Are we home yet? – Baltimore Trip Pt 3

We did it…. well they did it, but I like to think our specific cheering squad helped boost morale. If you could HEAR the screams from Ben, and how Toni almost lost her voice, then you would think the same too.

I don’t even know how to write this seeing as we are no longer in the play offs as the Patriots defeated us. Isn’t sports lingo great – defeated – how extravagant!

I was placed with the task of writing about our way home – but I didn’t want to.. I still don’t want to. I want to still be there, still walking around with the rest of the fans, basking in us winning, us still being in the playoffs, still seeing Ben jump down the streets with so much energy that he had to do push ups in the hotel room in order to get some energy out.

However, we came home…we drove…for forever…and ever. I almost got sick – seriously I suck at car rides. I had Gravol, fresh air and I am sure everyone was thankful for that.

There were some highlights of the way home, so maybe I should just let you know about those. Because I wouldn’t personally like to read a sad blog about coming home from a vacation where we were stuck in the car for hours on end!

In the morning, the bakery attached to our hotel had chocolate croissants that were FRESHLY made that morning. As everyone was packing up and getting ready for the day, and to sit in the car, I went to the bakery and got coffee and croissants and brought them back to our meeting point of the trip, Julia and Ben’s room. Now do I have pictures of these delicious amazing, goooooeeeyy flakey yummy pastries? No I do not – because we ate them before I could get a picture of them. They were so good – so darn good!

JUST KIDDING!!! Of course I have a picture – jeeze this isn’t amateur hour, we bought more!

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Yum-O look at those eyes!

We even bought more for the drive home, so the beautiful picture you see above is our second batch of delicious treats.

Another highlight of our whole trip was how friendly everyone was – even as Mike was setting the GPS for home, a man who noticed Mike walked up to the open window and asked if he needed help to get any where. He then proceeded to tell us the completely wrong way to get home, but that was not the point. The point was he wanted to help – he told us to go from his house, which we were no where near, to get to Canada.

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The way home was long, like I said before. But with a great seat partner, which I had, and a request to go SHOPPING – it was made more bearable!

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Seat partner extrodinaire – who even held my hair when I thought I was going to throw up!

We stopped in Pennsylvania to stretch our legs, get food and to get some shopping in. We stopped at Victoria Secret where Julia found the love of real bras again since she has stopped nursing, Toni also bought little goodies, and I bought comfy pj’s. I also had my first Macy’s experience where I found and bought a dress for my wedding shower, and Julia and Toni tried to figure out how to steal a very large mirror that was sitting in the change room.

seriously ... can't take them any where!

Seriously…can’t take them anywhere!

After we were thoroughly scolded for wanting a car break from the men who failed to book off the next day, we were scurried to Subway where the option for “double meat” was asked very cordially. I declined…and I am happy to report for all our heart and waistlines’ sake, no one got double meat.

We were then shoved back into the car and whisked back to the border. The car ride home was uneventful – we tried to get home as soon as possible for fear that the rental fairies would turn our Tahoe back into a pumpkin.

The rest of the trip was a blur of…

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And this…

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With maybe a little bit of this…

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All in all it was a great trip – and I leave with you this amazing entrance picture of the great Suggs. Seriously, how bad ass is this picture!?

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It was a great trip, an amazing trip – and by far the best present I have ever given to Cody – even though the picture evidence that I have doesn’t really show it.

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This was after we won…I swear he loves me! Just kidding, love you babe!

~ Jacqui

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Game Day! – Baltimore Trip pt. 2

Waking up in Baltimore on game day was a bit surreal.

We were actually going to an NFL game! A critically important-for-the-home-team-game. A game that both of my brothers-in-law and man had only dreamed about before this Christmas present plan was hatched. A game that a few short months before had been just that – a plan.

The sisters BBM’d our good mornings, agreed to meet shortly and got to getting ready for a hearty breakfast in preparation for an afternoon of beer and football.

Gathering in the hallway outside of our well-accommodated rooms in a row, conversation covered the beds in The Lord Baltimore hotel receiving mixed reviews, with the sirens and interesting screams from the streets below gaining a collective dislike. We were clearly in need of coffee and sustenance.

We decided to try out The French Kitchen, one of the in-house offered restaurant choices, for breakfast and quickly fuelled with coffee, eggs, steak, bacon, and of course carbs in the form of croissants, pancakes and lemon cake.

The internal entrance from the hotel

The internal entrance from the hotel

Our waitress was awesome and extremely friendly, we had the restaurant to ourselves, and even better the food was quick and delicious (and for the record did not have the side effects as the Hardee’s excursion of the day before).

Our fantastic waitress!

Our fantastic waitress!

The French Kitchen was a win in our Canadian books!

It even had this amazingly placed bush...

It even had this amazingly placed bush…

At this point containing the men’s anticipation for getting down to the stadium was next to impossible, so with a few last minute preparations to outfits to get game ready, we headed out on the short jaunt to Raven’s Walk for paraphernalia purchases and our first exposure to tailgating.

I would like at this point to revel in the fact that we were wearing t-shirts and jeans – IN DECEMBER – and at one point I even broke a sweat. In a t-shirt. In December. Best weather for game day, ever.

Best Ravens' fan vehicle, ever.

Best Ravens’ fan vehicle, ever.

We were quick to locate a vendor that sold the jerseys the boys wanted and one carrying the sweatshirts and must-have Raven’s face tattoos that the ladies desired and then headed towards the stadium with the growing swell of energy-filled fans.

All geared up!

All geared up!

This is my nightmare...

This is my nightmare…

Such an awesome moment

Such an awesome moment

Seats and beer acquired, kickoff was one cheerleading and one big-band performance away.

Now, here is where I am going to lose the part of our reading audience that came here hoping to read a play-by-play of what turned out to be a thrilling, once in a Ravens fan’s dreams type-game, however my ability to recall these details is lacking. Also, there are many websites dedicated to such a task.

What I do remember were the giant smiles on all of our faces as kickoff took place, and the cheers, screams and bellows that came from our row of 6.

These people <3

These people ❤

I remember the Browns’ fans in our section taunting us, the confused fan not knowing what team his loyalties laid with, the hot dogs that made Jacqui so happy and the beer that gave me the giggles.

Browns family, Raiders hat, Ravens jersey.... So confused

Browns family, Raiders hat, Ravens jersey…. So confused

Stadium dogs - cheers!

Stadium dogs – cheers!

I rememebr being worried in the third quarter as we lagged and it didn’t seem a win would be in our corner on our mini-vacation.

Worried in the third...

Worried in the third…

And mostly I remember the screams, cheers and excitement that came in the fourth when Flacco started throwing and we made a run for the win.

The best moment though came when the Ravens did win and it was announced that Kansasa City had defeated San Diego, meaning the Baltimore Ravens were headed to the playoffs.

They did it!!!

They did it!!!

The sound and feeling of the crowd of 72, 000 hometown fans erupting in celebration will forever be ingrained into my brain and heart – what a feeling! Even more to that, I got to experience it and celebrate it with 5 of some pretty damn important people in my life. Amazing.

Fans celebrating, players and families rushing the field

Fans celebrating, players and families rushing the field

Even writing about it now, I can feel the rush that came with those moments.

The walk back to the hotel was filled with play-by-play recaps of the most exciting movements both on and off the field and of course a pit stop for coffee. The satisfaction of the day still fresh on our faces, we returned to our weekend home-base and quickly decided on an evening in to cap it off.

We split off shortly to change into our comfies and reconvened back in Julia and Ben’s room (as it was most conducive to community hang outs) where we settled on taking a chance with room service.

Once dinner concluded, we were treated to a royal rumble between Jacqui and…well, everyone that she could egg on. The wresting match between Julia and Jacqui – which ended in a throat jab and face slap delivered by Julia – turned into a wrestling match with Cody, followed by a double threat gang up attack on Ben, which his injuries might lead most to believe Jacqui and Julia won that match. Ben even treated us to handstand push-ups at one point due to a bought of pent up energy wherein he expressed his desire to wrestle again…

Our evening consisted of a lot of this:

The throat jab

The throat jab

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….this went on for some time…

Cody got sucked in too

Cody got sucked in too

Poor #7 nipple....

Poor #7 nipple….

And even more laughter than we thought possible.

We all went to bed satisfied and happy that evening, well-prepared for the long drive home the next day.

~ Toni

Leaving, in a Tahoe! – Baltimore Trip Pt 1

When Ben and I first got together I knew less than nothing about football (American, that is…not to be confused with footie (Australian football), or soccer, or any other iteration). I knew it included a football, but that was it. I distinctly remember “playing” football in Grade 8. Our teacher put us on the field and then expected the magic to happen. For every other kid there, it did. For me, I stood in the middle of the field, completely lost and confused.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered my boyfriend, a.k.a. my now husband, LOVED football, LOVED the NFL, and LOVED tackling people. Yay! (Insert sarcasm here…and there…and above…everywhere, really.)

Over the 11 years of being together and the 8-almost-9 years of marriage, I have learned A LOT about football. I still can’t tell what kind of play the offense is going to run, or the defense is going to set up in answer, but the fact that I know who the offense is, who the defense is, which direction the ball is going, what down it is, and how many yards they have left until they get a fresh set of downs, is incredible…and is the result of hours and and hours and hours of watching football with my man. Also, bugging him incessantly with questions (like, why is it called the first down when it’s the 80th down they’ve had…or they ‘get a first down’ when they were just on a second down…and what the hell is going on?!). I can proudly say that I can hold my own in conversations about the game, that I have a favourite player (Hi, Peyton!!) and that I can cheer alongside Ben confidently, although I still pick the team he’s not cheering for just to be a pain (old habits, dying hard, you know).

So when Toni and Jacqueline hatched the plan to take the boys to a Baltimore Ravens game for a Christmas gift, it was an easy HELLS YEAH! The Ravens are Ben’s team and, in a funny coincidence, also Cody’s favourite team. Mike loves the NFL period, so it was a win-win-win (Andreah and Joe couldn’t come because of monies…and because none of us are rich, we couldn’t swing the coverage for them…it SUCKED that they couldn’t be there, but life is life, regardless of the NFL and the Ravens, and ROAD TRIP!).

A road trip means FOOD. And to kick it off, I baked a few treats…some scones, some delicious cranberry oat muffins, some healthy banana oat cookies, and, of course, some terrible for you but SO YUMMY milk chocolate chip cookies. Snacks were COVERED.

OH YEAH

YUM

For us to go, of course, it meant finding a babysitter that would be willing to hang out with our crazies for THREE DAYS. We have three kids under 6…that is not a small thing to ask. Luckily, we’ve got points with the mothers, and between our mom and Ben’s mom, along with some uber support from Grandpa Mike, we were able to leave our babies and embark on the 9-hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland.

The willing victims...I mean ROCK STARS.

The willing victims…I mean ROCK STARS.

We left at crazy-o’clock in the morning…can you see the clock in the above picture? That says 4:50 a.m., people. We mean business. Toni and Mike picked us up and drove the white Tahoe that they rented for the trip – it was the only vehicle big enough for everyone (all 6 of us) and our STUFF (Mike couldn’t see out the back, but that’s not THAT important…) – to get Jacqueline and Cody. Mike had actually won the rental at his work Christmas party the weekend before, which was a stroke of luck that saved us OODLES of money, considering we were taking the rental over the border and putting 837487436750 km on it. Even the Christmas party gods wanted us to go! SIGNS, BABY!

Jacqueline had never driven as far as we were driving, or traveled for as long as we were travelling, so she didn’t know what to expect. She DID however win the ‘best seat partner’ award from me, because she brought 14 pillows and 56 cozy, thick, soft, fuzzy blankets.

Hello, beautiful.

Hello, beautiful.

Our backseat was tight, because we have the shortest legs, but it was the most comfortable seat ever. Take your shoes off, put your head down, close your eyes, and voila! Road trippin’ naps.

The cool kids sit in the back

The cool kids sit in the back (our view)

Mike was driving, which he preferred AND it was what the insurance on the rental covered, Ben was his front-seat passenger, because this way he could hear conversations (otherwise, it’d be an isolated trip for him), Cody and Toni were in the middle, and Jacqueline and I were in the waaaaaaay back. Cramped, cozy, ROAD TRIP.

The middle trying to sneak into the back...everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The middle trying to sneak into the back…everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The first stop was for coffee. Exactly 15 minutes away from Jacqueline and Cody’s house. People peed, caffeine and breakfast were obtained, and then we were on our way.

The border was by far the most nervous part of our trip and happened within the first 90 minutes of driving. The border guy, who we weren’t dumb enough to take a picture of, was full of tight-lippedness. He couldn’t see Jacqueline and I in the back seat, so we had to pop up and say, “Here!” just like during attendance at school. He asked why we were going to see an NFL game…to which we had trouble answering because the answer was obvious. Mike said, “Entertainment.” Everyone held their breath. Then the super serious border guy relented and said, “Yeah, but why Baltimore?” Ahhh! Breathing can commence – he’s being FUNNY. (So scary). Big hump hurdled, onto the next!

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can't make this stuff up.

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can’t make this stuff up.

The next hurdle was crossing through New York state into Pennsylvania. While we were in the great state of Pennsylvania, we witnessed a car accident – the guy turning left decided to go regardless of the fact he had a red light…and the guy going straight through slammed into him, surprisingly. Moments after we left that intersection, we were almost hit by someone else running a red light, again trying to turn left. We decided to get out of that city and stop for some lunch. At this point I’d already had TWO naps (a Canadian side one, and a New York one…all in all, a GOOD DAY).

We decided to go to Hardee’s, a burger place that Mike had heard of and wanted to try. The hamburgers were just all right and the fries were CRAZY salty. In the end, it wasn’t anything special, and we all got the gift of fun pooping later that evening (TMI? TOO BAD).

Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

Hardee’s: Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

The best part about the road trip so far (you know, besides the lack of children and the napping)? The fact that it was SO warm. We left Ontario with winter coming at us, negative temperatures and lots of bundling required. We got to the States and discovered temperatures that required no coat and no boots. It was like springtime. SO AWESOME.

I had another nap (OH YEAH) and we made it through Pennsylvania, land of the no-stop-red-lights, and into Maryland, land of everyone-honks-while-driving. Our hotel was right downtown Baltimore and a mile away from the stadium, meaning once we got there, we could park and not have to drive again until we headed home.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The hotel was beautiful – it had just been redone, so everything was clean and new and the staff were lovely. They originally booked us on two different floors, but then totally switched us all to the 12th floor so we could be near each other. Even though it must have been a pain, they were so kind about it.

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Our room was lovely. Spacious. Had lots of room to sit on the floor, a huge king-size bed (we are queens here at home), comfortable chairs, a closet and bathroom. The only trouble? No fan in the bathroom. So all of those Hardee’s poops? Fodder for everyone. BLEH.

After we had settled in, we decided to go exploring and find some dinner. The first order of business was figuring out where the game would be the next day.

The Baltimore Ravens play at M&T Bank Stadium, which is right beside where the Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They share a parking lot, they’re so close to each other.

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

To get to the Baltimore Ravens’ home, we had to walk through the Orioles’ stomping ground. Did you know that Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore? We didn’t either!

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

And then, once we were steeped in Oriole and baseball lore, we made it to Ravens Walk, M&T Stadium, and all things FOOTBALL. Ben (and the boys) were in HEAVEN.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas in front of the stadium

Ben v.s. Ravens' football helmet garbage cans - who will win?

Ben v.s. Ravens’ football helmet garbage cans – who will win?

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

After getting our fill of Ravens’ pregame show, we headed off in search of dinner. We were all starving and tired (regardless of the 4587634 naps we had on the way down).

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

We settled on 17 Light, which was a restaurant in another hotel on Light Street. We had tried another restaurant, but the host didn’t seem too keen on doing his job (he answered the phone right after saying “Hi” to us), and then told us it was a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though it looked empty.

This restaurant, the one that served us delicious food, had a bartender/host who greeted us warmly. When he found out we were from Canada, he instantly said he had started watching a Canadian show and LOVED it. All of us were bracing for it – Corner Gas? Red Green? Nope. Trailer Park Boys. We told him that it wasn’t entirely indicative of what life in Canada looks like, but it was the perfect ice-breaker.

Our dinner spot...where we left our mark.

Our dinner spot…where we left our mark.

After dinner, we got some beer, some wine, and hung out in Ben’s and my hotel room, decompressing after the loooooong day. We watched the tail end of Fast Five, where Paul Walker was alive and Vin Diesel still had no neck (it was a no-neck off between him and The Rock…ripped, big, and neckless).

It was heaven to be away from home, to hang out with (some of) the sisters, and have no babies to care for. It was the perfect start to a vacation much-needed and football-filled.

Tune in tomorrow when Toni will regale you with tales of GAME DAY!

~ Julia

WVS Gift Guide for the Geek

Oh, it’s coming.

Can you feel it?

The Christmas season is ramping up. And that means that Christmas shopping is beginning…or, if you’re one of those people, it’s over already and you’re sitting under your cozy blanket, sipping your cocoa, watching Christmas movies smugly while the rest of us are still in brainstorming mode.

Here at the Sisterhood, we’re in full Christmas mode. Some of the sisters and babies went to the local Santa Claus parade this past weekend, we’ve made plans to decorate a tree together, as has been the tradition for the past few years, and sugarplum visions are definitely dancing.

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

Lillian and Sophie with their boosters

So, what to get the loved ones in your life? The hard-to-buy-for? The have-everythings? We’re here to help! For the next few weeks, each sister will give you a gift guide to help cross people off your list or add stocking stuffers you might not have thought of.

My gift guide is for the geek in your life, the kid that never grew up, the adult who loves their toys – a.k.a. Ben.

It’s tough buying for a geek when you are not a geek yourself. If you don’t speak Warhammer or Game of Thrones or Star Wars, what the heck do you do, short of asking for a detailed, specific list, including where to buy such things?

And Ben is like most geeks: he’s particular. He likes what he likes and nothing else. This can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, you can’t just go to Google, type in ‘gifts for geeks’ and pick something willy-nilly. You’ve got to know your stuff. In fact, when I was coming up with this gift guide, I had to ask him clarifying questions about which games he played and what systems he subscribed to. Geeks are TOUGH. But, it also means they have likes – there’s nothing worse than trying to buy for someone who just doesn’t care. My biggest tip? Before purchasing anything, double check what you should be buying. You don’t want to get a Star Trek hoodie just to discover your geek likes Star Wars. TRUST ME.

For my geek, I wanted to get things that could be useful and fun – we have kids and limited funds, so purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of miniature-painting items make no sense. He has no time, our babies would eat everything, and I want more bang for my buck.

Ben likes to build things. If Isaac were older, we’d totally have Lego building parties, but since we’re still in Lego-can-kill-the-baby stage, we are firmly in Mega Bloks land. But, saying we were in the tiny building block stage, I would totally get Ben some Lego.

Like this Lego Minecraft set. I asked him which one and he said The Forest. And then he started to hum and ha about it. So, I’d get him a couple. And then maybe a gift card for more. Because what do I know?!

Lego Minecraft - The Forest

Lego Minecraft – The Forest

Something I do know about is coffee. This Build-On Brick Mug is perfect for the block lover on your list. It’s practical (CAFFEINE) and fun! It also works with whatever block set you have, so you don’t have to buy new blocks to work with your new mug. Win-win.

Build-On Brick Mug

Build-On Brick Mug

Beyond Lego, I can see Ben and our babies (after they’re all done swallowing screws and small parts) building other things together, like this catapult. I’m not saying I would condone such projects, but I think they’d have an absolute blast putting something like this together and then shooting things across the house. At me. Maybe this shouldn’t be on the gift list.

Catapult Kit

Catapult Kit

My geek LOVES t-shirts. Would wear them all day, every day, if his job didn’t require a collar. This t-shirt is totally him – it’s graphic, doesn’t have a crazy saying on it that he couldn’t wear everywhere, and it’s from The Big Bang Theory, one of his favourite shows.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, anyone?

He also likes to cook. And he’s in charge of all the knives in our house (read: I can’t be trusted). I saw this knife set and knew it was over the top. And expensive. But, if money were no object and I didn’t care about our home decor (I legitimately don’t – my design ethic is ‘won’t kill yourself walking around’), this would be the knife block I would get him. Note that it’s Star Wars and NOT Star Trek.

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Star Wars X-Wing Knife Block

Maybe he could whip up a fitting lunch to go in this geeky lunch bag. Chemistry, anyone?

Periodic Lunch Bag

Periodic Lunch Bag

To go with his super nerdy lunch, Ben could also take this scientist-fueled calendar, based on the popular Mythbusters show, and put it on his desk at work. A myth busted every day? With scientific explanations? GEEK-HEAVEN. Maybe not great for productivity, though…

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Mythbusters Page-A-Day Calendar

Ben and his family love playing board games together. It’s a little daunting playing with them since they have been doing it for so long and have this secret language and code, especially when playing Clue (I’m SO out of my league!). Ben and I have been having weekly date nights and for some of them we play a game or two. The last game we played was chess, whereby Ben whooped my butt a hundred times. The board we used is mine from high school and it’s missing a pawn, the felt is wearing, and the board is starting to fall apart. I love the look of this board, it folds up nice and small, and would be a welcome upgrade to the ghetto one we have.

Vintage Chess Set  - so Ben can kick  my ass in style!

Vintage Chess Set – so Ben can kick my ass in style!

His love and skill for chess stems from his number-minded brain. I work in words, he works in digits, sums, and math (gross). This numbers puzzle would be right up his alley. Not mine.

Aristotle's Number Puzzle

Aristotle’s Number Puzzle

My geek also has the weird addition of being a jock. And that piece of his nerdom can’t be ignored. He’s an avid football (NFL, not European) fan, and specifically LOVES the Baltimore Ravens (something about defenses and his high school football career and other stuff). He also likes biking, as in, bicycling to work. This backpack would be perfect – branded with his team and big enough to carry all of his work clothes so he’s not sweaty and gross all day.

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

Baltimore Ravens Black Trooper Backpack

I almost wish that I hadn’t already bought Ben his Christmas present this year (Toni, Jacqui and I are taking our football-loving boys to a Baltimore Ravens game in December!), because I would definitely be getting him items off of this list. Ah well, there’s always next year!

~ Julia