From Medieval Times to Pirates Voyage

I remember it as one of the more magical times of my childhood. When I was in third grade, my parents took our family to Disneyland. One night, my mom and dad took us off Disney property and whisked us away to Medieval Times. I had heard about the place from friends and I had seen it in movies so I was excited from the start. Amazingly so, at the end of the evening, my wildest expectations were exceeded.

It was, to put it simply, an experience. From eating delicious food with our hands to cheering on our knight to watching the show itself, I will always remember it as a very special couple hours. I still remember vividly that we were given green crowns and had to pull for the villain of the show (who appropriately lost) but it didn’t matter. Just to be in that arena is something I will never forget.

As a chubby third grader, I had a wonderful time at Medieval Times.

Fast forward a couple decades and I don’t quite share the enthusiasm for Medieval Times that I once did. I live in a tourist town that is saturated with themed dinner shows, including a Medieval Times location practically in my backyard. With all the actors about 15 years younger than me, the show doesn’t hold the mystique that it once did. Up until last week, I had not attended one of these quote/unquote “tourist traps” since I moved to Myrtle Beach.

That was about to change.

Our area boasts a show called Pirates Voyage. Staged in an arena with ships and a deep lagoon pool, buccaneers thrill audience members as they duel it out for hidden treasure. The show is extremely popular and plays for sold-out crowds throughout tourist season. But when the visitors go home for the year, the pirates have to appeal to a much tougher demographic…locals.

Last week, needing a crowd to sword fight in front of, Pirates Voyage offered a local appreciation promotion. Those of us who call Myrtle Beach home could buy heavily discounted tickets. If there was ever the perfect opportunity for all of us in Sidney’s family to see the show, now was the time. The 12 of us (Sidney’s parents, her two sisters, their significant others, two nephews, one niece, and the three Resers) purchased a row of seats and marked our calendars for Friday night.

This is Pirates Voyage, a dinner/show concept in Myrtle Beach.

Even though attending one of these shows wasn’t high on my list, once we committed to going I started to get pretty pumped for it. I probably drove my wife’s family crazy with the hourly countdown I would send to the group message thread, complete with pirate photos. By the time we walked through the doors on Friday, I was ready to be entertained.

Throughout the day on Friday, I tried to get everyone as hyped as I was for Pirates Voyage.

And entertained I was!

Although Sloan proved to be distracting at times throughout the show, the portion I did get to see was pretty good. You had fire, diving, fighting, singing, and more theatrics than you could ever want. Much to my joy, we weren’t just watching the normal Pirates Voyage show…we were watching the Pirates Voyage Christmas show! You still had all the pirate stuff but there was also “A Christmas Carol” component woven into the plot and a beautiful Nativity scene as well. Although still a little early in my books, it did the trick in igniting the holiday spirit within my soul.

The Pirates Voyage show we watched on Friday had a Christmas component woven in.

But the show wasn’t even the best part. I gorged on the food, devouring the different courses placed in front of us. From the cheese biscuit to the creamy soup to the corn on the cob to the potato to the BBQ pork to the apple turnover at the end, it really hit the spot – so much so that I finished off portions of Sidney’s plate.

Besides the show and the dinner, I enjoyed watching the stuff I didn’t pay attention to years ago at Medieval Times. I observed the servers working their tails off as they stuck to a system that allowed them to feed the entire auditorium in an efficient manner. I watched the performers interact with each other when they weren’t the center of attention on stage. I noticed how other families reacted when pirates dove into the pool or a staff member placed a big chicken drumstick on their plate. To put it simply, this time I made sure to soak in the finer parts of the production.

Sloan watching the show…my favorite photo of the night.

In my opinion, it was a Friday night well spent. In Myrtle Beach, it is easy to write off attractions simply because they are primarily meant to appeal to the tourist. However, every now and then it is okay to embrace the tourist mentality yourself – especially when you are able to take advantage of a screaming deal. In all seriousness, I think every Grand Strand resident should experience Pirates Voyage at least once. Don’t Blink.

Sloan’s Latest Shoot

Over the weekend, Sid and I decided it was time to get professional photos taken of Sloan. Although we have thousands of photos of our little girl taken by some of the best iPhone photographers you will ever meet (haha), Sloan needed to spend time with a pro. So, just over a year since the talented Brittany Mauldin (highly recommend) conducted a “sitter session” with Sloan, we once again decided to put our daughter under the bright lights of a photography studio.

This time around, out of convenience/turnaround time/value, we went to good ol’ J.C. Penney in Coastal Grand Mall for Sloan’s session. On Saturday, I hopped online and was able to schedule her shoot the next day. Thus, it was yesterday when Sloan strutted into the studio like a true diva ready to get some updated shots. Trisha was the photographer and I doubt she realized the challenge she would have that afternoon.

Sloan in the middle of her photo shoot at J.C. Penney in Coastal Grand Mall. Trisha was her photographer.

You see, Sloan is a very busy little girl. She doesn’t stay still and isn’t the best at following directions. Although we knew that Trisha would have her work cut out for her, we were impressed with how patient and kind she was with Sloan. All in all, we got what we wanted. Even though Sloan frequently would dash out of the studio or rush the photographer for her equipment, Trisha got some great shots. In tonight’s blog post, I wanted to highlight my five favorite images from the shoot.

The Money Shot – Sloan did not have her standard head shot taken at picture day at daycare because she was too hysterical. For whatever reason, Sloan was scared and uncooperative for the daycare workers and their hired photographer. At the very least, we needed to make up for Sloan’s poor behavior and get her 1-year-old “yearbook” photo. Mission accomplished. This photo does the trick in documenting Sloan at 1 year.

This was the one shot I wanted the most as a result of her session.

Hands In The Air, Wave Them Like You Just Don’t Care – My favorite photo of the shoot! This shot was taken early during the session as Trisha prompted her perfectly to put her hands up in the sky. This is vintage Sloan – silly, happy, imaginative. This one will always bring a smile to my face.

My favorite shot of the entire shoot.

Watch Out, Here I Come – You know how I mentioned that Sloan kept rushing the photographer? Well, Trisha caught her in the act. Although this photo chronicles Sloan abandoning her pose to play with the camera, no one will ever know that. Instead, they will just see a sweet little girl with a half-wild look on her face in the middle of trying to get somewhere. I like how this is an action shot that catches Sloan doing something very natural.

Love this cute action shot of Sloan.

The Daydream – This is another natural shot of Sloan. She was laying on her back and Trisha caught her with this genuine little smile. This shot is just sweet to me, I can’t say much more than that — besides that it is one of my favorites.

I appreciate this natural shot of Sloan.

Blooper – Trisha gave Sloan a wand to use as a prop. Typical of our daughter, she didn’t use it quite as intended. I like how it captures Sloan acting goofy and showing off her little teeth.

Sloan being Sloan.

For those wanting a little more, here is a collage containing a few more photos from the shoot…

Some additional photos from Sloan’s shoot.

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If you find yourself needing professional photos in a short period of time, J.C. Penney is a solid option. You won’t get highly edited photos or a post on a photographer’s social media account, but that is not why you choose this option. We thank Trisha for working with us and will treasure the images she took. Don’t Blink.

Melodramatic Thursday Rundown

Good evening my readers, I hope your week is going well. I have been fighting a minor bug but nothing that will stop me from writing my most popular blog post of the week. For those who want to view some highlights of the #CCUSocialMedia Instaween event I mentioned last week and to hear my intern Katie explain why we do it, please click here. Now let’s get started…

Josh Norman – After meeting Rachel Swindler last Thursday, I had the opportunity to be around another celebrity on Saturday. All-star NFL cornerback Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins is a CCU alumnus. He returned to campus for our Homecoming game this past weekend. However, he didn’t return just to watch some football; rather, he was here so we could properly honor him for making the largest donation to CCU ever by a former student-athlete. Our field house was renamed the Marrio and Josh Norman Field House during a ceremony between the first and second quarters (Marrio is Josh’s brother). Josh also established scholarships in the honor of two professors here at Coastal, one of them being Robin Russell. The whole time he was on campus, Josh was very humble and gracious. He interacted with fans, posed for numerous photographs, honored his family, and expressed how much Coastal means to him.

I took these photos of Josh Norman when he visited CCU this past weekend.

Sloan Update – Our daughter is growing up too fast! Sloan is now quite the talker and pretty skilled at getting what she wants. She loves books but also enjoys watching “her shows” on the iPhones of mommy and daddy. Yesterday at daycare she finger painted and the OCA staff mentioned that she was really engaged in the activity, mixing the paints and identifying the colors. She has taken a liking to saying either “stop, mommy!” or “stop, daddy!” but she will just as frequently say “love you.” She is back in the routine of sleeping well at night and is excellent at saying “thank you.”

Sloan is doing great! This photo was taken outside of Oxford Children’s Academy earlier this week.

The Election That Shocked the Nation – Two years ago the unthinkable happened. In a scenario that no one saw coming, especially the mainstream media, Donald Trump defied the odds and won the 2016 Presidential Election. I remember that night really well – laying in bed, watching the coverage as the jaws of media personalities (and American citizens) dropped. Waking up the next morning after the election was officially called, I had a surreal feeling that I can still sense inside of me. In one of my most read and memorable blog posts, I wrote about Trump achieving the improbable.

Sid and I after we voted on Nov. 8, 2016.

Food For Thought – Over the several years I have posted my Life’s Little Instructions calendar pages on Instagram, I have never had a piece of advice receive as many likes as the one I posted on Monday. Take one look below and you will know why. In a world where we obsess over material possessions and make financial gain our top priority, this instruction reminds us what true wealth is. Never underestimate the fortune of true love and never try to substitute it with “things.”

My Instagram audience really appreciated this advice.

I Love Ice Cream…But No Thank You – This week, an ice cream company on the West Coast called Salt & Straw introduced some Thanksgiving-themed flavors. No, we aren’t talking pumpkin spice or apple pie – think much more extreme. The business is boasting flavors such as sweet potato casserole, roasted peach and sage cornbread stuffing, salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey, and, worst of all, spiced goat cheese and pumpkin pie. No, no, no, and no. Even for an ice cream maniac like myself, I wouldn’t touch any of those flavors.

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Let us keep those who lost their lives in the senseless California bar shooting in our prayers tonight. While we do this, let’s keep in mind how lucky we are to still be alive and happy. Don’t Blink.

Voting in the 2018 Midterm Election

Last night, Sidney and I happily performed our civic duty and voted in the 2018 midterm election. We went to the very spot we cast our ballots in the historic 2016 Presidential Election, Ocean Bay Elementary School. However, it was a much different scene this time around. Instead of a massive line that snaked around the entire cafeteria and out the door, the room was practically empty. With the exception of one other voter, we were alone with the polling volunteers. After having our I.D. cards checked, we went right up to our respective machines and did our duty.

Sidney and I voted in the 2018 Midterm Election at Ocean Bay Elementary.

I was a little surprised. Although I didn’t expect the madhouse that we encountered in 2016, I thought that because we went right after work (a peak time) and because of the importance of the election that we would walk right into a crowd. Not that I was disappointed. Spending just five minutes when you thought you would spend at least 50 is a win in my book.

Speaking of wins, which party ended up as the big victor? From my vantage point it is tough to tell. One thing that we can all probably agree to is that the “Big Blue Wave” that was supposed to sweep the country never quite materialized (didn’t we learn anything from 2016?). Although history and other signs pointed to the Democrats easily regaining the house this election period, I am sure a lot of folks in the party are still relieved that it played out that way.

As for the Repbulicans, the party exceeded expectations with big wins in the Senate. The GOP seemed to secure important victories in the high profile races all night long. Losing the House will undoubtedly hurt, but I bet members of the party are pleasently pleased at how everything unfolded, especially considering that there was talk earlier in the game that they might lose the Senate as well.

So, it is tough for me to really say the Democrats or Republicans had the better night. I think it is fair to say that the Democrats probably hoped for more while the Republicans performed a little better than expected. Still, I am not drawing a line in the sand to say that either party scored an overall victory over the other.

Although I can’t declare either party a winner, I think it is rather easy to recognize some groups and people who did very well. Women candidates did an exceptional job, taking over numerous seats and offering inspiration to those younger females who have aspirations of one day running for office. I welcome a more proportianate balance of power when it comes to gender. Minorities also had a strong showing as those of non-Christian religious backgrounds won races. In Colorado, voters elected the first openly gay governor.

As for individuals, I think President Trump once again comes out on top over those who love to hate him. Not only did most of the candidates he supported end up winning, but he avoided the major midterm disaster that most first term presidents are subject to. In all honesty, he didn’t just “avoid” it, he completely rebuffed it. Additionally, most political analysts conceded that his strategy of focusing on immigration ended up paying off.

Judging by all the “I Voted” sticker selfies on Facebook, I want to commend everyone for voting. What an intense, passionate midterm election cycle this was. I think my readers from both parties can walk out of this one feeling satisfied in different ways. Don’t Blink.

The Results of My AncestryDNA Test

The email came in late Saturday night…

Brent, your AncestryDNA results are in!

This email notified me that my AncestryDNA results were in.

The wait was over. Before opening it up I excitedly told Sidney the news. She then ushered me over to the couch she was sitting on so we could view the results together. I pressed my thumb on the email subject line. A teaser page came up, inviting me to Explore your DNA results. I followed the link and this is what we found out…

A summary of my results!

In a nutshell, I was not shocked about one major component of the results while I was a bit surprised about another.

1. I knew I would have a high percentage of Italian blood in me.
2. I thought, based on what my dad told me, that I would have significant German ancestry from his side.

While the obvious Italian connection of my mom’s side of the family was reflected in the test, German blood was mostly absent. Instead, I believe my dad passed on the 15% of Irish/Scottish blood to me. Although this is quite obvious since my mom is full Italian, it became even clearer when I was able to view the DNA results of one of my cousins on my dad’s side who also had 15% of Irish/Scottish blood in him.

However, my dad also told me that I had some French in me and that was accurately portrayed in the test. The results pegged me at 14% French.

As for my Italian roots, the test placed my heritage straight in the heart of Italy, reporting that I have DNA most commonly found in individuals who originated from San Marino, Vatican City, and Malta. According to AncestryDNA, 31% of my DNA can be traced from ancestors of that region.

The test got really specific on what areas of Italy my DNA is from.

The test also reported that 36% of my DNA lineage can be traced to the England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe region. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given specific locations within those areas like I was with my Italian heritage. This geographic group is just so big I am thinking the test probably can’t get too specific. My guess is this: The England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe group overlaps northern Italy on the AncestryDNA map. I would assume that a chunk of that 36% originated there.

Nothing random really showed up. Supposedly I have 1% Baltic in me. Other than that, no exotic cultures or far east connections showed up on the test. Take one look at me and that makes sense.

For the most past, I was pleased with the test. The promptness was incredible. It took less than a month for my results, far quicker than the eight weeks I was expecting. I also thought it was really cool how it connected me to numerous distant relatives. It was exciting going through the names of these people and viewing their AncestryDNA profiles, learning how we are connected. I was also convinced of the accuracy of these tests, as it backed up a lot of what I already knew (except for the German part).

I do wish it went into more detail regarding some of the regions (such as the large England, Wales, Northwestern Europe group). I hear that 23andMe might specialize a little better in this department. Aside from the genetic breakdown and the family tree, you really don’t get any additional information. I was expecting more analysis.

If you are at all interested in finding out your ancestry, now is the time to do it! My mom paid $99 for my test (birthday present). With the holidays here, AncestryDNA is offering a new promo price of $59. That is a steal! If you have any curiosity at all, take advantage of it.

Get your AncestryDNA kit while they are cheap!

It is refreshing to know a little bit more about my background. In fact, it makes me want to investigate even further! Whether I pursue it more is anyone’s guess. Until then, I am happy to have these initial answers. Don’t Blink.

The Carolina Forest Rotary Doughnut Dash

Picture this: You enter a 5K race. You run your heart out for the first half only to be stopped at the 1.5 mile mark. Someone shoves a box of a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts into your hands and tells you to eat them…as fast as you can…every single one. As you are on the verge of throwing up, you are told to somehow finish the second half of the race.

Talk about a great concept! The Carolina Forest Rotary Club Krispy Kreme Doughnut Dash 5K!

Are you kidding me?

No, I am not. The Rotary Club of Carolina Forest Doughnut Dash took place this past Saturday. On a cool morning, runners reported to the start line at the Myrtle Beach Krispy Kreme store on HWY 501 to accomplish the unique 3.1 mile feat. As the predawn darkness faded and the sunshine started to poke through, I looked down at my two feet laced in running shoes and acknowledged reality…I was moments away from participating in the race myself.

Before you start wondering how I could still be alive after torturing my body through such an assault on my arteries, let me say this: Yes, I did participate in the Carolina Forest Doughnut Dash. Yes, I did finish the course. But no, I did not eat the doughnuts…at least not during the race.

Believe it or not, I actually completed the Carolina Forest Rotary Club Krispy Kreme Doughnut Dash 5K…and I have the photo to prove it.

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During the summer at a surprise birthday party, my friend Kim Gomez asked me if I would run in the dash. As someone who rarely runs 5Ks – in fact, the only one I had participated in before was a color run – I had very little enthusiasm to do something that required me to risk having a heart attack. However, Kim, a Carolina Forest Rotary officer, told me I didn’t need to put my life on the line to race.

I could register as a “casual” runner instead of a “competitive” runner. The difference? While the competitive runners must stop midcourse and stuff their faces with 12 doughnuts, the casual runners glide right through the checkpoint and finish the race without stoppage. Then, at the end of the race, while the competitive runners are “recycling” their doughnuts in a trash can, the casual runners are presented with a box of a dozen doughnuts to take home and enjoy on their couch.

Sign me up, Kim!

A look at those of us who participated in the Carolina Forest Rotary Club Krispy Kreme Doughnut Dash 5K. Can you spot me?

As I mentioned, I am not a connoisseur of 5K races. Although I run daily, I don’t subject myself to road courses. However, I needed to get out of my comfort zone, especially since proceeds from the race went to benefit the great community programs organized by the CF Rotary Club. Oh yeah, doughnuts were involved too.

A look at me pst-race. I was a happy camper.

Although it was chilly at the starting line, it only took a couple minutes after the gun went off to feel comfortable. Running on an actual course greatly improved my motivation and stamina from their normal levels when I run on the treadmill or track. Embracing the opportunity to run with fellow humans on a peaceful morning, I found myself completing the course with relative ease. I finished the race in 23:59, earning second place out of the casual runners. According to my co-worker who knows a thing or two about 5Ks, I guess any time under 24 minutes is decent, making me thankful that I was able to shave the one second off my time that took me from “slouch” to “respectable.”

I finished the Carolina Forest Krispy Kreme Doughnut 5K in second place overall for the casual runners.

When I crossed the finish line I watched as the competitive runners battled with their boxes of doughnuts. The fastest eaters could consume the dozen glazed treats in about six minutes – many more needed well over 10. As I watched these warriors eat their recommended amount of calories for the next week, I thought about whether I should enter the competitor division next year. It didn’t take long for me to put that thought to bed. I got my box of doughnuts and headed home.

I just barely made it under 24 minutes.

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I want to thank Kim for getting me involved in the Carolina Forest Doughnut Dash. Not only did she encourage me to do something that turned out to be a lot of fun but she sponsored me as well. That’s right, Kim paid for my entry fee and made sure I was taken care of. So nice of her!

The race was a success. It doubled in size from last year, meaning the Rotary Club raised a lot more money. I was pleased to be part of it and I commend all the individuals in our community for organizing events like these and making a real difference. Don’t Blink.

Unicorn Thursday Rundown

What a fun week it has been! I can say that we definitely got the maximum bang for our buck with Sloan’s $25 Target unicorn costume. Let’s get straight to the Thursday Rundown.

Instaween – Yesterday, #CCUSocialMedia presented its fourth annual Instaween. It was fun to once again put together this event. Students in costumes have their picture taken in our gigantic Instagram frame and then our social media audience votes for their favorites. However, the event just isn’t about generating cool content. We pass out candy and treats to all students, not just the ones in costumes. You see, we spend so much time communicating with our students behind the @ccuchanticleers handle that we don’t always get to interact with them face-to-face. This event helps us to bridge that gap and I couldn’t be more thankful for the assistance that my #CCUSocialMedia intern, Katie, gave me to make sure Instaween was a success.

Katie and I worked the 2018 #CCUSocialMedia Instaween event.

Halloween Night Fun – Last night, Sloan had an absolute blast trick-or-treating (as did her daddy). I had never seen a neighborhood as insane on Halloween night as ours. Think of any Halloween movie that shows exaggerated scenes of kids trick-or-treating and that was our neighborhood last night. Neighbors distributed candy from their driveways, police vehicles cruised the streets, lawn decorations were outrageous, non-traditional “treats” were passed out, and the neighborhood overflowed (people came from near and far) with costumed kids and their parents. We live on a very long street so we stayed on it the whole time as I pushed Sloan in her little car from house to house.

Sidney and Sloan hanging out on the driveway on Halloween night.

Meeting Rachel Swindler – Many of you know that I am a huge “Big Brother” fan. Thus, it was a thrill for me to meet “Big Brother 20” houseguest Rachel Swindler this morning. Rachel actually graduated from Coastal Carolina and today she stopped by campus to chat about her time as a Chanticleer and her experience on Big Brother. I ate up every word as she took us behind the scenes of the show. Once our talented team edits and releases the video, I will include the link in a future Thursday Rundown. Rachel was extremely gracious and open and of course Robin Russell was once again an absolute professional as she conducted the interview.

It was a pleasure to meet Rachel Swindler (thanks to Judy Johns for the great photo).

All Saints Day – Today is All Saints’ Day, a solemn feast in which we honor all saints who served as such dedicated disciples of God during their time on earth and who now look down on us from Heaven. I attended 6:30 a.m. mass at St. Andrew this morning and as is custom, the gospel reading was the Beatitudes passage from John. Saints lived out the Beatitudes as by Jesus Christ and we are called to do the same so that one day we can join them in paradise. Rejoice and be glad!

I attended All Saints’ Day mass at St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach today.

Delicious Pizza – Last year, I wrote a blog post listing my top five favorite national pizza chains. Well, if the category didn’t have the “national” designation in front of it, I would be updating that list. On Friday night, we tried Gino’s pizza here in Myrtle Beach. It markets itself as a place that offers authentic New York pizza and it doesn’t disappoint! If you like flavorful and fresh pizza with quality toppings, give Gino’s a try. It is now my favorite pizza restaurant in Myrtle Beach.

This pizza from Gino’s looked so good that I couldn’t wait to take a photo until I had ate a couple pieces.

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Thanks for reading my post! Time now to sign off for the evening. Have a great month of November and don’t forget that Christmas is next month. Don’t Blink.