Anniversary Trip: Part 2 -The Boundary House, Calabash, and Holden Beach

Anniversary Trip: Part 2 -The Boundary House, Calabash, and Holden Beach

We had a great time in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday night, Wednesday, and Thursday morning, but it was time to head up the coast to North Carolina. We headed up Hwy 17 North toward Little River, SC and drove right on through to Calabash, NC for some shopping and to grab some famous Calabash seafood for lunch.

Calabash

Callahan’s Nautical Gifts and Christmas Shop

We walked into the side entrance of Callahan’s Gift Shop and turned to the right and there it was. Although it was April, it was suddenly December and Christmas punched me in the face with its music and smells of cinnamon and Santa Claus’ musk. Every year for our anniversary, my wife and I find an ornament for our Christmas tree from wherever we went on our anniversary trip; that’s the only reason we ended up at the Christmas store. Sorry, not my thing. We found our ornament, regardless, and had it personalized with the year so that we could remember our trip.

We then went through the rest of the gift shop, finding t-shirts for ourselves and family, looking at stickers and trinkets, and tasting fudge when we got to the fudge shop. Oh man…the fudge. Not only did they have the traditional chocolate, peanut butter, and vanilla flavors, but they also had may unique flavors to taste. We sampled their seasonal strawberry flavors, made with real, local strawberries. These flavors were strawberry, strawberry walnut, and strawberry cheesecake. They were all so fresh-tasting and delicious. The server even said that they have someone that orders their strawberry fudge all the way from Montana when it is in season. Now that’s dedication! There was no way we could walk away from trying their other flavors as the strawberry was so delicious. We continued trying the others: pecan praline, divinity (oh my God this one…it was marshmallow fudge and it was so chewy!), dreamsicle, and chocolate praline. If you are ever near Calabash, you’d be doing yourself a great disservice to not stop by Callahan’s fudge shop.

**The Boundary House**

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When arriving to The Boundary House the first thing one notices is the beautiful white building surrounded with a colorful array of flowers and shrubs. Walking through the front doors, one will feel like they have entered the innards of an elegant ship with polished wood everywhere around. There is a sunken dining area in the center of the restaurant with two rowboats suspended above  in a lofted area. The decor and atmosphere truly gives diners the feeling that they have just entered a sea vessel to enjoy some of the freshest seafood that they have ever tasted; and they certainly deliver.

We were seated by the hostess and provided with our menus and wine list and were promptly asked for our drink order. My wife had a specialty drink called The Mae West made with frozen piña colada, frozen strawberry daiquiri, and rum. I ordered one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails; a Cherry Limeade, made with cherry vodka, sprite, and some other flavors, garnished with a lime wheel, cherry and the glass was rimmed with sugar; it was amazing! We also ordered a basket of freshly baked croissants, drizzled with honey butter, freshly made clam chowder, and a caesar salad as appetizers.

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The clam chowder was delicious; the best I’ve had outside of New England, with plenty of chunks of clam meat, potatoes, and LOADED with flavor. No extra salt or pepper was necessary and that says a lot for a soup. The croissants were amazing; hot, fresh, soft, and flaky and the honey butter made them unbelievably good. We couldn’t get enough.

For our entrées, we ordered the Clark’s Combo where you can pick from Large Shrimp (blackened, fried, or grilled), Fried Select Oysters, Carolina Flounder (blackened, fried, or grilled), or Fried Calabash Crab Cakes. We chose Fried Flounder, Grilled Shrimp, and Fried Calabash Crab Cakes. The combo was served with homemade hushpuppies, tartar sauce, aioli for the crab cake, and  a fresh-made side item and we selected the garlic and cheddar mashed potatoes. At this point, I have thought about just leaving the photos to speak for themselves because I’m not sure that any words of mine could express just how delicious this meal was.

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Now the photo above does not show the crab cake well, but you can see just how large the Flounder was as well as the Grilled Shrimp and the rest of the meal. Let’s start with the Flounder. Not only was it one of the largest Flounder filets I’ve ever had, but the breading was spiced just right and the fish, itself, was juicy, soft, flaky, and more delicious than any I’ve ever had. The Grilled Shrimp tasted like most Grilled Shrimp, but what put these above the rest was the freshness. These shrimp tasted like Forest Gump had just brought in a fresh catch on the dock down the street and sold it to The Boundary House just because I was coming to town. It was that good. Now, to the Crab Cakes.

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Oh. My. B’gah…the Crab Cakes. As you can see from the photo, these were no ordinary, microwaved, more-filling-than-crab-meat crab cakes. These were just-caught-by-Bubba-Gump-packed-with-REAL-crab-meat Crab Cakes. These Crab Cakes were not only stuffed with real crab meat, not that imitation crap, but they were also seasoned and fried to perfection, leaving the outside crispy with a light crunch and leaving the inside juicy and fall-apart delicious. These were hands-down the best Crab Cakes I have ever had and that’s saying a lot. There’s only one other place that can match these crab cakes and that’s at Belford’s in the City Market in Savannah, GA; but that’s a story for another time. 😉

Our waitress asked us how we enjoyed our meal and the manager, Rey Mikhail, came over to ask the same. I told them both that this dining experience was one of the best we had ever had; not only because the food was so delicious, but also because the service was above and beyond good, with a focus on our satisfaction. The manager was very pleased to hear this, as one would imagine, but he began asking us what brought us to the restaurant and so on. We explained that we were celebrating our Anniversary during this trip and I told him that I was definitely doing a write-up of the restaurant on my blog. He then asked if we would allow him to bring us one of their award-winning desserts for our Anniversary. We couldn’t stand to take another bite, but he told us that he’d be happy if we only took a taste because it was that good. I’m not one to turn down award-winning desserts so we said bring it on. And ho-lee-shit was it the right decision.

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Their award-winning dessert is a house-made Bread Pudding. This bread pudding is no ordinary bread pudding, however. This bread pudding is made with their delicious croissants and topped with cinnamon and a homemade Vanilla Bourbon sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. There aren’t words to describe this dessert so we’ll use a non-word: uh-may-zing. The bread pudding was light and fluffy and filled with flavor all by itself, but once you get a taste of the Vanilla Bourbon sauce, melted ice cream, and whipped cream, it’s a flavor overload and I’m not sure that my tastebuds have recovered, or if they ever will.

Luckily, we were in Calabash during the off-season and were able to be seated as soon as we walked into the restaurant. However, if you know you’re going to Calabash during the tourist season, give them a call about a week beforehand and make a reservation if your party is 4-10 people or so. If your party is larger, give them about a month notice. This may sound like a bit much to you, but trust me, it is MORE than worth it. You won’t regret it. If you do, I’m not sure you know what good food is :p

 

Holden Beach

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After having such an amazing dining experience at The Boundary House we decided it was time to head up to Holden Beach and relax for the next few days with my grandparents. We stopped at a few surf shops and gift shops, and a pet store for our girls on the way up, but we were ready to get to Holden and just kick back and relax after having such a busy couple of days. Here, we walked on the beach, talked with my grandparents, ate at a local favorite, Jerome’s Steaks and Seafood for lunch, and relaxed.

Jerome’s Steaks and Seafood

Jerome’s was a great experience. We went for lunch on a Friday for their buffet and boy, did it had a full spread. The buffet offered something for everyone: corn, southern green beans, rice, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried chicken, fried whitefish, fried shrimp, pot roast with carrots and potatoes, kielbasa and potatoes, pork roast and gravy, turnip greens, hushpuppies, biscuits, a full salad bar, and a dessert bar with brownies, cobblers, and soft serve ice cream. This buffet was a southerner’s dream and it was filling and delicious. If you’re in the Shallotte area and want a good home-cooked, southern meal with a sweet tea and a smile, this is your spot, but get in there early because their buffet is only open until 14:00.

Overall, this vacation for our Anniversary has been everything we wanted it to be; filled with fun, food, relaxation, and a lot of love.

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Sláinte!

Anniversary Trip: Part 1- Myrtle Beach

Hi everyone! Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been getting work done to get ready to be gone for vacation with my wife for our wedding anniversary. Yesterday was 3 years of marriage for us and we decided to spend Tuesday – Thursday morning at Myrtle Beach and Thursday evening – Saturday morning at my grandparents’ house in Holden Beach. We’ve had a blast so far and I thought that I would post about the fun that we’ve had up to this point.

 

The Grumpy Monk

Upon arriving to Myrtle Beach and checking into the Sleep Inn at the Outlets, by the Tanger Outlets at Myrtle, we decided that we needed to find a good, casual place to eat. After a quick Google search and check with TripAdvisor we found that The Grumpy Monk fit that description well and was rated decently high for pub fare in the area.

We sat in the dining area, away from the bar as it was kind of loud with Trivia Night coming to a close, and I started to look at the various TV screens placed on the walls that were playing a looping slideshow. This slideshow turned out to be a list of their beers. All 43 drafts and God-knows-how-many-bottles with types ranging from fruity beers and lambics to Imperial Stouts and Double Porters. Our waitress, Alexis, came to the table and, after finding out that we had never been to The Grumpy Monk, proceeded to tell us about their specials and for what they were known. Apparently, as we found out, they have some of the best wings and burgers around!

I ordered the “Hangover Burger” which was a burger, grilled with their blend of spices, with lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup, bacon, a slice of cheddar and an over-easy egg. It was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, hands-down. I’ve had plenty of this type of burger before and this one takes the cake. Not only did the spice blend give the burger a great taste, but the egg was cooked perfectly with the right about of salt and pepper and when I put the bun on the burger after applying the mayo and ketchup, the yolk popped and ran down the sides of the burger, giving it that magical, golden, oh-so-good-ness. I ordered the Monk Chips as the side which, as you can probably guess, were just homemade potato chips, but they applied the same spicy seasoned salt to the chips that were on the burger and that made them exceptional. To top it off, they served the chips with a house-made ranch, made with fresh cracked black pepper. One can add 5 wings to any meal for $5 extra so I took them up on this deal to give their award-winning wings a shot. I ordered the hot sauce expecting them to be like most places:

medium/mild = tastes like buffalo sauce

hot/x-hot = maybe like a Texas pete…not really hot

Extreme/Atomic = that’s the good stuff

Oh-my-b’gah/It’s nuts/Insanity = why you do dis to yoself?

Anyway, the wings turned out to be the likes of most places’ Extreme/Atomic wings where they were actually hot and had lots of flavor at the same time. Here’s what makes their wings SO good: they smoke their wings for a long time to cook them through until they’re good and juicy then they flash fry them to give them a good crunch and toss them in sauce. These wings were so good that I pushed through the feeling of being full to make sure that I didn’t waste them. That’s a tasty wing.

 

Eggs Up Grill

For breakfast on the morning of our anniversary, we decided to try the place that TripAdvisor showed to be the best breakfast around, Eggs Up Grill in Conway, SC. The atmosphere was like a small diner, but man was it packed. Judging by how busy it was alone, I would have said that it had to be the best around. We both ordered coffee and looked over the menu. My wife decided to try an omelette with swiss cheese, tomatoes, and bacon. She enjoyed it, but I think she enjoyed her side of scratch-made grits even more as they weren’t the slop that some diners try to pass for real grits. I, having never had an eggs benedict before, decided to order one. Now, since I am who I am, I couldn’t simply order a classic benedict; I had to order something unique. Eggs Up is known for their corned beef hash. I’m Irish, so need I say more? I ordered the Paddy O’Benedict; toasted english muffin topped with corned beef hash, two poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce and served with home fries. Well, it’s official; I like eggs benedict! The hollandaise sauce was delicious and added a creamy saltiness to the eggs and corned beef hash and the hash itself  had so much flavor. It was a great way to start our anniversary for sure as the service was great and the food was flavorful and filling.

 

Tanger Outlets at Myrtle Beach

If you’ve never been to a Tanger Outlet mall and you…wear clothes…why you not do stuff? The Tanger Outlet mall has something for everyone, whether you like athletic or designer clothes and shoes, sunglasses, kitchen items, tools, toys, or really most of anything else. We started off the day at the Nike Outlet. Unfortunately for me, a big man, they don’t dabble much in the way of Big & Tall, so I wasn’t able to find anything there. We then made what we thought would be a pit stop at the Sunglass Hut, but it turned into a whole shopping experience for myself and the wife. Have you ever worn a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses? You should. I think it’s what those late night infomercials try to sell you as “HD” lenses because they make all the colors so vivid. One would use his/her own eyes to look at a bush or a tree’s green leaves and then look through polarized lenses and it looks more like the crisp, bright colors of an HD movie or a video game. It’s really amazing and the polarized lenses remove the harsh glare of the summer sun that leaves only the most vivid and spectacular views. That being said, I ended up with a pair of really nice black Ray Ban sunglasses with polarized lenses and my wife walked away with a pair of tortoise shell Ray Bans with polarized lenses.

We then stopped at Skechers, and my wife got a pair of nice slip-on sandals that are casual enough to wear out and about, but look professional enough for her to wear to work, so it was a win-win. Then I found some amazing slip-ons that I loved. Two words: Star. Wars.

Star Wars Shoes

Now, let’s look beyond the blasphemy portrayed here where Luke has a RED lightsaber and Vader is wielding a BLUE lightsaber and agree that these shoes are awesome. Now here’s the bad news. Skechers apparently made these long, no matter the size. I tried on my normal size 13 and it was WAY too long. I tried on a 12 and it fit pretty well, though it was too long as well. So I tried the 11 and my foot couldn’t fit into the shoe, but the shoe was still too long as well. Weird, right? Anyway, needless to say, since the shoes were so long and were not very comfortable because of it, I did not end up with these beauties. I can say, though, that I’m not too upset. Who screws up the color of Luke and Vader’s lightsabers?!

Finally, we stopped at DXL and were able to find a nice pair of Reebok golf shorts and a Deadpool t-shirt for me. After a morning of shopping, we were ready to head out and enjoy the rest of our day, but first we needed to grab some lunch.

 

Brother Shuckers

TripAdvisor showed Brother Shuckers as one of the better seafood restaurants around Broadway at the Beach so we decided to give it a shot. Upon walking in, we noticed white linens on the tables and indications that this was a more-than-casual atmosphere. However, after being greeted with large smiles and hospitality while walking into the restaurant wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt, I didn’t feel so out-of-place. We looked over the menu and decided to order some of their signature O’Brother Shrimp as an appetizer. The waitress said that they were similar to Bang Bang Shimp if you’ve ever had that from an Asian restaurant, but they were more crispy and probably more spicy. The shrimp came out with a crispy breading and covered in a darker-colored, spicy sauce. They were pretty good, but my wife and I agreed that they would have been better if the breading hadn’t have been so thick. For her entree, my wife ordered the Fish and Chips. The unique thing about their Fish and Chips was that they used Tilapia instead of the Cod that most fish joints sell. The breading had a nice crunch to it, but my wife said it didn’t have much flavor.

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I decided to give their Wedge Salad a shot, though I don’t like Bleu Cheese, so I asked for no Blue Cheese crumbles or dressing and asked for Ranch instead. Their ranch was house-made and was delicious. The tomatoes and onions were fresh and the bacon was nice and crispy. This was a perfect, refreshing Wedge Salad.

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Overall, this restaurant offered good food and great service and if you’re in the mood for fresh fish or a great salad for lunch, you’re safe to give this place a shot.

 

Broadway at the Beach

We took our time getting from the outlets to Broadway, cruising the “strip” and seeing just how many things had changed at Myrtle since we were kids. Myrtle looks much less like a family-friendly beach with lots of fun activities and more like a run-down tourist trap; a shadow of what it once was.

Fat Tuesday

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We arrived at Broadway at the Beach and began going from shop to shop. If you’ve ever been to Broadway, you know you have to stop at either Wet Willie’s or Fat Tuesday. We stopped at the latter and I indulged in a Dreamsicle daiquiri; a mix of grain alcohol, rum, orange, piña colada, and strawberry all in one cup of alcoholic goodness. I paid the extra $1 for an extra shot of grain alcohol in a test tube, turned upside down in the drink so I could enjoy myself just that much more. The bar itself is just a little stop-in type of place with a wall full of different flavored daiquiris, beer, and a digital jukebox. It’s very simple and very to-the-point: “we will get you drunk in a way only the beach can.”

Kilwin’s

After downing the drink, we headed to various surf shops and novelty shops, we decided some of the best ice cream ever was in the cards for us so we stopped at Kilwin’s. They have an array of candies, fudges, chocolates, and desserts ranging from homemade candy apples and chocolate-covered marshmallows to homemade ice cream and fudge. We sampled a few types of ice cream; New Orleans Praline Pecan, Rocky Road, Apple Pie, S’mores, and Strawberry Cheesecake. They were all absolutely delicious, but my wife ended up with the New Orleans Praline Pecan and I had a scoop of S’mores and a scoop of Apple Pie and it was amazing. Although the ice cream was delicious, the best part about our visit to Kilwin’s was the people. Everyone there was friendly and it was obvious that they loved their craft. I spoke with them about how they made their fudge and watched them make a fresh batch and I think that may be why their desserts and treats are so delicious; it’s because of the love that they put into their work.

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Walking around through Broadway there are various points where you cross the water over a bridge and have the opportunity to feed the fish below. The great thing, though, is that for 25 cents, you can feed not only the ridiculously hungry fish that gather like a plague, but you can also feed turtles, geese, and ducks who come over once they hear the click of the food machine (gumball machine) and see you throwing the food out to the fish.

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We finished up our time at Broadway by visiting some more surf shops and novelty stores; grabbing a couple of t-shirts and car decals as we went. We saw that it was about 19:00 and we decided that if we were going to go play mini golf, we needed to go do it so we headed out.

 

Cancun Lagoon Mini Golf

This place looked to be one of the coolest mini golf places close-by so we ended up here. Upon arriving we saw a couple of huge Aztec pyramids, surrounded by beautiful flowers and shrubs with waterfalls flowing down the front, back, and sides of the pyramids. We entered through the rear of the pyramids and were told that they had three, 9-hole courses and an adult round was $9.50 for 18 holes. After completing 18 holes, you could play the third course for $2 more per person. We paid for our adult rounds, grabbed our score cards, putters, and balls and headed to the yellow course (hardest) where all 9 holes were outside in the breeze and sun. We flew through the course, putting mostly 2 and 3 strokes per hole and ended up back inside the temple to begin the red course (2nd hardest) with 5 holes being inside the temple and 4 being outside. We played through this course, again shooting mostly 2 or 3 strokes per hole with the occasional 4-stroke hole and one screw-up 5-stroke hole (ha!). At the end of 18 we looked at the time and it took us about 30 minutes to get through 18 holes of mini golf…WHAT!? As kids, it always took over an hour to get through a single 18-hole course. But I guess getting out there and being able to hit the ball decently, and not having to wait on large groups to get out of the way really sped up the game time.

 

Lil’ Tokyo

For our anniversary dinner, we decided to go to Lil’ Tokyo for a nice hibachi dinner. We ordered the Filet Mignon and Shrimp combination dinner that, as most Hibachi Steakhouses do, was served with a salad and soup as appetizers with 2 appetizer shrimp, rice, noodles, and mixed vegetables. I also had a large Fuji Apple Sake and a large White Peach Sake…it was a special occasion 🙂

The chef came out and was very charismatic and fun; joking about many of the things he did by saying things like, “I screwed up on that yesterday, I guess I’m getting better!” after he flipped the bowl of shrimp tails into his hat or quickly slicing and de-veining the shrimp. He cooked my filet to a perfect, juicy medium-rare and my wife’s to medium temperature and gave us our grilled shrimp and left the table with a bow and a “thank you” and we finished our dinner, talking about the past three years of marriage and what the future would bring. We were both satisfied and tired from a long day of fun so we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

 

Sláinte!

New Gaming Laptop!! – Lenovo ideapad Y700 Touch-15ISK

New Gaming Laptop!! – Lenovo ideapad Y700 Touch-15ISK

Alright, so I got a new laptop a week ago and have had enough time to play with it where I feel comfortable posting my thoughts about it. Since I’m a gamer, I wanted the gaming capabilities to be able to play newer games with ease without having to play them on low level settings because the hardware couldn’t handle it and because I now have a blog and may eventually start vlogging or doing YouTube, I wanted a portable computer; so gaming laptop it was. These are my thoughts about my new Lenovo ideapad Y700 Touch-15ISK laptop.

 

Specs and Performance

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This is the screen that Windows 10 brings you to as a screen saver/lock screen. The landscapes are different each time you log in. As you can see, it has a red-backlit keyboard and a red JBL speaker on each back corner of the laptop.

Processor: 6th Gen Intel i7 Quad-core 2.6GHz

Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GT960M with 4GB DDR5 dedicated RAM, overclocked

Memory: 8GB DDR4 RAM

Hard Drive Space: 1TB

Display: Lenovo 15.5″ Touch screen, Frameless Full HD 1920 x 1080p resolution

Audio: 2 x 2W JBL Speakers with Chamber + 3.0 W Subwoofer and Dolby® Home Theater™

OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit

I’ll just start off by saying that the performance of this laptop isn’t standard. It’s SO much better than that. Now, it may be that I haven’t bought or used a computer that is “new” or “current” since I got out of college in 2009, but the speed of the hardware in this thing is great. It takes less than 30 seconds for the computer to boot up, load the Windows login screen, and log me into my desktop, all while updating me on the current time, date, weather forecast, and showing me gorgeous pictures of landscape from all over the world.

Once logged in, I can bring up Google Chrome in less than 2 seconds after clicking the icon and I’m ready to go. I can log into Steam in less than 10 seconds and start up Squad, Killing Floor, or DayZ and be in-game, battling people online in less than 60 seconds, depending on the game.

Not only is it fast, but the low-profile, red-backlit keyboard makes it extremely easy for fast-typers and hunt-and-peckers (heh, I said pecker) alike to type with ease. All of the hotkey shortcuts allow for easy configuration of the machine and changing of settings for all situations. Useful hotkey functions include an airplane mode, display backlight on/off, trackpad on/off (my most important one since I use a mouse when gaming), quick settings, search, and audio up/down hotkeys.

 

Display, Audio, and Gaming Experience

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Most displays can be judged based on their ability to show blacks and greys. As you can see here, my character is kneeling in a field on a cloudy day at dusk with the sun parting through the clouds. You can even see rays of light passing around the blade of grass to the left side of the screen.

So we’ve established that this is a beast of a machine for performance as far as a laptop is concerned, but how does it measure up when it comes to gaming? I can explain this in one word: excellent. I have not played a game yet that I could not run on High/Very High settings, or even Ultra settings for some games. The blacks are actually black, instead of a dark purple color in which you can still see things moving, although discolored. The edges of shapes and objects are crisp and clear with no noticeable blurring of the edges as an object moves on the screen. It is, by far, the best looking display that I’ve ever gotten to personally use.

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Another shot from a different angle to show the lighting and edges.

Now the audio. When the specs say that it has digital surround sound, they mean it. I played The Long Dark to test just how good these speakers are since The Long Dark has such amazing sound (it’s set in the northern Canadian wilderness where you are stranded and must survive the arctic temperatures and wildlife. I dropped into the wilderness and felt like I was actually in my character’s shoes; feeling the cold, dry arctic air blowing against my face and hearing its howl through the trees ahead; hearing the sound of birds chirping, wolves howling, and tree branches cracking and snapping from the weight of the fresh snow. My footsteps pounded against the pavement of a road that I stumbled upon and crunched through the snow as I trudged through the Canadian wilderness, searching for shelter and supplies. Every footstep, every exhale, every zip and unzip of my backpack, rattled the subwoofer on the bottom of the laptop, making each action that much more real. I should really watch The Dark Knight or something so I can test and see how the audio REALLY sounds.

 

Final Thoughts

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I had been planning on building my own gaming PC for a long time, but after starting this blog and having plans for vlogs/YouTube in the future, the portability became a large factor in this, so I decided on a laptop. I honestly didn’t think that I would be able to find a laptop that was built for gaming that wasn’t A) a million dollars, or B) worth a damn. Then I found the Lenovo ideapad Y700. This machine not only plays my games like a custom-built PC, but it also plays music with the clarity of a Bose system and performs normal browsing and drafting tasks with ease. If you’re looking for a laptop that can handle it all, look no further.

 

Sláinte!