January 30th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

It’s been a somewhat quiet life lately. The dog is doing good. The weather has started getting a little better, and we are getting more daylight finally (about 15 minutes a week!). The Scotty is ready for a trip. I, too, am ready to go somewhere.

So thats what I did.

I went to Montana a few weeks ago. It was good to get out of the house. It’s good to see family and we had a good visit. It is always risky driving that way this time of year but I made it without incident despite the best intentions of some of the careless drivers I encountered. Good thing I have the flexibility of nowhere to be and all day to get there…but I didn’t really need it since I left early to get back home between storms. I always keep an eye on the weather when I travel and build in a day or two of padding.

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Of course Rider turned into a hellion while there and ended up getting grounded a few times. He did good on the way and loves the road! We got him registered while there and his papers came in the mail last week so now he is somebody..

Speaking of that flexibility, as I write this post I am actually on another adventure. I am taking an Amtrak train trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pacific Central Station – Vancouver, BC

I have wanted to go to Vancouver for a while and have wanted to do it by train. The clincher for me was I had a voucher for a free hotel room that I needed to use this week so I took great advantage of that and found an expensive hotel in downtown Vancouver to spend it on. It worked out to be a great opportunity for a train trip, albeit a fast one, to someplace new I wanted to see and experience and it will not cost me AS much.

Just prior to the last trip I took to Seattle I bought a new travel backpack. I got to try it out a little on that trip. It was definitely comfortable but I was still figuring out the packing. I am treating this like a trip to Europe (and it’s why I bought the backpack) so I packed it exactly how I would if I were going there. I think I have the packing dialed in pretty good so far but I am finding a few small packlng tweaks I will need to make before I go anywhere else. I’ll be walking around to get on transit and getting to and from the hotels so this is a great test run. It’s also not as silly-looking as walking around the neighborhood wearing a suitcase. Upon reflection, however, I have seen worse stumbling around the streets in my ‘hood.

Tuesday night I stayed at a hotel in Edmonds to make it easier to catch an earlier train the next morning so I can get to Vancouver sooner. I ended up walking 8.2 miles to shop and check things out in the area, and that’s on top of the bus rides I took.

Whenever I fly somewhere early out of Seattle I always stay in a hotel the night before so I am doing the same for this trip on the train. I always take full advantage of any shopping, dining or sightseeing that I can when I do an overnight. You have to maximize time when you travel so don’t just park your ass in the hotel…plan on finding some interesting things to do! I have some things I want to shop for so that will be something else to do on this trip.

My plan is (surprise) there is no plan since it is to be such a quick trip. I found several things I definitely want to see and do in my short visit but mostly it’s going to be spontaneous. I have a feeling I will be making another trip to Vancouver to see everything I want to see. Now that I am not working I can go when the weather is better without any time restrictions. I’m definitely excited about that!

Wednesday started out grey with a few sprinkles and there was more rain the farther north I went so the sightseeing along the coast wasn’t real good. I spent time in these waters running boats to various State Park islands so I have seen this area before and on some beautiful days. I’m just hoping that the weather is better in Vancouver.

Amtrak scenery on the Coast Starlight route

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Coming Into Vancouver, BC

The train is definitely comfy and a relaxing way to travel. We did a lot of train travel in Europe two years ago and this trip brings back some good memories of that experience. I wish we had more passenger rail service in the US and if the rail companies would even add just a single passenger car on a train I bet they could get people on board.

I walked about 20 minutes over to the hotel through some seediness but I felt fairly safe or I would have just called a ride or taxi. Usually I won’t walk areas like that alone but it was just another adventure! Even with the train delayed about an hour and a half I arrive in Vancouver well before my hotel check-in time.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC

I got to my hotel and was able to check in early, drop my bags, and hit the town to find some sights and food. Pretty nice hotel for free (usually around $220/night!) and in a great location – right in downtown close to the arenas. I got on the elevator with a couple to go to our rooms. When we were getting off the elevator on the 10th floor I happened to notice that their baggage had tags from Air China. Damn. Hate to see that.

It turned out to be a nice day to be out and about – clear and a bit cool but very pleasant with a long sleeve shirt and rain shell. I walked around the area by the hotel to see what was going on and get my bearings. There was a lot happening and the usual interesting and exciting things: the noise and hustle and bustle of the city, people, restaurants, tourist shops, and cannabis stores.

View from my hotel – Vancouver, BC

Responsibly different than other countries, Canada has decided to be intelligent and realistic about cannabis (I prefer to say “cannabis” since I refuse to use the racist term “marijuana” that was coined by the government to scare people in the 1930s) and has legalized it nationwide (there are many reasons, most ignorant of facts and full of hypocrisy, why it’s illegal in the US; one news story even speaks (not surprisingly) of Cabinet-level government corruption in the 1930s involving Dow Chemical. Shocking, I know.).

Unlike Washington state, where you are supposed to smoke out of public view, in Canada you can just walk around smoking in public just as you would a cigarette. The pre-rolled joint packages have a Canadian tax stamp and you can even have the government send it to you through the mail! It’s not as cheap here as Washington though and purchasing bulk flower looks to be different than Washington.

It’s different than Amsterdam, too, in that cannabis is technically not legal there but is tolerated. From what I was told in Amsterdam you won’t get bothered by anyone for smoking in public as long as you are not blatant about it and the King and Queen are not in town. The Netherlands even says psilocybin truffles are legal BBC and they can be bought in what they call “smart shops”. These shops even sell cannabis seeds.

There were many restaurants, mostly Asian-style foods like noodles and most were my kind of place – small mom-and-pop joints – and there were a few chains like the local Japadog, Five Guys, The Clown, and The King.

I was still looking for something to eat but not sure what I wanted so I headed to Granville Island and the Granville Market hoping to find some cheap unique eats.

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

It is similar to Pike Place in Seattle – mostly a place to get fresh produce and meats – but more outdoors like the old River Quay area in Kansas City, MO. It had only a few stalls to get cooked food but nothing really looked interesting at the time. I’ll visit again and have time to look around more. I caught a water taxi back across and went back into downtown.

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

I walked around more and was not sure what I wanted. A shawarma place looked good until I saw a guy that looked like the cook picking his nose so I decided to pick something too…another restaurant.

I decided on a Canadian chain. Tim Horton’s has really delicious coffee and a selection of food that is different than most fast food chains. I will eat at a local chain in other countries but usually not when I travel on vacation in tbe US. As a rule I don’t eat at American chains in other countries unless I find something unique at them. The “food” is usually garbage and I don’t like to eat like that stuff much these days. After Tim Horton’s I walked around for several hours more just taking it all in.

Inside the Vancouver Public Library – Vancouver, BC

I felt much less threatened walking around Vancouver than I do in Seattle, especially at night. Vancouver has, from what I have seen, fewer people just hanging out on the streets begging, pissing on the sidewalks, trashing everything and committing crimes which they never get prosecuted for – all the things that happen in Seattle. Granted, I don’t know as much about Vancouver that I know about the problems and crime that Seattle refuses to do anything to fix. Vancouver does have automated public toilets on the sidewalks and many other things to help keep the city clean.

I did get a taxi to the train this morning as I was told by hotel staff that walking back to the train would be a bad idea (and I thought it was a bad idea too given the areas I walked through near the station to get to my hotel). However, I mainly thought that it was a bad idea because it was not only five in the morning but also because I walked 10.2 miles yesterday. My legs are tired!

Amtrak King Street Station – Seattle, WA

All told, the trip definitely went by too fast but it was a great adventure and I finally got to do this trip. With the train getting delayed it threw my day off so I did not get to see and do as much as I wanted to. I’ll do it again and stay a few days next time. Vancouver is a really fun and interesting city to hang out in and I want to do another trip there but maybe have someone to go with. Lots of great people watching, a vast selection of great foods, many exciting things to see and do and a great transit system that makes it cheap and easy to get around. However, like cities in Europe, I have other places I want to visit and usually do not spend my travel time repeatedly going to the same places; a trip of 1-3 days a time or two is plenty. It’s too big of a world to spend it all in one place!

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more fun and exciting adventures!

December 21st, 2019

Adventure, food, Just things, Music, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

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Looking for a gig? The Bitch be hiring!

 

In celebration of the Winter Solstice I say good riddance to these short hours of daylight. I have been more than ready for not only longer “days”, but also some weather that is better than the lousy weather we have been having. The dog isn’t very happy about the rain keeping him inside either!

I won’t be doing a “year-end update” this year; I have been updating the blog with scattered posts. This year not much is really worth repeating so if you want to know what has been going on the last 11 months feel free to go back and look at my earlier posts.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to a much better year in 2020 and am anxious to get this retirement officially started with some travel. I was hoping to do something around the holidays but I am on standby for jury duty for a bit so I cannot go anywhere. It’s just as well, I guess; it saves me some money by staying home. Weather permitting I hope to get away for at least a weekend sometime very soon.

Monday, however, I was able to get away for a few days in Seattle. A friend was in town and offered to share a room so we could hang out a few days and walk around.

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We went walking out and about Tuesday morning to sightsee, shop and eat. Later on in the day after a break at the hotel my friend wasn’t feeling well so I went back out after dark (which is around 4:20 in the afternoon). We had heard there was a political rally and, since I was in the area and am curious and had never been to a political rally like that I felt like I just HAD to go and experience it so I hopped on the light rail and went to the rally location. I will just stay apolitical and leave further comments on this out of the post. It was an interesting experience however and I would do it again!

After the rally I hopped back on the light rail and went to my old fave on Capitol Hill – Dick’s Drive-in – to snack on a couple of burgers and some of those tasty, delicious fries. There were actually quite a few people out not only around that area but around Seattle in general. Lots of shoppers and tourists. Wednesday was an early rise to get home and get the dog from boarding on time.

I’m still working on the intricacies of the song I started back in July. It is coming along well and clocks in around 4:30. I really wish I could have gotten it done much sooner. I find that it’s best to finish a song soon after it is started in order to keep the original “spirit” of the song but I got rather ambitious with some textural aspects of the song and keep adding layers so that has pushed the completion of it back. So far it is at about 14 individual tracks and I will be adding a few more tracks and expanding some I already have to make the sound very full. It’s getting close to being done but not quite to my satisfaction yet. I have really been trying to wrap it up though!

I continue to go through things around the house and lately I have been making some good progress with organizing and going through even more things to get rid of. I have some extra storage containers that I emptied previously when downsizing so I can start consolidating my things into fewer containers. It also gives me the chance to get the last few things I have in cardboard boxes into some sturdier waterproof containers with handles.

With all of the moving around I have done from 2012 until last year I tended to not acquire much in the way of new possessions. However, being fairly stationary for the last 18 months I have bought a few household items I needed so I should not need to get too much more. Now that I have retired and considering more travel I will not be making many more major purchases for household goods (I pretty much have everything I need anyhoo). There’s not really much room in a 15′ Scotty Hilander and most of my stuff would have to go into storage for any long-term travel if that is what I end up doing.

It’s pretty nice to have most everything that had to be done out of the way. Finally, there are no more surgeries and post-op recovery time or PT this year and it’s looking like I actually have a clear calendar for quite a while other than a couple of surgery follow-ups.

That’s all there is for now.

December 4th, 2019

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

With year’s end drawing to a close it’s looking like I will finish the year with only three surgeries!

Recovery from my last surgery a few weeks ago is still in process but is going pretty good and that is such a relief in many ways; a relief in the form of the good news the doctor had and also the physical part of the recovery being fairly quick as well. I will still need checkups every three months or so for the time being but she was pretty confident with the outcome of the surgery. I am really hoping that tomorrow’s PT appointment is my last one; I am not back to full range of motion yet, and it probably will not come back 100%, but what the Physical Therapist said at my last visit made it sound like I will probably be done very soon. The cataract surgery was successful and was the least problematic of them all.

Getting these things finally behind me has been huge. It’s been a tough summer – hell, a tough year – and I am glad I am finally able to move forward with my life. I haven’t been able to go anywhere or do very much until very recently and that has been difficult for me.

That is all about to change.

Lately I have been feeling pretty damn good and it’s been a long time. It’s exciting easing into retirement-travel mode, thinking about the road trips I can now take to visit with family and see places I want to see – all without any real timelines. The jobs I have worked the last seven years have involved working in the summers and being off in the winter some of that time. Travel in the summer when places are open will be a huge change along with better weather, and opportunities to do things with family will be one of the biggest and bestest things of all.

Yes, he said “bestest”.

But it will also mean drawbacks – being on the road with more people, all clamoring to see some of the same things. I am not real big on crowds but sometimes you just gotta do what you want to do despite being surrounded by giant masses of people; you cannot let things like that stop you or you will never go anywhere or do anything. Luckily we traveled quite a bit as a family when I was a youngster so I have already seen many of the big touristy things and many of those places I don’t need (or want) to see or go to again.

Granted, there will always be favorites (pretty much anywhere in Colorado for example) that I will visit again and again regardless, but I still have many places I haven’t been to that I still want to see and things I want to do and experience. A coast-to-coast drive on US2, a longer drive down the Pacific Coast, Route 66, eastern Canada…it’s a big list. And this list doesn’t even include Europe or Asia!

Being in the PNW (at least for now) I can easily start visiting many parts of northern and western Canada weather permitting. There are actually quite a few places I want to visit in Canada. In several of my earlier blog pages I had posts and pictures from Banff/Alberta/B.C. and it is a huge, beautiful country with a lot more to see. It would be fun to drive to AK and it’s something I have always wanted to do, but my truck has 190,000 miles on it and I don’t know if that would be a good idea to do that without a newer vehicle.

Again, it’s all very exciting to think about (and it’s even better to do) but sometimes life gets in the way. I know I have talked about doing these things before but with the way life (and death, for that matter) has been the last 3½ years things have gotten sidetracked and delayed but that doesn’t mean I am not going to be doing any of the things I talk about. This year has not been an exemplary one either as far as my personal health but I am feeling and doing pretty good now so it’s now time to do these things. Spending more time and having the ability to do things with family at any time will the the best part of all and what I am looking forward to the most. I already have one huge trip booked (so be sure to keep checking back for that) and with the other things I mentioned I think I can be busy traveling and relaxing (and blowing!) for quite a while.

Speaking of travel, I was supposed to go to CO for a wedding last week. Unfortunately the weather sucked and didn’t cooperate. I was on the fence about it anyway with my recovery but thought I could manage to get there okay and was cleared for travel. Perhaps it all worked for the best but I was really looking forward to seeing some friends I had not seen since I left CO in 2012.

The dog is doing good but we had a little scare a few nights ago. He was acting weirder than normal and was unable to stand without being wobbly. He jumped up onto my lap about 11:30 and laid down to sleep (sleep seems to be his favorite thing to do). He will do the typical “chasing a rabbit” thing in his sleep but this time it was different. He woke up a few times with his legs stiffened and kinda freaking out. He got down out of the recliner and was even more wobbly – like he was gonna fall over. I decided he might need to go to the vet and was planning on taking him in  the next morning to get looked at. I was concerned he wouldn’t be okay overnight.

At 4:00 AM he woke me up and threw up on my bed. He had to go outside really bad but he then got progressively better all morning. I took him in (of course he was pretty much back to his normal goofy self by then). He apparently ate an apple or two off the ground and it affected him adversely. Needless to say I got the apples picked up (and dumped on the other side of the fence for the rabbits!) so hopefully he won’t be doing that again.

I have been de-cluttering again so I have a huge box of stuff to donate with more yet to go through. I was able to trim down several more things in the trailer and a few things in the house but I think I still have a lot more I can get rid of. I was working on going through and organizing stuff earlier this year but had to take a break from it for a bit. Then the surgeries all happened. It felt good to go through and get rid of more stuff but things like going through and scanning pictures is exhausting emotionally and it’s one thing I really cannot dive back into fully yet.

My microwave blew up so I have been living in the 60s the last few weeks, heating everything up on the stovetop. I forgot what this was like, but it hasn’t been horrible and it sure keeps you from buying microwave convenience foods! It’s also one less thing to move in the future. I remembered I bought an extended warranty for it (which I usually do not do) so they will send me a check for reimbursement once I send it in. Besides, I have one in the trailer if I REALLY need to use one.

Otherwise I have been lying low, saving money and not doing much other than recuperating and planning some getaways.

That is all there is for now.

November 18th, 2019

Adventure, Just things, Travel, Uncategorized

It’s been a busy few weeks. Fall is definitely here, and with it comes the usual PNW climate for this time of year – grey, clouds and rain, the days getting shorter, and the much cooler weather. Quite a change that happened rather abruptly. I’m glad I will be able to get away soon to see some different and better weather.

A few weeks ago my oldest daughter Angie flew into town with her mom and they picked up Alexis and came to my house for a visit. We went out to the coast to see the Hoh rainforest and get on the sand at Rialto Beach. It was a really nice day and perfect weather for going out that way. My trailer makes for a nice extra room for people that come to visit.

I got back from the hospital a couple of days ago after another surgery (unrelated to the shoulder). It was something I’ve been trying to get handled for a while now so it is a relief to have it taken care of finally. I actually spent the night in a hospital which I haven’t done in decades. Needless to say I am glad to have this finally done but I am really glad to be back home. Surgery went fine and the doctor felt pretty good about the outcome. Waiting on lab results, though, before getting too relieved!

While I was gone I had to board the dog at a kennel. It was strange to do that since I just got him home and he was looking at me like “WTF is going on here?” as he curiously went with the strange (to him) woman. I’m sure he did fine since he is pretty laid back and likes almost everyone he sees. I can’t wait to see him (and not smell him!).

I’ll find out in two weeks how much longer my physical therapy will continue. It sounded like I am close to being finished with it when I was at my last visit. I will still be doing exercises but will be on my own since I still do not have full range of motion. I don’t know if it will all come back or not but I will keep working toward that goal.

It will be very nice to not have to be somewhere weekly and I can start getting out and about on some long-awaited and much-needed adventures. I try to not get too excited yet since I am still recovering from this last surgery and I have to be mindful of that. It is hard to not get excited about going places, though – I was unable to do much of anything the last six months so yes…I am ready to go someplace. I do have some big plans coming up in the future!

Being retired is quickly becoming more real. All of my options are wide open now so I  have a few things to ponder. I find the classic “Pro/Con” list is such an effective way to help you make some informed decisions of this type. I started doing this when I began thinking about no longer working so now I need to go to the next step and consider what the next chapter is. Of course, my main focus was looking at if I could even think about retiring financially.

The biggest difficulty is deciding where to call your “permanent home”. The US laws enacted after 9/11 say you must have a domicile; you cannot just wander about and be a “citizen of the world” (well, at least, not in the US). You also need a domicile address for things like getting mail (“General Delivery” at the post Office is only supposed to be allowed for 30 days), vehicle licensing and income taxes (And no, it is NOT legal to just go live in the National Forest despite what everyone thinks and does and posts on YouTube and other social media; in fact, there are limits on length of stay in the forests that vary in each National Forest so you need to check into that before you set up a camp in the forest – even if you are just on a vacation.).

That means you have to think about things like taxes on your retirement on top of statistics on crime, politics (I guess those two are the same), cost of living, climate…whatever things you consider when wanting to live someplace. Some states have no state income tax (like WA) while some tax retirement/Social Security over a certain amount (like CO), and some tax it all (like KS). This can be frustrating to try to figure out because you may live in a place you like with no taxes but the cost of living is high and want to escape to a cheaper place. Some places (like OR) have no sales tax but are not retirement-friendly financially otherwise. The combinations are infinite so you have to figure out what best suits you.

One last thing…I want to post a link for Scott’s Cheap Flights (NOTE: Clicking on the colored link and joining the website gives me future discounts on my membership and may help me win a vacation!) . This website is one I pay to be a member of and it has saved me money on many flights (but you can just join for free). My first flight to Europe a few years ago was found through this website and I ended up paying only $373 for RT tickets on Icelandair to Amsterdam.

They do show you how they search for stuff on your own, but I still pay to be a member because they will find and send you cheap flights you may not think of. For example, they sent me an email a couple of months ago with a mistake fare for Bangkok, Thailand with stopovers in Viet Nam, Singapore, or other cities in Thailand. This ticket was on the top couple of airlines that fly to the Far East and Asia. Price? It was less than $300…for a $2000+ fare! And it is really cheap enough for the savings you get.

To make it even easier they give you all the steps to get the flights, what cities, airlines, and the normal prices and there is even a search link at the bottom of the emails that already has the info filled in – click the link and it takes you to the search!

That’s today’s update.

October 13th, 2019

Adventure, Just things, Music, Outdoors, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I’m sitting here typing this while drinking a cup of organic Sumatra coffee. It is nice to be able to enjoy a delicious cup in the later part of the day as well as in the morning. Ahhh…the simple pleasures. I’ve been having only one cup in the morning the last few years, but I have enjoyed an afternoon cup several times the last couple of weeks. I want to get back to one cup though. I think limiting is not only healthier (as in blood pressure), but you appreciate the flavor of a cup of good, high-quality coffee even more when you limit it.

It’s definitely different now that I have a dog! It’s been a long time since I have had a pet around full-time – about 70 dog years. He seems to be adjusting pretty well and he follows me absolutely everywhere – within a foot of my physical being. He’s not a problem, though. He’s definitely smart but in a puppy way. I took him on a ride to get a Chuckit and a chewy snack today. He will lay down, then all of a sudden get up to look, then just suddenly collapse, fall over and sleep – it’s like he is narcoleptic.

Friday was PT and a surgery post-op follow-up. It was like Groundhog Day – he saw his shadow…so it’s 12 more weeks of PT. Post-op appointment went good – no more post-ops but I probably won’t get full use of my arm back. Poop I say. I will still continue to work hard and keep my exercises going to get as much back as I can though. Still not enough range of motion and we are not really doing much for strengthening other than using it as I can.

Yesterday I went out and organized the trailer a little, cleaning out and removing anything not really needed, putting things in their place and drained the water lines and tank. I found some storage containers on clearance (75% off!) that ended up being perfect for separating and storing my kitchen stuff securely in place under the bench. Another one was perfect for storing my cordless drill, bits and charger, a screw assortment pack, an electrical toolkit, and other miscellaneous things for electricity.

Back earlier in the year (before I got hurt) I had added closed-cell foam in the seat cushions since the old ones were breaking down a bit and not very cushy (I guess it can happen since the trailer is 11 years old now). The addition of the extra foam has them overstuffed now but they will flatten after sleeping on them a few weeks. I did not have enough foam to just replace what was in there, plus I have sat on cushions like that while camping and they only mash flat and have no padding. I figured mixing the two might solve the problem.

The trailer was pretty damp inside even though I had some absorbent packs in there. That’s not really a good thing and it’s a good thing I went in to work on things. I was really surprised how damp it was since I put those packs in there to help control the moisture inside. I have bedding and such in there so that had me more than a little concerned. I ran the furnace while working in there but it made the walls sweat even with the windows cracked open a little (propane heat has moisture in it so you have to vent the inside when using the furnace). The packs weren’t even clumping – obviously not doing their intended task – so I ordered a small electric dehumidifier to put in there and that should fix the problem. It might even come in handy on trips instead of the constant running of the noisy A/C.

I’ll probably be getting out for some dry-camping trailer trips close by in the next few weeks to get back into traveling. Last year’s Crater Lake trip was my last road adventure. The drive to MT was a big jump back into driving for me and it’s been a while since I towed a trailer. With the additional PT I have to go to, it is going to affect going on any long trips (more than 5-6 days) for a while…possibly into January next year (it’s only if we are still making progress). I don’t see it as the end of the world; it’s just a little delay in things. I am going to go see things when I get the opportunity but my arm is a little more important to get back.

I have been bingeing on Hulu again, all in preparation for today’s premiere of the newest season of “Letterkenny”. I was hoping to see a few more seasons and a friend said a few weeks ago that the new season is on it’s way. My rockin’ Black Friday Hulu deal expires at the end of the month so I’m glad I can watch the new ones before then. Pitter-patter, let’s get at ‘er.