Books Written by Celebrities

Lately, it seems like actors and performers are making the leap from stage and screen to pages in a book. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Yes Please by Amy Poehler were all such wonderful reads that I decided to read more of these celebrity memoirs! (Also, I love memoirs!) While there is no shortage of books written by celebrities, I had to kiss a few frogs before finding my prince – I think I read parts of or even entire celebrity books before realizing I couldn’t include them in this post because I really just had nothing to say about them.

Nevertheless, I did find a few real golden nuggets in the world of celebrity-authored literature! Here are some great books written by celebrities:

Yes, My Accent is Real by Kunal Nayyar

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I don’t even remember how I found out this book existed, but I did and I’m glad because it was quite an enjoyable read! At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be all that funny because Kunal Nayyar doesn’t write for television and he doesn’t do stand-up, so he’s not like all the other comedians out there who have written silly, self-deprecating memoirs. It wasn’t hilarious, but there were still funny moments and I found myself snickering to myself like a weirdo while reading.

The book was essentially about Kunal Nayyar’s relationships throughout his life (with dad, girlfriends, roommates) and how those relationships shaped him. It was, as most memoirs are, a series of essays and wise words of advice written on aeroplane* napkins. Over time I realized that the book was moving along somewhat chronologically, with silly immature stories at the beginning, and culminating in important life events like marriage and caring for aging parents. The book almost became like a narrative, and I could see Kunal (are we on first name basis yet?) growing and changing throughout, and that made it hard to say goodbye at the end once I finished the book. (He also was sad to say goodbye too, so it was a two-way thing.) The good thing about celebrities is that they are kind of very easily accessible, so naturally, after finishing the book, I fell into a deep, dark, YouTube vortex of The Big Bang Theory clips and Kunal Nayyar interviews, and I didn’t really feel like I had to say goodbye at all.

*He’s from India, and they write Britishly there.

In the Country We Love: A Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford

Again, not sure how I discovered this book, but I absolutely love Jane the Virgin, and who hasn’t heard of Orange is the New Black? It was almost shocking to hear about Diane Guerrero’s extremely humble beginnings, given how successful she is on television.

In the Country We Love retells the experience that completely transforms and reshapes Diane’s life: when she was fourteen years old, she came home from school to find that her parents had been arrested and set to be deported. The experiences that followed (puberty, high school, college, trying to break into showbiz) almost could have been commonplace, but they were all tinged with the sense that something was missing – Diane had to grow up without her parents, and worse, it was because the government had taken them from her.

At first, I thought that the fact that Diane was an actor was simply an extra fact or coincidental. But it seemed more that her love for performing and the rush that it gave her helped to fill in some of the gaps that had been created when her parents were forced to leave her. (The arts really do save lives!)

This book really opened up my eyes to the experiences of immigrant families, as well as the harsh realities that undocumented immigrants might face. I don’t know what the situation is like in Canada, but immigration policy is definitely pertinent at this point in history, no matter where you are in the world. In fact, Diane urges readers to get involved and to make their voice heard (this book was published just before the 2016 US election). Immigration and immigration reform will continue to be an important political issue. Reading this book has made all the stories in the news feel more personal and emotional, and I’ve been reminded how important it is to stay informed and up to date on national and international politics.

P.S. Here‘s a video of Diane visiting the homes where she grew up, including the one where she lived when her parents were taken.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

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Wow, I raced through this book like Trevor Noah raced through the streets while running away from his mother’s beatings! It was that good; I couldn’t put it down.

Born a Crime is full of stories of Trevor Noah’s childhood growing up in South Africa. As a person of mixed race, Trevor Noah wasn’t technically supposed to exist due to apartheid laws, but his very existence points to his mother’s grit and will and strength! For a lot of the book, there was a huge sense of “mother and son against the world!” From the comical and humorous way she handled his antics (which I’m sure contributed to his comedy today in some way) to her determination to ensure a good education for Trevor and thus an escape from a life of poverty, his mother is as much of a protagonist in this book as Trevor Noah is.

The Daily Show is on Comedy Central, so of course I expected this book to be funny, and it was. Some highlights include: Trevor discovering what his dog was up to while he was at school, his mother’s strategies for disciplining him, and a story set in a Jewish neighbourhood involving Trevor’s friend with an extremely unfortunate name. (I apologize for the vagueness of this last paragraph; I don’t want to give any of the jokes away!)

One thing I really really appreciated about the book was the insight it gave on race and racism in apartheid-era South Africa. I’m finding it very hard to put into my own words what I learned from this book, so here are some quotes I found really meaningful.

On the system of apartheid:

In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid.

On education for black South Africans:

British racism said, “If the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man.” Afrikaner racism said, “Why give a book to a monkey?”

On the irrationality of racism:

Chinese people were classified as black in South Africa … Interestingly, at the same time, Japanese people were labeled as white. The reason for this was that the South African government wanted to establish good relations with the Japanese in order to import their fancy cars and electronics.

On changing your circumstances:

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.

Hopefully this post proves that celebrity memoirs don’t have to be filled with scandal and gossip and parties! I didn’t expect this post to be so focussed on immigration and race (it’s now very clear where my interests lie), but it just goes to show that a lot of diverse people from very different backgrounds can end up in the media we consume every day. Here’s hoping that we keep seeing and hearing these diverse stories, because there’s always something to learn from someone else.

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Just kidding, I’m pretty emotionless so I did not scream when I ate the ice cream from Kekou Gelato.

The weather is starting to get hot hot hot, and ice cream is the perfect way to cool down this summer! Last week, my friends and I went downtown for some fun girly adventures, and so we decided to stop at Kekou for some ice cream.

There are two locations: Baldwin and Queen West. I’d actually gone to the Baldwin location when it first opened, but the decor is bland and honestly, I don’t excessively love ice cream, so Kekou really meant nothing to me!

But when I entered the Queen West location …

Fancy lights! Fun wallpaper! Wooden accents! It made me want to try the ice cream.

There is a plethora of samples and no limit to what you can try. I am boring and only tried two flavours before making my decision. I love Hong Kong milk tea, so I tried that flavour first. It wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t hold up to the actual drink itself. Next, I tried the Vietnamese coffee flavour. My taste buds exploded and I aggressively informed the ice cream person that I needed a sugar cone with one giant scoop of that delicious ice cream!!!!

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Look at this beautiful thing.

Everything was going well and I was really enjoying my ice cream, when my friend commented that she always gets her ice cream in a cup because it’s less messy. I scoffed and shrugged and rolled my eyes. Then I got to the bottom of my cone, where the ice cream had melted into a gooey soup. I bit into the cone and ice cream splashed everywhere and napkins were thrust my way and it was a fantastic end to a fantastic ice cream.

Kekou Gelato / 394 Queen Street West, Toronto / website

Kingston Coffee Crawl

This past weekend, I went to Kingston with some friends to celebrate my former housemate’s upcoming wedding! It was a really fun weekend full of food, drinks, and memories of undergrad. I was especially thankful for our meaningful chats that reminded me of God’s goodness and provision in each of our lives. (There were seven of us in total – six bridesmaids and one blushing bride!)

The bride-to-be loves coffee, so we went on a tour of some coffee places in the downtown core. (No time to visit all of the cafes … we had other bridal things to do!) Here is a list along with my thoughts! Please enjoy!

THE SMALL BATCH / 282 Princess Street, Kingston / facebook

The Small Batch was the smallest cafe that we visited, full of two-person seating, though the staff doesn’t mind if you move some tables or chairs around. The plugs lined along the wall also make it a nice spot to study – great for students! (When I was in Kingston for school, there were very few options for alternative study spots. Now, there are so many cute little coffeeshops; the students today are super lucky!)

I cannot comment on the quality of the drinks because I didn’t order anything, but according to my friends, the drinks were “okay.”

CRAVE / 166 Princess Street, Kingston / facebook

I’ve been to Crave before, and it’s always been a pleasant experience! I ordered an iced mocha, and it was super yummy! I asked the barista for more ice and she happily complied – really friendly staff!

The cafe goes in really deep so there is a lot of seating. Lots of people were studying and working.

My friends and I, on the other hand, spent our time at Crave playing a fun game where we answered personal questions (some silly, some deep!). We also spent some time affirming and encouraging the beautiful bride-to-be. From now on, every time I pass by Crave, I’ll be reminded of this wonderful memory! I’m so blessed to know these ladies who love Christ and truly want to live their lives for Him. He’s transformed us so much since we first met in our first year of university.

NORTHSIDE ESPRESSO + KITCHEN / 281 Princess Street, Kingston / website

If we had known about the “+ Kitchen” part of this cafe, we probably would have had our breakfast here! Regardless, Northside Espresso is really good, even if you go just for the coffee and/or photo-taking opportunities. (But next time I go, I am eating the food because it sounds so good and the prices are quite reasonable!)

Northside is an Instagrammers paradise. A dreamland. A mecca to which all photographers must make their pilgrimage. It’s just so pretty! Here, I attempt to frame some photos as an Instagrammer would:

The coffee is really good too! We needed help translating the menu because the coffee terminology was just too advanced for us, but everyone enjoyed their drinks. I got a really warm and yummy mocha (I’m so boring), and my friend got a Melbourne Iced Mocha, which was basically what I got but cold and with vanilla ice cream and a fun striped straw! Another menu item that deserves to be mentioned is the Clouds and Mountains, a vanilla ice cream/chocolate brownie concoction served on a smooth wooden slab.

Thank you for the wonderful weekend, Kingston! The sun was shining, adventures were had, and lots and lots of coffee was consumed.

Boldt Castle

Ah, Victoria Day! A holiday which is celebrated for – let’s be honest – no good reason but for which I am eternally grateful anyway because it’s a day off work! I don’t know if this will be an annual thing, but my parents, Dangerous Dan, and I went up to Kingston again to visit my sister and her family.

We decided to hop across the border (!) to visit one of the many tourist attractions in the Thousand Islands area, Boldt Castle. I’m always so surprised at how close Kingston is to the land of the free, but I really shouldn’t be because it’s one of the reasons why Kingston was fired from its job as capital city of Canada! 

We drove from Kingston, stopped for lunch in Gananoque, and headed to Alexandria Bay, where we would take the ferry shuttle to Heart Island, where Boldt Castle is located.

Here are some photos of Alexandria Bay, which was basically like another version of the Hamptons in the early 1900s. Lots of rich people came here to enjoy the water and stake a claim on their very own island! Nowadays, it is a bit quieter. On a sunnier day, I can imagine this place being cute and quaint!

To get to Heart Island, we went with Uncle Sam Boat Tours. There are lots of other ferry options, and you can even park in Canada and take a full-on cruise to the island, but the extreme flooding limited our choices. It was nice to take the “ferry shuttle” anyway; a quick 10 minutes and we were there! Also, we paid for our boat tickets and the castle tickets in one go, so that made things easier too. (And Canadian currency is accepted!)

Boldt Castle is a huge, hulking mass of a building and it looks like it belongs in a fairytale book. It was commissioned by George Boldt, a self-made immigrant millionaire! 

Some fun facts about George Boldt (taken equally from Wikipedia and a video my sister watched in the mansion): 

  • He was general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City (that hotel know-how is what got him the big bucks!)
  • He’s the guy who came up with the phrase, “The customer is always right.” (I don’t think this is true, actually.)
  • He’s the guy who invented room service (This one’s true!)

    A not so fun fact is what happened to the castle, even before construction was complete! Boldt had the castle built for his wife, Louise, as a grand, symbolic gesture of his love. Unfortunately, just before the castle was complete, Louise died suddenly and Boldt abandoned the project entirely. For years and years, the castle lay empty, vulnerable to nature’s forces, and also to young graffiti artists who trespassed onto the grounds. Some of the graffiti is real, and some is not. (There’s no way a message from 1995 can look so dark and fresh!) The coolest one we saw was from the 70s (just before the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over) – the names of two friends/lovers were literally carved into the wall!

    Okay, enough history – let’s see the actual building!

    A yacht house can also be visited (entrance is an extra fee) and you can even see Boldt’s old boats! It’s bigger than my house.

    The exterior grounds are very nice and well-maintained, and there are a couple of other buildings in addition to the actual mansion. A “Parisian-style” arch helps to prepare visitors for the opulence off the house! The Power House holds all the generator electricity things and is basically a house on its own (the castle engineers actually lived here during construction of the main house!). Alster Tower is what I imagined Rapunzel’s tower to look like before Tangled came out!

    Alster Tower was originally envisioned as the play room for the Boldt children! It was going to have a bowling alley. It’s currently being restored.

    The main house is quite large and grand as well! 


    Upstairs, we snuck a peek at the sleeping area. There are four floors and Dangerous Dan and I went all the way up to the top, where there is a pretty cool observatory! The view is spectacular!


    There is also a cool tunnel system which leads to a nasty-looking pool but I’m sure with some treatment it would be a nice place to hang out! There is also a fake frog floating atop the water.


    Boldt Castle is a really interesting place to visit. Great for a one-day trip if you live in the Kingston area!

    Boldt Castle / 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY / website

    Nonna’s Oven

    Hello, friends! Today’s post brings you to the wild land of Richmond Hill, where I recently embarked on a pasta eating adventure.

    I’d actually eaten Nonna’s Oven before (the food, not an actual oven owned by a nonna!). My friend got takeout from here, as the over-the-counter service makes it extremely easy to take their food and bring it home. Anyway, this time around, I decided to eat in the restaurant. Get ready for some terrible pictures of beautiful noodles!

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    I don’t even know if these were for sale or for show. They’re cute, though.

    I visited the restaurant with four other friends, and we got five dishes, which was just enough! We started off with some fried calamari. The chipotle mayo and marinara sauce were excellent! I preferred the marinara.

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    Then, we shared two pizzas and two pastas. The Hawaiian Inferno pizza was quite delicious, although most of the table had to pick off the hot banana peppers because they were just insane. The Prosciuttina pizza was described by a friend as “cheese bread with leaves and ham on top.” I will say that the leafy greens were a nice way to balance out the heaviness of all of our other foods! The parmesan cheese shavings also added a nice nuttiness to the pizza! (Also, according to wikipedia, parmesan cheese is “King of Cheeses.” That is pretty cool!)

    We got the Nonna’s Homemade Lasagna and Pasta Carbonara as well. Truly delicious! Pretty good sauce to noodle ratio too – you don’t want anything to be too dry or soggy.

    If you are ever in the neighbourhood and fancy some Italian cuisine, Nonna’s Oven is a good choice! It’s comfy and cozy, and a great place to enjoy a meal!

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    Nonna’s Oven / 1285 Elgin Mills Road, Units 7 and 8, Richmond Hill / website

     

    Tips for Eating at Grand Electric

    On a brisk Friday night in what was supposed to be springtime, Dangerous Dan and I shared a delicious meal at Grand Electric in Toronto. Here are some tips if you are in Parkdale Village and decide to eat at this hip and cool restaurant/bar. (I feel like I need to use a wider variety of adjectives.)

    1. Go on a nice day!

    If you’re going for dinner, the wait can get pretty long and there isn’t really any room to wait inside. Thus, you will need to bide your time outside, exploring all the goodness the neighbourhood has to offer!! If you do end up needing to wait and the weather is bad, a public library and a Dollarama are across the street.

    2. Dress in layers.

    It was so cold outside and then we went inside and it was so hot. 

    3. Order some chips to share.

    I love tortilla chips at Mexican restaurants! They are obviously so much better than Tostitos (although I can finish a bag of Tostitos on my own, no problem). We got the Chips and Dip. It came with guacamole, onions, salsa, and refried beans with cheese. The onions will transform your breath into a monster so be aware. And I don’t normally like beans at all but these were so good, and the consistency was like hummus, rather than a lumpy, mushy mess. 10 out of 10 would recommend.

    4. Don’t go for the insta…

    … unless you are sitting by the window or it is daytime. As evidenced by my terrible pictures, the lighting is not very good. I also don’t put much effort into my photos, so maybe that is why my pictures are not great – like what is #vscocam? Is that still a thing?! Nevertheless, I stand by my tip, even though I feel like I first heard of Grand Electric through instagram!

    5. Eat your own food. (Except the chips … see #3.)

    Dangerous Dan got a quesadilla and I got two tacos. Usually, I reprimand Dangerous Dan if we go out and get the same menu item, because if we get the same thing then we don’t get to try more dishes! This cannot be a problem at Grand Electric, because it is just impossible to share a taco or a quesadilla with someone without looking like a burrito exploded in your face. It just would’ve been really messy. So eat your own food, order a bunch of different tacos for yourself, and don’t worry about the person you’re eating with! 


    Grand Electric Toronto / 1330 Queen Street West, Toronto / website

    Kub Khao

    Kub Khao means “with rice” in Thai, but Dangerous Dan and I only had a tiny bit of rice during our visit to this hip happenin’ restaurant!

    Getting to Kub Khao is interesting. The restaurant is located in the plaza of a non-brand-name gas station and the parking spots are sort of uneven. Once you get past the scary exterior appearance, you’re greeted by a nondescript, darkish eating area. From here, you need to make your way to the back of the restaurant where there is warmer lighting and prettier decor!

    Now, on to the food! The food is excellent! We got some spring rolls to start and they were hot and crispy! Next, we ordered two mains: yellow curry (with chicken) and good ol’ pad thai (with beef).

    My only complaint is that the rice to curry ratio is such that you either have to buy more rice to finish the curry, or you need to take the curry home to eat with something else. So it’s ironic that a place called “With Rice” doesn’t serve enough rice. But either way, the food is delicious and the ambiance of the restaurant is very warm and cozy! I think the benches were made out of old church pews.

    Kub Khao / 3561 Sheppard Avenue East, Unit 1, Toronto / website

    P.S. Another tasty Thai place in Toronto!

     

    Comedy Bar

    I’m cool and hip and in my mid-twenties, so I went to a comedy bar with a couple of friends, because that’s what you do when you’re cool and hip and in your twenties! The real story is, my friend found a (since discontinued) Groupon deal and thought it’d be a fun and different activity!

    I’m not normally someone who laughs at comedic acts. I like comedy in film and TV because there’s context and I’ve had a chance to connect with the characters! I laugh a lot in real life because life is so funny and again, it’s situational. But whenever someone gets up in front of a crowd to tell jokes with the goal of making me laugh, the most I can muster up is often a weak smile. (I guess this is how my students feel when I try to make jokes in class …)

    When we arrived at Comedy Bar, the exciting Groupon deal allowed us $20 to use at the bar. Dangerous Dan and I got ourselves some pretty yummy sandwiches that came with chips! Yum! My suggestion is to arrive 30-45 minutes before the show if you want to eat there. The seats fill up fast and if you’re waiting around for your food, then you’re not getting a good seat! (We sat at the back where there were no tables, so it was pretty difficult to eat and hold our chips.) Also, I crunched my way through the first half of the show, which I hope wasn’t too distracting!

    We watched Catch 23, an improvisational comedy show. Three teams (each with two members) competed to win the competition. (I don’t think there was any sort of prize involved.)

    There were 3 or 4 rounds, and at the end of each round, audience members would rank the performance by applauding. There was also a more professional judge who Dangerous Dan saw in a commercial the next day! (Yessss, professional actors!!!) The host of the show was also very funny, and he wore a crazy colourful suit!

    My favourite group of the night (which also won, and had won the week before) did a whole multi-episodic saga that included a wizard and a motorbike. The beauty of improv and comedy is that this epic adventure sprouted from a simple skit of an adult party gone wrong. I laughed quite a bit.

    I wish I could end this post with a joke considering the subject matter, but I’m just not funny so I’ll stop here.

    Comedy Bar / 945 Bloor Street West, Toronto / website

    Bean Around the World

    I love a good pun! 

    Even though I’ve lived in Markham for basically my whole life, and I went to school in the area, not once have I set foot in Bean Around the World.

    The coffeeshop has a nice open space, complete with a tiny stage for open mic nights. There is lots of seating so it’s a great place to visit with a group of friends. Unfortunately, the plug situation is not so great, so I’d recommend a good charge on your laptop before heading over. 

    I got a Mocha and it tasted pretty standard. Nothing really to comment on so I’ll just end this sentence here. (Serious question: How many people go to coffeeshops for the coffee? I personally go for the ambience and because I am extremely unproductive at home. Others go to coffeeshops for instagram.) 

    Latte heart! 

    The staff at Bean Around the World is truly amazing. They really care! My friend got a tea and one of the staff told her, “That tea bag is excellent quality; it can give you two tasty cups of tea with just one bag! Ask us for more water when you want that second cup!”

    Another barista was obsessed with making sure everyone’s coffees were just as they desired. Let me tell you of an encounter I witnessed between the barista and a customer (with some added flair):

    “Here, have a quick taste to double check that the sugar and milk levels are exactly as you want them!” the barista said excitedly. The girl took a sip of her drink. A slight grimace on the girl’s face indicated to the barista that he needed to add more foamy milk. (Actually, I think she just told him that she wanted more milk.)

    The barista carefully poured that fluffy goodness into the girl’s cup. In his excitement and enthusiasm, however, the foam flowed too quickly, running over the sides of the cup and creating a white pool of milk on the table. 

    “OH MY GOODNESS ME!” the barista screamed. “I AM SO SORRY!!!” He apologized profusely while fervently cleaning up the milky lava that had just erupted from the girl’s latte volcano. 

    The barista cleaned up the mess, apologized once more, and the girl calmly brought her drink back to her table. 

    Later on, I heard that same barista ask another customer to take a sip of his drink … 

    Bean Around the World / 5762 Highway 7 East, Unit 3, Markham, Ontario / website

    P.S. I am so sorry for that weird story; I was heading downtown and I had to do something exciting while I was on the subway!!!

    Lights, lights, lights!

    Apparently, winter light shows are the new, trendy thing! I was lucky enough to visit two light festivals this winter. My experiences at both events were quite positive so I shall do a quick recap here, with plenty of pictures!!!! (Also, I am posting this wayyy after I went to both festivals – Lumina Borealis is still running for the rest of this week, and Toronto Light Festival just finished this past weekend. OOPS. I’m sorry!)

    LUMINA BOREALIS

    During a quick trip to Kingston, my family and I visited Fort Henry to experience the exciting new light festival, Lumina Borealis. I really enjoyed the historic venue of the festival. Honestly, I don’t know how much the tickets cost because my lovely sister purchased them on our behalf.

    What I really liked about Lumina Borealis was that there was one specific path that we had to follow. We started off just outside the fort, where there was a gift shop, as well as hot chocolate and warming stations! Next, we were allowed inside the fort, walking through the different exhibits: icy-looking things; glowing trees; bouncing animals projected onto the fort walls; campfire things with colourful images.

    Another thing about Lumina Borealis was that it was interactive. There was one part of the festival that had microphones all lined up. Our goal was to scream/sing into the microphones, which would then change the beautiful, wavy, colourful lines that appeared on the walls. It was fun! The microphones were also adjusted to different heights so that the activity was kid-friendly as well. At the end of the walk, there was more screaming in microphones which was very exciting. There was also a ball-throwing game where we had to try to hit certain points on the wall. Basically, we ended the night by screaming and throwing balls, which was really fun and hilarious!

    TORONTO LIGHT FESTIVAL

    Ah, another thing to do at Toronto’s famed Distillery District! The festival was free this year, but I foresee this event costing money in the future (which happened with the Toronto Christmas Market). There were quite a few more people at Toronto Light Festival than at Lumina Borealis, so the squishiness did put a small damper on our experience. Nevertheless, it was still a good time! The Toronto Light Festival had a lot more art installations than Lumina Borealis, but because there wasn’t a set path to follow, my friends and I weren’t sure if we’d covered everything (we’re not so great at reading maps!).

    There were some interactive moments at this festival too: taking pictures with butterfly wings and posting them on instagram; sitting in cocoons that look like Wall-E’s eyes; running back and forth underneath motion-sensor lights to make them spin and make noises; and we watched a kid bike so that an illuminated animation would move.

    All in all, I had lots of fun being outdoors with my friends. (I really don’t get out much.) I’d recommend a visit at least once in your life! Until then, enjoy the snow and the cold before beautiful spring arrives!