Oh Canada, Eh!

I keep saying I want to do something spontaneous, just jump in the car and drive. Well, that never happens. I always get distracted or funds are tight. This past weekend; however, we made it happen.

The fellow had an extra vacation day, so I took one of my days as well for a three-day weekend. I had plans on Saturday with my family, but we still had Sunday and Monday. While searching for something to do, we found a coupon on Groupon for a stay in Niagara Falls.

For $77 our coupon would cover accommodations, two wine tastings, a beer tasting, casino credit, credit towards an onsite restaurant, and mini golf. The fellow isn’t a fan of cities so NYC was out, and DC was having metro issues. For that matter, NYC is also a 6-hour drive, so somehow we wound up heading for the border.

13240115_10154154326986798_2848639393487403446_n
Almost there!

We drove up through NY (with about 7 bathroom stops and 42 oz. of coffee) and made it to the border around 1 pm. When we got to the border, the nice Canadian border patrol officer apparently had never heard of Groupon and thought my WV tags and a 6-hour drive were pretty suspicious for an overnight trip, and his buddy started circling the car. I thought they were going to have me pull over and search us, but I guess I have an honest face because they decided to wave us through.

I was so excited to drive my WV plates across the border into another country right up to the point where I saw my first road sign – speed limit 100 km. I realized then that I really don’t know how fast or how far kilometers are (by the way, I now know 100 km is 60 mph). We sped up the QEW to the falls and our hotel.

13239974_10154154314751798_3380429059661338523_n
The Canadian border check point

I was pretty concerned with how good a $77 dollar hotel would be, but I was so pleased. (Quite frankly, I think it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel. It was a Ramada Plaza, and I will definitely try another one next time I’m traveling.) Check-in wasn’t until 4, so we did some preliminary paperwork and then headed towards the falls. Being a tourist town, the “Falls Reserved Parking” cost us $20.00 for the hour we were there, but we were on vacation so I said it was worth it. We parked on the back half of the lot next to the grassy area and saw the biggest black squirrel I have ever seen in my life. He was huge, angry, and not afraid of humans. As we got out of the car, he ran around and jumped right up on the trashcan giving me a menacing look as I snapped this picture.

13240074_10154154307576798_8796887138259403973_n
Canada, eh?

It was so much colder than we were anticipating. I checked the tourist site, and it said shorts/tee shirt and light jacket in spring, so I assumed that my sweater and skirt combo I’ve been wearing here would be sufficient, but I threw my sneakers in the car as a last minute thought and boy was I glad I did. It. Was. So. Cold. It was raining and at times snowing!

We walked through the visitor center where we were greeted by a giant stuffed beaver, postcards, maple candy, and a view of the falls through giant glass windows. I grabbed a few post cards, some Canada patches, a stuffed beaver, and some Kinder eggs! For those of you who have never experienced them, Kinder Eggs are essentially hollow Easter eggs with a toy inside a capsule in the middle. They are banned in the US and have been for at least ten years as they present a choking risk. Then we went down the stairs to the lower level and out to the falls.

13092145_10154154253146798_2662470564021723300_n
Kinder Egg

They are magnificent. The overlook area wasn’t too over-loaded by tourists as we went early in the season, so we were able to hang out by the railing and take it all in and snap some pictures.

From there we walked what felt like a mile (I should’ve checked my Fitbit!) to the ticket line for the boat tour. Everyone I had spoken to had gone on the Maid of the Mist which is the American company. We didn’t feel like walking two miles across the bridge to get back to the States, so we went on the Hornblower which is essentially the same thing but with red ponchos instead of blue.

We all piled on board and tried to get our sea legs and not get sea sick and started the 40-minute ride. It was colder that close to the water, so I tottered below deck to get a cup of hot cocoa then out to the railing. (There may have been a Titanic  Rose/Jack in the bow moment just for laughs.) The falls were so close and the power of the water as it hit was spectacular. There were sea gulls flying in the mist, and it was just breathtaking.

13226690_10154154268801798_8220770383611047575_n

Once we hit land, we went back to the hotel to shower and change and head out to a brewery/tap house tasting that came with the package. Getting there was mildly disconcerting as the main road was out, and we were trying to get the GPS to reroute. The tap house was called the Silversmith Brewing Company, and my fellow was so excited about the quality of beer. I was excited about the giant Bratwurst we ordered because I’d had nothing to eat all day but coffee, bananas, nuts, and granola bars on the ride up. Oh, and half of a Tim Horton’s Sundried Tomato Asiago Specialty bacon egg muffin and a red velvet cookie, both of which were to die for.

Tim Horton’s quickly became my new favorite food place.

Later on the trip, we got a Maple Chill which is marketed with the hashtag #SoCanadian, and it was amazing. I don’t much care for iced coffee or maple syrup, but I could drink a Maple Chill any day of the week!

After the brewery, we headed back downtown for our reservation at the Skylon Tower.

The Skylon tower was opened in 1965 and looks like something from an alien movie. The fancy dining room at the top has a revolving floor, so as you eat it slowly turns allowing you to view the falls. I made reservations after looking at the website but must’ve looked at lunch prices because when we got there for dinner nothing on the menu was below $55.00. I figured it was a special day, so we might as well splurge. I ordered filet mignon medium rare, but it came out blue (extremely rare), but it was still good. At least the portions were large, so I didn’t feel like it was poor quantity for the price. The waitress was condescending which tainted the experience. Over all, if doing it again, I would skip the restaurant and just pay for the ticket to go up to the observation deck and be done with it.

13232983_10154154309871798_642385746668689775_n
Skylon Tower (and Margaritaville!)

I wish I could go back in time to the Skylon Tower and experience it in its heyday with women in intricate hairstyles, wearing elegant cocktail dresses, most likely smoking as they sipped their cocktails next to the giant revolving windows as the men talked nearby in their tailored suits. I bet it was fantastic.
After the Skylon, we went back to the hotel and crashed. I’ve never been more tired in my life. (I know I said that after the 10 K race and parade, but this was for real.) The next day we slept in till 6 and then headed home. We were going to stop at the Duty Free Store for more souvenirs but realized they probably weren’t open that early. It was a good thing that we’d gotten some items when we were actually at the falls. We wound back through NY and PA stopping a few times for coffee and to sight see. We also stopped at a little flea market for about an hour but didn’t find anything. We made it back around 3 and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the balmy US weather.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Advertisements

Presidential Election

“Whose garden was this, did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers, and I’d love to have smelled one.”

That is a lyric from Tom Paxton’s “Whose Garden Was This.” I feel his sentiment about the general destruction and ill care of nature, but also in a broader sense.

I listen to NPR in my car on the commute to work, and lately the airwaves are focused on one thing: the Presidential election.

While listening to the speakers, a comment caught my ear and has stuck with me. “This race will be toxic.” The nominees are vicious, hurling rude insults, and the result will be that many Americans will simply throw up their hands in disgust and not vote.

A toxic race. I’ve lived through toxic relationships, and I know the havoc they can wreak. They undermine confidence and cripple. They result in anxiety and fatigue; they belittle, intimidate and confine. If we found out that our child was in a relationship with someone who behaved in this way, we would be outraged; we would want to shield and protect them.  We wouldn’t want this for our daughters, and we shouldn’t want this for our country.

Our nation’s leader is to do just that – lead. He or she is the figure head of our country, the Commander- in-Chief, our guide as we navigate this increasingly complicated and frightening world. The President is responsible for the protection of our people, to mind our best interests, promote equality, and increase our prosperity. Should not our leaders also lead by example?

I understand human nature; I work in customer service. I have been on the receiving end of threats, cursing, blustering, anger, frustration, and tantrums. At the end of each of these experiences, I shake my head and say the same thing, “In what world do people believe that this is acceptable behavior?”

If I would have ever reacted in this manner with my mother in ear shot not only would she have washed my mouth out with soap, she would make me call back and apologize. I’ve received the above treatment in one conversation from a grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter – in that case I know where the behavior was learned.

It seems that all I see and hear these days is vulgarity, hate, and filth. We allow and promote this behavior for a cheap thrill and a tabloid sale.

People are saying that some voters are disgusted by their options. If this is our accepted environment, what else could we expect when it comes time to look for a new leader?

A toxic race?  Toxicity doesn’t fade once you slap a label on it; you need a hazmat suit and special care instructions. We’re courting our candidates and from where I’m sitting 4 toxic years is a long-term relationship with a political situation that I’m not willing to commit to just yet.

Mother’s Day

“What makes mother’s all that they are?Might as well ask what makes a star.”

Have I mentioned I’m a total Disney fanatic? Peter Pan has such a lasting quality to it. I’m slightly obsessed with Disney villains so Captain Hook makes Peter Pan a top runner on my favorites’ list. I keep waiting for there to be a Captain Hook movie. I had high hopes with Pan, but it was a total disaster. I’ll probably end up with an Evil Queen movie before I see a good JAS Hook film, which I wouldn’t mind too much as I adore the Evil Queen. I even wrote a psychoanalysis of her in college. Disney has some mommy issues, but still, the above clip is such a cute scene!

Speaking of mothers, Mother’s Day was Sunday.

(By the way, my mother was very concerned that I started a Mother’s Day post by talking about evil stepmothers.)

Anywhoo, on Saturday, my parents picked me up and we headed up the road to PA where we picked up my grandmother. We went out to eat at a restaurant that Grammy likes; then went out to visit an old cemetery with some family graves. We also tried to find our way back to a graveyard we had visited 2 years ago with my aunt (who has since passed and was the one who knew how to find it), but we couldn’t find it. For some reason, my mother was relying on me to recall the way to this cemetery which isn’t even marked on Google Maps.

It’s a running joke in my family that I have a terrible sense of direction. My father once told me, “Now C- on the east coast mountains run north to south which means that the valleys run east to west and moss always grows on the north side of a tree, so you should never be lost.” To which I responded, “That may be true, but by the time I’m out of my car looking at the moss on a tree we’ve got bigger problems.”

So I’m not quite sure how they thought that I was going to locate this, but there we were trekking off to Narnia. When I realized  that they were looking to my internal compass to get where we needed to be, I figured that this was better a trip for another day and had them head back towards WV. We’ll leave that trip for another day when I have time to Google the route.

I’m sure that that trip will have plenty of laughs, but in the mean time I’ll leave you with the cute Mother’s Day treats I made for everyone -sunflower trail mix Mason jars.

IMG_20160513_185633

Originally the jars were to have tags which read, “Nuts about you,” but my computer was acting up.

Items needed:

  1. Mason Jars
  2. Mixed Nuts, Granola, M&Ms
  3. Ribbon
  4. Flowers
  5. Hot Glue

This is a quick, easy gift. Fill the Mason jar with your trail mix or granola, put the lid on, tie a bow around the jar, and hot glue a flower to the bow.

(I say easy, but for some reason at 11 o’clock the night before Mother’s Day I couldn’t tie a bow to save my life.)

 

You Can Do Anything For An Hour

There is a festival every year in the area where I work. It is a huge deal with a giant televised parade, tons of events, crafts, a carnival . . . the entire town shuts down.

Somehow, I’ve never experienced this event, so when my work sent out memos about joining in the festivities, I signed up – for everything.

When I was in college, I started running and I ran a 5K. I ran on and off after that and did a scavenger hunt 5K, but that was about it. The running has really tapered off this last year, but for some reason when work sent out an email about the festival 10K, I thought, “I should totally do that!” Now, a 10K is 6.2 miles, and quite frankly, my sedentary self has a hard time meeting my 5,000 steps-a-day Fitbit challenge, but I signed up for the 10K. I also conned a buddy into signing up as well.

My thought process went something along the lines of, “Well, I can run about 2.5 now, and I’ve got 6 weeks, so I’ll train and bump it up and be good-to-go by the end of April.”

However, none of that happened. I ran maybe 4 times and went into the race pretty much cold. Thankfully, I’ve been doing the 21 Day Fix and race day was Day 21, so I had been doing strength training and cardio along with an evening walk.

I don’t think my buddy stuck with his training too much either, so there we were, bright and early on a cold, damp, rainy day with 6.2 miles stretched out before us and only determination to get us by, and we had a blast.

We had never run with each other before, so I assumed that we would start together, separate during the run, and meet up afterwards to compare times, but he stuck with me the whole way which was good because I almost gave up in the last mile.

 

CarlyUpload-19

Look at us go!

 

Now, as if running 6.2 miles wasn’t enough for one day, I also invited my folks up to walk around the vendors/food in the park and signed up to be on my company’s float in the parade. (That’s called overkill.)

Tired from the race, I walked all over the park with my folks and due to the weather and the point in the weekend; there wasn’t too much to do so we went out for lunch. Here is where things started to get stressful. My town is full of one-way streets, all of which were blocked off due to the parade. When I suggested lunch, I meant in town; my father assumed I would want to go to a little diner I like on the edge of town. We didn’t realize where he was taking us until we were almost there. We ate in a hurry and started back into town to the float-loading point.

There was no getting there. Every turn was blocked and no one could give us directions. I started to panic, and finally my fellow just had my parents stop the car and let me out so that I could walk. Except by that time I was so late, I ran. I had my mother’s GPS and my cellphone, and my poor legs, weary from the race, ran another half mile. I literally vaulted over a small child and arrived to the loading point two minutes before the float arrived.

13082726_1119774068074867_3235110083135116934_n

Smile and wave!

The weather didn’t improve at all throughout the day, and it was cold riding on the float, but it was so much fun! My cheeks hurt from smiling so long. My cousin snapped this picture and her son was in one of the bands in the parade with us.

After the parade, the fellow and I went to a potluck for his fraternity then over to friends to play some games. They graciously made me a cup of tea, and I promptly passed out on their couch. Straight fell out. I can’t remember the last time I was so tired.
I think I am going to try to keep running especially in race settings as they make running so much fun! I hope to run a half marathon in October. I also want to do a dirty girl run and a color run; those are usually 5Ks so I can handle that. A goal of mine is to someday run the Disney Princess Half Marathon, because really, who doesn’t want an excuse to wear cute outfits and a tiara?