2022 Summer Vacation: Part Five – The French Quarter

Once settled in the Omni Royal Orleans, we wanted to immediately explore the French Quarter. In this piece, I’d like to address some notable sites, restaurants, shopping, and tours. Before we get started, through, I found the French Quarter fascinating. In many ways, it was like traveling to another world. It is truly a culture unto itself, the architecture is amazing, and the streets feel as though you’ve gone backwards in time. However, I won’t lie–it is not a clean place. There are homeless everywhere. The sidewalks are uneven with holes, litter, and occasionally human waste. A smell permeates the area. Even so, the French Quarter oozes charisma. In my experience, there’s nowhere else like it. That being said, I don’t think we’ll be back anytime soon. All right, let’s get started with the final 2022 Summer Vacation article!

Sites

St. Louis Cathedral/Jackson Square – the two go hand-in-hand, so I’m going to lump them together. We thoroughly enjoyed the exterior of the St. Louis Cathedral. Frankly, even through we could, it never dawned on me to go inside. Upon retrospect, I wish we had. In truth, I found myself a little surprised by the amount of homeless and tarot card readers in front of it. I think that’s why we walked by, took it in, and then kept moving. Jackson Square is a historic park in front of the church and we found it exquisite. We were comfortable taking our time to explore the square. The mighty Mississippi exists just a few steps beyond Jackson Square, so we made our way up the steps to a viewing area.

Ignatius Reilly Statue – Located at 819 Canal St. between Bourbon and Dauphine, Ignatius can be found in front of the closed (abandoned?) Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, this is the main character from a novel called A Confederacy Of Dunces. I read the book years ago and loved it, which meant I obviously had to seek out this statue and get my picture with it. Unfortunately–and perhaps ironically–the homeless surrounded the statue. If my two young daughters were not with me, I would have gotten my picture with it, but it didn’t feel like a terribly safe spot to linger with children in tow.

Bourbon Street – After our visit to the Ignatius statue, we walked Bourbon Street back to our hotel’s area. Keep in mind that it was only around three in the afternoon. I wanted my daughters to be able to say they saw Bourbon Street, but I also wanted the most sanitary version possible. Luckily, they got to experience the incredible music, general elation, and fun-loving crowds without the unsuitable debauchery more likely at night. (Pay no attention to the Flamingo water bottle in the above picture. It’s a work thing involving my wife.)

Restaurants

I won’t lie to you–we had a very difficult time finding places to eat in the French Quarter. This is not because there weren’t plenty of options, but rather because we had trouble finding someplace with both the atmosphere, menu, and prices we preferred. Here are a few notable places we enjoyed.

Royal House – We chose this spot virtually right outside our hotel’s door primarily because we didn’t have to wait for a table and the menu appealed to us. As most of the restaurants in the French Quarter, it had an open air format, meaning that you entered through the front door but there were many other doors open as well that led to the sidewalks. We generally liked our food here and our waitress proved very friendly. My oldest daughter and I happened to see a mouse skirt out of the kitchen, look around, and then race back in. Of course, open doors, food, extremely old buildings–this kind of thing is going to happen. I kept eating. My daughter did not.

Ruby Slipper Café – There are a several Ruby Slippers throughout New Orleans. I have to admit that this was probably my favorite meal in the French Quarter. I highly recommend visiting their website and getting on their waitlist. We visited one morning for brunch and had to wait about an hour–extremely popular spot. Our waitress, though a little forgetful, was quite likeable. Best of all? The kids liked their food here.

Shopping

While we popped into several shops, there were three that really made a good impression on us.

Nola Kids and Nola, Jr – These were two children’s giftshops right next to each other. The first was primarily aimed at older kids, the second appealed to younger children’s tastes. We found the store clerks and the merchandise charming. Though eclectic, all of it certainly captured my youngest daughter’s interests.

Little Toy Shop – Again, another children’s store. I have to be honest, this was a quaint little toy store off Jackson Square. They had a very cool assortment of collector items, toys specific to New Orleans, and general mainstream toys. Both of my kids found little souvenirs here.

Fleurty Girl – This little gift shop on Chartres Street had a bit of everything. We found the shopkeeper extremely friendly, the merchandise humorous, and the whole place’s vibe quite lighthearted. We didn’t buy anything, but we most certainly could have. I only mention it because of all the stores we popped into, this one made a definite, positive, impression upon us.

Tours

Though we only stayed two days, the two tours we took made the whole trip worthwhile. I have nothing but good things to say about both of them.

New Orleans City and Cemetery Tour – We booked this tour through Gray Line, and we loved it. The two and a half hour bus tour covered the City Park and Café du Monde, Lake Pontchartrain, and a New Orleans cemetery. Our guide, Jim, was an absolute delight. His knowledge, humor, and general demeanor made the tour a blast. Furthermore, our driver, Dwayne, made us feel safe and in good hands the entire time. Our tour stopped by a Café du Monde in the City Park where we enjoyed delicious beignets and cafe au lait. We then moved on to a city cemetery where we walked around and learned fascinating pieces of information about the local cemeteries’ construction, as well as a few of that particular cemetery’s more notable inhabitants. We then drove by Lake Pontchartrain while gaining insights. Jim, who once taught at the University of Illinois, truly made the tour entertaining, educational, and memorable. This was by far my favorite thing we did in the French Quarter.

Ghost and Vampire Tour – Finally, my oldest daughter had only one request while in the French Quarter–a ghost and vampire tour. Though there were many, many choices available, we settled on French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours. Our guide, Phil, walked us through the French Quarter streets while explaining to us not only the historical atrocities that occurred, but the supernatural results. It was very cool to tour the side streets of the French Quarter with a lifelong inhabitant, and it was also incredible to learn about some of the truly bizarre occurrences that have taken place over the centuries. Do I believe the supernatural tales Phil shared? Perhaps not, but I definitely believe the horrific things on public record that he detailed for us, and that was far scarier to me than the ghost stories! By the way, just to be clear, I’d like to say that this tour was absolutely appropriate for my ten-year-old. At one point Phil was concerned a story might be too graphic, so he specifically warned us that we might want to cover our daughter’s ears. We did, and it turned out that she could have handled the story, but we appreciated his kindness. By the way, my oldest daughter loved this tour.

That concludes our 2022 Summer Vacation! Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you found these articles helpful. As always, feel free to leave any comments or questions.

2022 Summer Vacation: Part Four – Omni Royal Orleans

Originally, my family vacation plan would have ended at Gulfport, Mississippi. As I presented the idea to my family, my wife suggested we go ahead and zip over to New Orleans because of its proximity–more specifically, the French Quarter. (Thank goodness she did, because Gulfport missed with us.)

Because my wife felt excited about the French Quarter, she took over the hotel hunt. She eventually landed on Omni Royal Orleans. We took a look at the location on the map, the pictures, and the reviews, which all led us to believe it would be a great fit.

The French Quarter is a series of one-way streets because they are obviously not very wide. This actually made getting to the hotel pretty easy. We had a fantastic start in the parking garage. The valet wore a bright smile, displayed an wonderful attitude, and could not have been more friendly. As our first point of contact with the hotel, he made an excellent initial impression.

We also had a good check in experience. We especially enjoyed the nearby bellhops. They were instantly joking around with us and made us feel very welcome. In fact, later on, one of them gave us a map and offered his advice on what we should do and where we should visit.

The Omni Royal Orleans is a fancy place, especially for being nestled into a very tight, very old, and very boisterous area. We definitely enjoyed the opulence.

Consequently, our room also pleased us. Again, we understood this was an old area and so we were expecting a nice but well-worn room. It actually exceeded our expectations! Definitely clean, bigger than we anticipated, with a fantastic balcony (or should I say “gallery”?). Check out our view!

After settling into our room, we headed up to experience the rooftop observatory and pool. You can see the pool at the top of the article. Here are some pictures from the observatory area …

Needless to say, we were very happy with our hotel … on that first day.

That night, at about 12:30 in the morning, we were awakened by quite a bit of <ahem!> moaning.

Okay, here’s the thing: we’re in the French Quarter. Bourbon Street is literally a block away from our hotel. We’re in a hotel. That kind of thing is going to happen and can literally happen at any hotel at any time. But this went on for two hours. Two hours! (Insert your own joke here.)

We have two kids. One of them is a teenager and we weren’t all that concerned about whether or not she heard it–we knew she’d laugh it off. However, our other child is ten. The ruckus didn’t wake her up, but we weren’t all that sure we wanted to tempt fate two nights in a row.

Therefore, my wife approached the front desk the next morning in order to request a new room as well as an early check out–a day early, in fact. (More on this in the next article focusing on the French Quarter, but, in a nutshell, we decided two days were enough for us.) I knew we’d get some pushback on the day early check out; I did not expect any trouble with the new room.

Essentially, the Omni Royal Orleans manager told my wife that this is the French Quarter and such things should be expected. He then asked her why she didn’t call security. (Maybe I’m too understanding, but calling security on folks in the middle of that seems a little harsh.) In other words, instead of the customer always being right, my wife felt as though she was being interrogated and even blamed. He then said we could leave a day early, but there would be a fee equal to the amount of the night’s stay.

As you’ve gathered, I wasn’t there for this exchange–I stayed with the kids in our room. When my wife came up and explained the situation to me, I developed a plan for stating our case that I would execute that afternoon. At the moment, though, we hadn’t had breakfast, we were all hungry, and we just wanted to go eat.

While at breakfast, we actually received a text from the hotel asking us if we were happy with the new room (we were) and declaring that we could check out a day early at no cost if we still desired. I replied that we would still like to check out and thanked them for accommodating us. Why couldn’t that have been the case to begin with and avoid the bad feelings? I don’t know.

When we checked out the next morning, I asked for a receipt in order to make sure we weren’t being charged any kind of fee, and we weren’t. The Omni Royal Orleans kept their word to us (which I had in writing in the form of a text, by the way).

Our check out went very smoothly, as did retrieving our vehicle from the valet service. Leaving the French Quarter and New Orleans also proved uneventful.

While I wish the gentleman working with my wife had handled the situation differently, I still highly recommend the Omni Royal Orleans.

2022 Summer Vacation: Part Three – Gulfport, Mississippi

As you know from previous entries, my family and I elected to hit Gulfport, Mississippi, because it was within driving distance and I really wanted to visit a beach. I read online that the town is nice, the beach is nice, and the water is nice. Sounds perfect, right? I guess it’s all relative, though, isn’t it?

I’ve already written about my thoughts on our resort, the Oasis. Today’s article will cover the beach, the town, the restaurants, and the attractions.

The town: As we rolled into the outskirts of Gulfport, I got a bad feeling. I could tell right away that it wasn’t the typical kind of beach town I associate with places like Myrtle Beach. It looked a little old, rundown, and unkempt. I kept hoping things would improve the closer we got to the beach, but, in my opinion, they did not. Let me say that I’m sure it’s a fine town with fine people, but it’s just not the beautiful vacation destination the online pictures depicted.

The beach: Our first morning there, a Sunday, we woke up and left to take a stroll on the beach. We knew we had to cross a highway to get to it from our resort, and that went fine. There were crosswalks and “Walk” signals, etc. I also knew it was a manmade beach. However, as soon as we got on the sand, we knew something was up. There was NOT a soul on it with us. At nine in the morning … nobody. We quickly noticed that there weren’t any waves. This is because of the barriers further out. We also noticed that, up close, the water looked pretty brown. That made sense due to the Mississippi River’s impact. What we didn’t count on was the garbage from the night before. Water bottles, beer bottles, glass, debris–all kinds of stuff. Okay, it was a Saturday the night before–party night. I got it. Surely it would look better on a Monday morning or a Tuesday morning. But then the nail in the coffin arrived. If you look in the below picture, you’ll see an enormous pipe. These things occurred about every 100 feet. They didn’t look good, so I wouldn’t let my kids even walk in the water until I knew what they were all about. We were later told that these pipes drained the city’s storm water. Yes, you read that right. All of the storm water from the city is flushed out onto their beach, where people are swimming. Needless to say, we did all of our swimming at the Oasis. That was our only visit to the beach, which was supposed to be the entire reason we were there. My lesson? Accept no substitutes when it comes to beaches–go to the real deal.

Restaurants: I already addressed the Oasis’ two restaurants that were very good, but we also tried a few restaurants in Gulfport’s downtown area. Here’s something we knew about the area before arriving–they have a large homeless population. I only mention that because it will soon be pertinent.

Half Shell Oyster House: The Half Shell Oyster House had very good reviews so we thought we would start with it. We loved the interior, ended up sitting in a great spot on the upper level, had a fantastic waiter, and enjoyed the food. My daughters particularly loved their dessert. We definitely recommend. I do have to note, though, that on our way out we were greeted by a homeless man. He remained seated and was perfectly pleasant, but thought I would mention it because the homeless were common in this area.

Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria: The kids were ready for good old fashioned pizza, so an Internet search led us to believe Tony’s was the way to go. It was also in the downtown area, not far from Half Shell Oyster house. Tony’s is on a side street and is fairly small. It appeared as though it could seat maybe fifty people at the most. Though we were seated quickly, it took our waitress twenty minutes to bring us water. On the one hand, we felt bad for her because she seemed to be handling phone and online orders as well, but we definitely felt as though we were an afterthought. To make matters worse, a gentlemen who seemed to be either high or mentally unstable came in and out of the restaurant no less than fifteen times. He wanted to use people’s cell phones, he wanted water, he wanted a car ride–in, out, in, out, in, out. The staff finally had to stand at the door and try to keep him from coming all the way in, and at that point it got very tense. The police finally showed up after about thirty minutes of this. Within three minutes, they cuffed him and stuffed him into the squad car. I have no idea if the pizza was any good or not. I was so rattled by the whole thing that I couldn’t eat. Very weird situation.

The Rack House Steak & Spirits: Across the street from Half Shell Oyster House, The Rack House Steak & Spirits also had an excellent ambiance. Our waitress was exceedingly friendly and even answered questions we had about the 4th of July fireworks taking place that night. We were very pleased with both the food and the service.

Attractions

The fireworks: Speaking of which, my idealistic fantasy before we actually arrived in Gulfport was to walk about a mile down the beach from our resort towards the downtown area where the fireworks were going to be detonated. Well, after the pizza ordeal as well as the many, many people setting off their own fireworks on the beach, we decided to stay on the grounds at the Oasis and watch what we could. We could see and hear the fireworks pretty well, but they didn’t last very long nor were they all that impressive.

Gulfport Premium Outlets: We learned an outlet mall existed not too far away from us, so we decided to check it out. My kids were not interested in the beach, we’d already been swimming at the Oasis pool that day, and walking around downtown Gulfport was not going to happen anymore. Even though it was pretty hot, we gave it a look. We loved it! The Gulfport Premium Outlets had some great stores and we found some awesome deals. My oldest daughter particularly loved a video game store that had a little bit of everything pop culture and video game related. I highly recommend this mall if you’re in the area.

While we met a lot of very nice people, we don’t plan on visiting Gulfport again. Outside of a few good restaurants and a great mall, it didn’t really appeal to us, and, let’s be honest, we don’t need to drive twelve hours to experience a mall and a few good restaurants. I do wish we had checked out their aquarium. It’s supposed to be very good, but so was everything else I’d read online about the area.

2022 Summer Vacation: Part Two – Oasis Resort

The first destination point during our summer 2022 vacation could be found in Gulfport, Mississippi, at the Oasis Resort.

How did I choose the Oasis Resort, you ask? Simple. I Google “nice family beach within driving distance.” Guess what came up?

I’ll talk more about Gulfport in a future entry, but all of the travel websites raved about Oasis Resort in the Centennial Plaza. I checked out the pictures, read the reviews, and figured it looked like a good place to try. After all, it has its own water park (as you can see in the pictures above taken from our room window), and the beach was literally just across the street. I was personally excited to get back to a beach, but I figured if the family got tired of the sand, we could hit our resort’s water park. Win/Win, right?

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. When we rolled into Centennial Plaza, we were impressed. The grounds were nicely kept with interesting architecture. As it turns out, the entire plaza was once a Naval training camp! We found the check-in building next to the water park, headed in, and got our key cards. It wasn’t the friendliest of check-ins, but I was also finishing up a long day of driving, so I figured maybe I just wasn’t in a great mood.

We found our particular building, also next to the water park, and walked by a guy smoking a cigarette by the front doors in order to get in. (This became a regular occurrence, but not with the same guy.) We then took a small elevator to the third floor and found our room.

We’re the kind of family who really enjoys the suite life. Therefore, when I saw Oasis offered a room with a kids suite, I jumped on it. The kids get their own space with a bunk bed? Very cool! Except that suite was nothing more than a VERY small area with a six foot partition separating it from our portion of the otherwise standard hotel room. The online pictures were extremely misleading–they made this room look three times bigger than it actually was.

We were also greeted with stained sheets on my daughter’s bed. We’re not sure what it was, but it almost looked like motor grease. We immediately called down to get new sheets brought up. This, too, was a bit of a fiasco, but it gone done.

Okay, not the smoothest of starts. The family was not terribly pleased with the room, and, honestly, I wasn’t either.

You may remember that I mentioned towels being an issue with my inaugural entry for this series. We stayed several nights at the Oasis Resort, and getting four fresh towels each morning proved a challenge even Heracles couldn’t accomplish. One morning they didn’t give us enough. Another morning they were completely out–their supply truck hadn’t arrived. It was a little crazy. How can towels be an issue at a resort every single day we stayed there?

However, there were also several bright points.

The water park was amazing. With two big water slides, a zero entry pool, and a 900 foot lazy river, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Plus, they opened at 9:00 a.m. and closed at 9:00 p.m., so we would enjoy it in the mornings before it got crowded and then in the evenings as it started thinning out. Be aware, though, that there is a bar located in the pool and so as the day goes on you tend to find cups lining the lazy river and popsicle sticks floating in the water.

They also had some very good restaurants on the premises. One of our favorite meals during the entire vacation occurred at The Blue Marlin. The food was excellent, but we happened to have a very large, very drunk group a few tables over that made it hard for us to hear ourselves think, much less hold a conversation. The Oasis Grill also proved a good spot for food on the grounds. We ate breakfast there one morning and truly enjoyed it. While our waitress was very friendly, we found the hostesses a little disengaged if not slightly hostile. If that’s the case for you, stick it out and wait for the food–it’s worth it!

Finally, Centennial Plaza has a wonderful fountain that lights up at night while spraying water in coordination with music playing. Here’s a picture we took.

In the end, Oasis Resort was a fun place to visit, but I wouldn’t make it a destination spot. If you happen to be passing through or in the area for something else, it’s an entertaining attraction with good food and good fun for the whole family.

2022 Summer Vacation: Part One – Drury Plaza Hotel Cape Girardeau Conference Center

Really? You’re writing about a Drury hotel to kick off your 2022 summer vacation editorial series?

Yes, I am. Because the place was just that good.

Let me provide a little context. My family and I planned to leave Friday afternoon on July 1st in order to visit Gulfport, Mississippi before moving on to New Orleans. We knew we wouldn’t get far so late in the day, so we decided we’d stop at Cape Girardeau’s Drury Plaza Hotel Conference Center because it looked nice, had a happy hour with free food and drink, and provided a free breakfast, too. During our travels of late, those things are no longer the norm. Furthermore, it appeared to have an indoor pool, which my youngest loves.

Once we arrived, we were thrilled. The employees were fantastic from the check-in desk to the food area to the bar. As we ate, they checked on our satisfaction multiple times. We arrived with only thirty or so minutes to spare, so the bartender recommended we go ahead and get our three free drinks up front to be sure we didn’t miss out on them.

Our room was clean, comfortable, well decorated, and had towels to spare (you’ll find this won’t be the case in future entries).

In fact, we loved this location so much that we made sure to make it our stopping point on the drive home.

In our travels since the pandemic, we’ve had a hard time finding good service, clean rooms, stocked supplies, and free meals. Cape Girardeau’s Drury Plaza Hotel Conference Center checked all of those boxes! From now on, we’re definitely looking at Drury Hotels first when traveling.

Looking For a Show In Chicago? I Recommend The Play That Goes Wrong

My good friend urged us to see The Play That Goes Wrong during our spring break trip to Chicago because he and his family saw it in New York and they all loved it. He even went so far as to say he would buy me a steak dinner if I saw it and didn’t like it!

Well, good news for him — he doesn’t have to buy me a steak dinner.

We attended The Play That Goes wrong on a Tuesday night at the Broadway Playhouse, which is part of the Water Tower Place. An intimate theater, it didn’t appear as though the Broadway Playhouse had a bad seat to be found! We managed to get front row seats which made for an even better experience.

The Play That Goes Wrong is a play within a play about a murder occurring in an era similar to that of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. The actors are quite intent on delivering a deeply complex mystery, but, unfortunately, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Misplaced props, items falling off walls, inabilities to stay in character, personal injuries, a faulty set — nothing goes right for these poor characters or the actors portraying them.

In fact, the controlled chaos is actually rather amazing. I’m not going to spoil any of it, but the engineering necessary to make this play “go wrong” is nothing short of genius. I’ve personally never seen anything quite like it live and on stage.

But, of course, the play will be a hit with your family due to the nonstop laughs. As my wife noted, there are literally no slow or dull moments in The Play That Goes Wrong. It moves at a frenetic pace and will surely entertain both young and old alike.

So, if you’re looking for a comedic, family-friendly show to take in while in Chicago, I absolutely recommend The Play That Goes Wrong.

(If it helps, I got our tickets through Ticketmaster and found my parking spot through SpotHero.)

Netflix’s Midnight Mass – A Few Thoughts

Though it took me a bit to find the time, I was very excited to watch Midnight Mass on Netflix. Midnight Mass is created by Mike Flanagan, who also created The Haunting Of Hill House and The Haunting Of Bly Manor. In fact, you’ll find several of the same actors in all three shows.

Like his previous work, Midnight Mass is a slow burn of a show that, in the end, is well worth your time. Flanagan deems it necessary to invest the viewer in his characters, but he can only do this by forcing the viewer to spend time with said characters. By the penultimate episode, we know these characters inside and out, which in turn makes the final two episodes all the more seismic. We care about them. We care what they do. We care about what happens to them. And trust me, a lot happens to them.

The premise is this: after spending several years in jail for vehicular homicide, an otherwise decent man returns to his hometown located on a tiny, isolated island near what I presume to be the east coast. Around the same time, a new priest arrives at their tiny church. This new priest replaces their ancient, regular priest, who is presumably ill after travelling to the main land. This new priest is charismatic, empathetic, and passionate. He incites a fresh religious fervor on the island, and before too long miracles begin to happen. True miracles. But why are these miracles happening, just who is this new priest, and why are so many stray cats being drained of blood?

You’re going to figure this show out quite quickly, and that’s okay–that’s totally okay. It’s okay because it’s not the traditional “horror” aspect of it that made it so great for me. For me, Midnight Mass explores those grey areas that infiltrate our lives on a daily basis. It examines what exactly it takes for otherwise good people to embrace heinous behavior. Best of all, it also dives into why some people, when they have every excuse in the world to do evil things, still hold tight to their personal morals.

Midnight Mass will absolutely offend many, especially Christians. (For the record, I identify as a Christian–Lutheran, to be precise. That last bit probably comes as no surprise.) The extended metaphor throughout the series reflects hypocritical Christian behavior during the last several years. I’ll leave it up to you to connect those dots.

The fact that Midnight Mass was willing to take on such controversial subject matter, to really, in some ways, flirt with sacrilege–I found it quite daring. For me, a story is a story. Midnight Mass in no way made me doubt or question my faith. I am able to experience it for what it is–a well-paced, well-executed, unique horror story that dared to call into question Christian behavior. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for we Christians to think long and hard about our actions, beliefs, and purpose.

Of course, were it not for Hamish Linklater, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed Midnight Mass so much. He plays the new priest in town, Father Paul. Linklater lights up the screen. He is frenetic, magnetic, deeply likeable, and burning with passion. I can’t believe I haven’t seen Linklater before, but he immediately struck me as an extremely talented actor.

Of course, Kate Siegel is in Midnight Mass as well. Mike Flanagan utilizes Siegel in most of his work. She plays a pregnant woman who has also recently returned to town. She moves into the home she hated as a child, took over the teaching job of the mother she hated, and is fully prepared to spend the rest of her life on that island. Little does she know the vital role she will soon play.

Other Flanagan favorites include Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, and Alex Essoe. These are all superb role players who know how to make their characters shine. There’s a reason Flanagan keeps bringing them back for every project. This includes The Newton Brothers, by the way, who write some of the best scores out there.

In the end, I think Midnight Mass will divide its audience. I loved the acting, the boldness, the genre mashing, the characterization, and the entire premise. However, I certainly could understand if someone didn’t like it for religious reasons. In the end, there’s only one way to know for sure. Give it a watch, and let me know what you think.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 For Nintendo Switch – A Few Thoughts

If you follow my writings, you may remember that I returned to video games last January after taking a twenty year hiatus. I started with Link’s Awakening, then took on Super Mario Odyssey, and finally found the courage for Breath Of the Wild. I heard the news that another favorite property of mine is due to release in October — Metroid: Dread. As I anxiously await that moment, I thought I’d tackle a highly recommended game called Luigi’s Mansion 3.

As I stated with Super Mario Odyssey, I wasn’t a big fan of Mario and Luigi growing up. I was never particularly good at Super Mario Bros. Of course, Odyssey proved an absolute blast and showed me the waywardness of my thinking. If Luigi’s Mansion 3 proved half as fun as Odyssey, I’d have a great time.

And the truth is — I had a great time indeed!

I won’t say I liked Luigi’s Mansion 3 as much as Odyssey, but I certainly had a ton of fun playing it. I was totally unfamiliar with Luigi’s Mansion, so, if you’re like me, you may need a bit of catching up. Luigi, Mario, and friends are headed to a beautiful hotel. It is suddenly overrun by ghosts. King Boo takes Luigi’s friends and family hostage. Luigi, who is completely terrified throughout the game, must use some cool inventions given to him to clear the hotel of ghosts, level by level, until he can finally rescue his loved ones.

Honestly, it’s a little bit Ghostbusters, a little bit Casper, a little bit Haunted Mansion, and a whole lot of good times. The ghosts were super creative throughout the game, especially each level’s main villain. You might get a jump scare here and there, but, for the most part, the game is pretty funny and lighthearted. The graphics are crisp and the gameplay is both intuitive and fluid.

I especially liked that it’s not a particularly hard game. I had to look a few things up on the Internet, but overall, it’s a quick, breezy game that doesn’t demand too much commitment from you. After Breath Of the Wild, that was very much appreciated!

The game actually keeps track of how much time you spend playing it, which I thought was a really cool feature. I beat it in about 25 total hours. Keep in mind that I’m the guy constantly searching for coins, gems, and those kinds of things. I’ll pull down every curtain and flip every garbage can in search of treasure. That sort of thing eats up a lot of time, but I love the exploring aspect of video games.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 only cost me $40 (it was on sale), and I didn’t regret buying it for a single moment. If you’re looking for a fast, enjoyable, lighthearted game to pass the time, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is for you.

Stitch Fix For Men – A Successful Experiment

I recently started a new career in the corporate world, one that allows me to be a bit more daring than my previous profession in education. As a teacher, I always tried to dress rather conservatively. I didn’t want to stand out too much. It’s daunting enough to face down 150 teenagers every day–I didn’t want my clothing to be a topic of their interest.

However, while I knew I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe and expand my style, I didn’t know where to begin. I’ve never been great at shopping, making outfits, or seeing the possibilities in clothing. Most of my outfits came from Kohls, Target, and sometimes Amazon. While they were nice enough, they were fairly bland and similar to what every other man in my community wore.

Somewhere around the time I accepted my new position I saw an advertisement for Stitch Fix For Men. I knew of Stitch Fix. My wife had tried it several years ago. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t aware they had a division aimed specifically at men. I visited their website and saw great potential. The outfits looked good, fit my desired style, and would be sent right to my front door. It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

As I filled out my profile questionnaire at their website, I was able to describe my tastes, my wants, my dislikes, my preferred fits, my texture preferences, my favorite colors, and so much more. I was even able to detail the fact that I was starting a new job and wanted a focus placed upon business casual. I told them I would like blazers coupled with business casual shirts, pants, and shoes.

I got an email from Stitch Fix For Men showing me what my stylist, Caitlin, had chosen for my first “fix.” I had a list of about ten items and I could choose up to five. If I only saw three that I liked, I’d have to accept her judgement on two choices that I wouldn’t have a chance to review. In this particular case, I easily found five items I liked from the provided list.

A bit later, my first “fix” arrived right on my doorstep! Caitlin hit a homerun. Everything looked great; everything fit great. If I didn’t like any of the items, Stitch Fix For Men provided a prelabeled envelope to return those items in. However, if you stick with all five, you get a big discount. In fact, you don’t even pay until after you receive the items.

So far, out of four “fixes,” I’ve kept all five items per “fix” that Caitlin picked for me. My only slight complication arrived when I received a shirt sized too big for me, but the exchange for the proper size could not have been simpler.

Stitch Fix For Men is the perfect situation for me. I get a variety of styles that mix and match well together. My stylist is sending me things specifically filling my needs, and I even get the opportunity to provide feedback on fits, cuts, and styles. They also provide cards with each clothing item you receive showing you how to pair it with other styles that might be in your closet.

Finally, you can set the frequency at which you’d like to get your “fixes.” I go about once a month, but you can alter your schedule according to your needs or budget.

As you can see, Stich Fix For Men is the perfect “fix” to my current situation. Though I would love to, I’m not sure I’ll stick with it perpetually due to cost. However, in terms of providing an almost instant wardrobe, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. In fact, I’ve included snapshots below of everything that I’ve received so far.

If Stitch Fix For Men sounds like a good fit for you, check them out at this address: https://www.stitchfix.com/men

HBO Max’s All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star – A Few Thoughts

HBO Max continues to air shows from BBC, this time with All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star. We picked this show to watch as a family. Like with Full Bloom, The American Barbecue Showdown, Blown Away, and The Great British Baking Show, we are fascinated by makers making things and being very nice to one another while doing so.

All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star isn’t something I initially thought I would enjoy. I honestly brought it up to my daughters because they are crafty and what could be more crafty than making jewelry, right? However, as soon as they started their first task, I was hooked. As I watched, I realized I had no idea how jewelry got made–I always took it for granted. Seeing the process proved fascinating. I couldn’t get enough.

Best of all? Like with the above mentioned shows, all of the contestants are both very talented and very cordial. They support each other, encourage one another, and conduct themselves respectably. I won’t spoil the ending, but my favorite contestant actually won, and I also believe this contestant to be the most pleasant of all the very pleasant people.

Each show is broken into two parts. The first part is a “Best Seller” challenge. The jewelers are given a brief, and then they must craft a piece of jewelry that both fits that brief and would be a bestseller in a jewelry store. This can be a difficult task because while the piece must be skillfully made and original, it also has to be mainstream enough to appeal to the masses.

The second part of each episode is always my favorite, and it’s called “The Bespoke.” In this portion, the jewelers must create a sentimental piece specifically made for a special person. Seeing the joyful reactions of the recipients, as well as the winning jeweler’s emotional response, is always a moment guaranteeing the feels.

I understand that on paper this show may not sound like your thing, but trust me when I tell you that it is well made, the participants are engaging to watch, the pieces are exquisite to behold as they evolve from nothing into heirlooms, and the whole tone of the show is simply a joy.

You can find All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star on HBO Max.