their mom and her ex. I’ve gone out with all of them before, but I’ve just got so much disgust and anger towards their father right now for how he has treated them over the past few months, I just don’t think I could pretend to have “small talk” with him without bringing up issues and getting into an argument or fight. 

So this means I’ll be home watching TV. The question then becomes…just what do I watch? Thankfully, there are a number of pretty awesome suggestions on Netflix .

If you’re looking for some more “family friendly” things to watch, check out this Stream & Scream Guide:netflix_stream-and-scream

Now if you’re going to be manning the door this Halloween, then you know that you’ll need to pause whatever you’re watching quite a bit. Thankfully, Netflix has provided options of programs to watch specifically for those manning the door!! It’s called the Netflix Pause & Effect list and it’s a quick guide for not only what to watch, but when to watch it!

FriendsFor example, peak Trick-or-Treating time is usually between 7pm and 8pm. You’ll be pausing your program multiple times in order to answer the door. You don’t want to be knee-deep into a great program that you’re trying to really pay attention to because pausing it multiple times will just ruin the “flow” of everything. Netflix understands that and suggests Friends as the option. Brilliant!

stranger-thingsOn the other hand, if you’re up late and the little ghosts and ghouls have all gone to bed, you may want something you can really sink your teeth into. The perfect options suggested are shows like The Walking Dead or the fantastic Stranger Things. These are shows that you’ll want to watch all the way through without distractions or breaks.

Check out the list for yourself!

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I hope you all have a great Halloween!

Where My Shoes Have Taken Me – Apple Picking in the Annapolis Valley

Continuing my blog series of telling my stories through photographs, my most recent family weekend resulted in us going to Windsor, Nova Scotia for some apple picking. We don’t get together with all three kids too often, so we wanted to take advantage of the situation.

Apple Picking 1
I took a moment once I got out of the car to take a quick pic of my SKECHERS. These are the Men’s Relaxed Fit: Blais-Telen. Without a shadow of a doubt, they are the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever owned. The great thing about them is that I feel as good wearing them with pants as I am with wearing them with shorts.
So we wanted to pick some Honeycrisp apples, as they are our favourite type of apple, by far. We ended up at Mason's Apples, located in Windsor, Nova Scotia. This was a massive orchard with multiple types of apples to choose from. And to top it off, it was a gorgeous day...it was just awesome!
So we wanted to pick some Honeycrisp apples, as they are our favourite type of apple, by far. We ended up at Mason’s Apples, located in Windsor, Nova Scotia. This was a massive orchard with multiple types of apples to choose from. And to top it off, it was a gorgeous day…it was just awesome!
I've seen some beautiful apples in my life, but there were some unbelievably red apples to choose from on this day. The orchard was very busy, but we were able to find a pretty good spot all to ourselves.
I’ve seen some beautiful apples in my life, but there were some unbelievably red apples to choose from on this day. The orchard was very busy, but we were able to find a pretty good spot all to ourselves.
It's not often that you get to really enjoy some perfectly ripe apples at a U-Pick. By the time I usually get to one of these, most of the best apples are already taken. Thankfully, that wasn't the case on this day.
It’s not often that you get to really enjoy some perfectly ripe apples at a U-Pick. By the time I usually get to one of these, most of the best apples are already taken. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case on this day.
The kids were even able to grab a small ladder and pick from the top of some of the trees, which is where the best apples were located. They each got to pick apples on their own and everybody got their turn climbing the ladder. We definitely had some happy campers on this day.
The kids were even able to grab a small ladder and pick from the top of some of the trees, which is where the best apples were located. They each got to pick apples on their own and everybody got their turn climbing the ladder. We definitely had some happy campers on this day.
Sunshine was pretty happy with her haul...
Sunshine was pretty happy with her haul…
...as was I!!
…as was I!!
We had a great time, though sometimes I think the parents end up having more fun than the kids do.
We had a great time, though sometimes I think the parents end up having more fun than the kids do.
So when all was said and done, we had two ten-pound bags full of fresh, ripe Honeycrisp apples. But in addition to that, we had spent some memorable time together as a family. And when all is said and done, that's the main reason we went there to begin with.
So when all was said and done, we had two ten-pound bags full of fresh, ripe Honeycrisp apples. But in addition to that, we had spent some memorable time together as a family. And when all is said and done, that’s the main reason we went there to begin with.

Walking With The Dead – Binge Watching on Netflix

the-walking-dead-on-netflixAs October 23rd fast approaches, the millions of The Walking Dead fans are getting more and more excited. Why? Well it’s the debut episode of Season 7, of course!! And we’ll finally get the answer to the question we’ve all been asking ourselves: Who does Negan kill??

I’ve got my theories, but I’m not going to discuss them today. Instead, I’m going to happily let you know that Netflix now has every episode from Season 6 available for you to binge-watch this week!!

Netflix members around the world are making their own rules when it comes to watching TV. Instead of one episode per week, Netflix members choose to binge watch their way through a series – that is, on average, finishing an entire season in one week. Though binge watching is clearly the new normal, not all series are enjoyed the same way. Netflix recently unveiled The Binge Scale, revealing which shows we devour and which we savor.

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Netflix examined the global viewing of more than 100 serialized TV series across more than 190 countries and found that when members are focused on finishing a series, they watch a little over two hours a day to complete a season. As you can imagine, some very interesting trends and patterns can emerge from this data. 

  • stranger-thingsSeries like Stranger Things grab you, assault your senses, and make it hard to pull away.
  • The classic elements of horror and thrillers go straight for the gut, pushing the placement of series like The Walking Dead the devour end of the scale.
  • Likewise, comedies with a dramatic bent, like Orange is the New Black, seem to tickle our fancy and make it easy to say ‘just one more.’
  • Complex narratives like House of Cards are indulged at an unhurried pace.
  • Viewers take care to appreciate the details of dramas set in bygone eras, like Mad Men.

season-6So if you’re anything like me, you’ll be devouring Season 6 of The Walking Dead in an effort to (a) remember a really great season, and (b) mentally prepare yourself for the “shock and awe” that is inevitably going to come from the Season 7 premiere this weekend.

And if you happen to be one of “those people” that don’t have Netflix, what in the world are you waiting for? There is so much for you to watch and re-watch that I just can’t see how it’s possible to NOT find something you’ll like.

But if you are someone that has Netflix, what shows are on YOUR Binge Scale? For me, the list over the past few months has included…

  • luke-cageThe Walking Dead (duh!)
  • House of Lies
  • Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere (seriously!)
  • House of Cards
  • Stranger Things (you HAVE to watch this!!)
  • Luke Cage
  • Archer
  • Making a Murderer

My only problem is that there never seems enough time for me to watch everything I want to, as I still haven’t finished five of the series listed above! That’s okay, though…The Walking Dead with get a thorough binge watch from me this week!