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Podcast ~ Discussing The NHL Playoffs, We Day & Letting Children Explore

CJAD800

I am always excited to join CJAD’s Ric & Suzanne for their “Family Matters” segment and this week we started out by discussing how I am going to convince my son to cheer for the same sports teams I do. From there, I shared my experience from attending Free the Children’s “We Day”.

We also talked about the Ottawa mother who made the difficult decision to leave her severely autistic son at a government office and we also discuss how to build self esteem in your children. You can find the recording below.

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Dad Blogs Exposed! – Luke, I Am Your Father

Dad Blogs Exposed is back this week with a blog that gets my nerdy side excited just by reading it’s name. James is the blogger behind Luke, I Am Your Father and I can’t help but do the Darth Vader voice every time I see it…which greatly confuses my family.

I’m going to stop explaining where I met the Dad Blogger’s each week and you should just start assuming that I met them on Twitter, which is true for 99% of them, including James.

James has been writing LIAYF since 2008, a fact which makes me incredibly sad that I didn’t find out about blogging until this year. You can tell he’s been at it for a while too because his writing style is one that draws you in and leaves you wanting to read more. Then again, he could be an English major and I’m just blowing smoke…Let’s just go with my reason, okay?

We actually have a few things in common too, which is always a draw. Our sons’ names are both named Luke, him Lukas, mine Lucas. He loves bacon. I love bacon. We are both die hard fans of a sports franchise that hasn’t been any kind of good for the past decade. Me with the Montreal Canadiens and James with the Seattle Mariners. Sorry James, the M’s are terrible but the first step to recovery is admitting it.

One of my favourite things about James, is that he understands the value in leaving comments on posts from other bloggers. It’s such an amazing feeling, as a blogger, to open your email and see the “Moderate Comment” message and it’s something I try to do a lot of.

James finds and creates stories out of life’s everyday moments and it’s fascinating to read his take. For an example of this, you need look no further than his post from just this past week, Yard of the Flies. It’s a mirror image of the street I live on but it’s told in a way that I would have never thought of.

In closing, James is a good guy and a great father, and I encourage you to check out his blog at “Luke, I am Your Father“. You can also connect with him on Twitter, my weapon of choice, @SeattleDad.

That’s it for another week of Dad Blogs Exposed! Have a nice day!

Cheers!

Review: Majestic Colonial Punta Cana Resort

My wife and I went to Punta Cana (sans kids) for a friends wedding last year and our stay at the Majestic Colonial was excellent, and only got hampered by an injury that had nothing to do with the resort. Here is my review, in case you are planning a vacation to Punta Cana.

 

Flight: I hate flying and the descent into Punta Cana was the scariest of my life but we landed fine and it was probably the most normal turbulance/air pocket most people encounter. This has nothing to do with the resort but I thought I’d give the entire picture. I’ve also heard that most descents into the Dominican can be rough ones.
Upon landing, 1000 guys try to take your bags for you and utter incoherent gibberish to try to confuse you as they are looking for tips. For you first timers, a firm “No Thanks” is what you have to do or they will keep trying to grab your stuff.

Arrival at Resort: A pleasant crew unload your bags and ask you to check in but before you get to the front desk, you are met with a nice cold towel and a drink, which is a very nice touch. Once you get to the desk, we were met with a pleasant “Hola” and then immediately offered a room upgrade:)) We passed and found that , throughout the week, the more times you say no to the upgrade, the cheaper the rate gets:)

Our Room: We were at the far end of the resort, which is a long walk from the front desk but it also helped me to maintain my original weight throughout the week. Plus we were the only ones in our group with a balcony that offered a great view of the beach. It ended up working out as our group was either at the beach or the swim up pool bar for most of the week and our room was right next to each.

The room was tidy and the shower was amazing, great water pressure and 2 shower heads. Was tough to remember no to drink the water while brushing my teeth but I managed to get through the week without forgetting. The only complaint I had was that our room was at the end of the cleaning route so our room wouldn’t get turned over until late in the afternoon.

Restaurants: This was my favorite part of the trip as I love my food. We tried all the restaurants except the Seafood Place (because I hate Seafood) and the Mexican place, as it got bad reviews by a bunch of people we were with and others we had met. Here is my experience:

Main Buffet: Clean, Stocked and Delicious. There was so much food to choose from that it was hard not to be happy with your selections. If you don’t like pre-cooked food, there were about 4 stations you could go to in order to get food made right in front of you. The bacon was out of this world and I made sure to take full advantage:)) For breakfast, the French Toast was great but my daily routine was visiting the sandwich press operator and getting an amazing Ham, Bacon, Cheese & Mayo sandwich which they put together for you and grilled to perfection.

The lunch selection was fantastic as well but most of our lunches were had at the beach buffet.

Beach Buffet: Less selection than the main but an outdoor buffet that overlooks the beach is too good to pass up. Daily favorite was the Panini station, which is similar to my breakfast sandwich but different ingredients. The cook always made the same joke everyday about putting sardines on the panini and always faked putting some on it but it never got old and he ended up with some pretty good tips from our group:)

Fast Food Place: Hidden down the marketplace alleyway is a divey fast food place which opened from 11pm to 4am and offered all your favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, fries, onion rings and of course, lots of beer. We ended up there on a few occasions and were never disappointed in our orders.

Steakhouse: In the same place as the Beach Buffet, we ate at the Steakhouse twice and had varying results. The first night there, I got the sirloin and was underwhelmed by the taste and texture. The battered pinneapple/chicken skewer appetizer was amazing though. The second trip was much better as I ordered the Chateaubriand andit lived up to it’s billing. I tiped one of the waiters $5 at the beginning of the meal and he basically sat with us the whole dinner, making sure we had everything we needed. Good Dude.

Japanese Experience: The most fun I had at a dinner, make sure you make a reservation for the demonstration and not just a walk in meal. Our cook, Raphael, was great at entertaining and had a sixth sense about when a photo was about to be taken, as he posed perfectly at a secondsd notice. He also looked exactly like Kobe Bryant, which was cool to this sports fan. The food was great and I even tried shrimp and Sushi for the first time. Don’t worry though, they also serve beef and chicken, which is also delicious.

French Gourmet: Saving the best for last, my experience at the Gourmet was the best food I’ve ever had. I ordered the lobster bisk (again a first) and it was good but the Churasco wrapped around asparagus, on top of the best mashed potatoes in the world, made me want to take 5 minutes for every bite. Follow all that up with Red Wine and Creme Brule and it was a food night to remember.

The Beach: The beach was pristine, the servers were prompt and the fish were everywhere for a great underwater experience. We did the Banana Boat Ride for $12 which was worth every penny as the boat driver did everything in his power to throw us from the narrow raft. I did get offered some “good stuff” one of the days but it was more funny than disturbing. No complaints about the beach, I can’t think of anything that could have been improved with it. The sunrise/sunsets are to die for, don’t be afraid to wake up early a couple of days, you won’t be sorry.

The Pool/Swim Up Bar: My crew set up shop daily right across from the swim up bar in the pool. We staked our claim to a particular spot every day and spent a good 4 hours there, playing football and soaking the days away. The staff were good but at certain times seemed disinterested, which was fine by me as they kept up with the drink demands. We met some cool people and befriended some cool British kids, who we shared our football with and in exchange, they taught us some funny slang words:))

The Entertainment: We didn’t go to the resort for the entertainment so it wasn’t a problem for any of us that it was subpar in general. The “Pump Up Crew” they have are kind of cheesy but still fun in general and you can tell they work long, hard hours, even though it seems like their job is just partying. Daily pool side dance lessons and funny drinking contests are all part of the fun.

As for the night time stuff, the Michael Jackson experience lived up to it’s billing and is a must see. The Karaoke nights were a lot of fun and people seemed to really enjoy watching others get up there but they only lasted 1 hour, which was waaaaay too short for such a crowd pleasing event. And the 70/80/90’s dance night was fun for anyone who loves to dance the night away. I didn’t make it to the discoteque but I heard from a lot of people that the guy to girl ratio was like 40 to 1 so for all you single men out there, not the best odds.

The Casino was small and had only a few slot machines and tables. The slot machines couldn’t handle a large volume and often broke down. I wasn’t there to gamble so no big deal.

The Marketplace: There are a number of stores along the walkway and each have varying prices. I got a vibe that they were not the bartering type of shops but found out that everyone has their price so don’t be afraid to try to lower the price a bit.

Once a week, the flea market shops come and set up booths down the walkway and that’s where the real deals are made. I hate haggling but found it easy with the pushy nature of some of these guys. Always trying to give you free stuff to lure you in, don’t take it unless you are going to buy something else. We ended up getting some very good deals and found that an opening price of $95 can easily end at paying $20. Walking away is a strong tactic here, so is changing the game a bit. If they want $25, you say that you’ll give $20 and $2-3 for the seller and their attitude quickly changes to your side. That $2-3 is more than the commission they’ll get for the $5 on the actual price. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing this stuff but I wish I had had this info before hand.

Off Resort Flea Market: We went off the resort about a 5-10 minute walk to the local flea market and had an interesting experience. A lot of people were hesitant about us going off the resort but I checked with our tour rep and the ffront desk and both said it was safe. I never felt uncomfortable at any point and recommend the experience to others.
The first booth I went into, I bartered down a price and even though I paid more than I should have, the seller said to me (after I paid) that he didn’t believe I was Canadian because I was too cheap….and then had the nerve to ask for a $1 commission. Yeah Right! After that, we met a nice Haitian (second shop on the left) who lured us into his shop by telling us he wouldn’t bother us like the other shop owners. He kept his word and his prices were so good, the need to barter was minimal. He also threw in a bunch of extra stuff (shot glasses, bracelets) after I had already paid. Good Salesmanship!!

Overall, good market experience but very tiring to barter for over an hour…

The Medical Center: I wish I hadn’t had to go here but my wife got a very bad sunburn and her ankles & feet got really swollen. I got a feeling like there wasn’t much the Doc was going to be able to do and I was right. He recommended that we go the hospital and we started panicking. Luckily I had travel insurance so the whole ordeal was covered but it was anything but enjoyable. For the record, this was not the resort’s problem and I wouldn’t hold this against my experience with them.

The Doc called an ambulance and we began our 4 hour journey off the resort at midnight in the middle of the DR. Any driving is scary in this place but the ambulance ride with my wife and no seatbelts was the scariest of my life. Flying around cars and crazy turns made my stomach turn. At the hospital, there was very little english and we could only have faith in their medical system as the plugged the IV into my wife’s arm and gave us a bunch of prescription medication for her to bring back to the resort. Scary times for sure but long story short, we got back safely at about 3am, went for fast food and we are now back home and have a new prescription for an allergic reaction. Was a little surprised at the lack of english speaking staff at the hospital though, very scary ordeal, I recommed not getting injured while visiting here:))

Odds & Ends: My friend and I are in a band back home and he brought his guitar. We set up shop in the lower lobby bar one night with about 10 of our friends and played music til about 2 am. No one complained and in fact, people started coming over to sing with us, even the bartender came over, requested La Bamba and then danced on the sofa when we obliged.

Most of the staff were courteous and eager to help out but there were some that seemed disinterested in smiling or putting forth any effort. I always tried to reward the really friendly ones with generous tips but not fully understanding the economic climate there, it was hard to tell if my tips really helped.

I had an issue with the Coffee providers being called “Coffee Boy” and wondered if Coffee Guy or Coffee Man would be a better title but that was just my quirky brain working overtime.

We brought children’s items with us (colouring books, crayons, pens, pencils, etc..) and left them for the cleaning crew and other staff throughout the week. They really seemed to appreciate that and always thanked us daily.

There was a guy on the beach who painted T Shirts and he was really cool and accomodating to any request. I got myself a Montreal Canadiens shirt with a beach scene and “Punta Cana” painted on it. Very Cool.

I can’t think of much else to write about but would like to thank the entire staff at the Majestic Colonial for a wonderful week and an amazing experience. We will definitely be back and are already trying to convince some of our friends to get married so we have an excuse:))

PS – DO NOT lose your towel….$25 is a hefty replacement fee:))