Monday, June 1, 2009

Niagara Falls

Last weekend (Memorial Day weekend), Gary and I went to Niagara Falls.
It is not something we planned. It is something we did on the spur of the moment. We were driving to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which are about an hour away from our house, when Gary turned to me and said, “We should of used this three day weekend to go to Niagara Falls”. I half-teasingly said, “Do you still want to?” And then my jaw dropped. Because right then and there, Gary did something very, very anti-Gary. He said “Let’s go”. Now to get the full understanding of why this is so huge, you must understand, that Gary is not a very spontaneous person. In fact, it could be said he is anti-spontaneous. Every thing has to be planned out weeks ahead of time with him. So you can understand why, when he turned the car around and started heading home so we could pack, I was astonished!! It didn’t take us long to throw some clothes in a suitcase, and within less than an hour of his initial suggestion, we were headed from Illinois to Niagara!!!!!!!

You might think we were crazy to spend one whole day driving up there, and one whole day driving back, just to spend a few hours at the Falls, but this is something I have always wanted to see. I mean, come on, Niagara Falls is the second largest falls on the globe next to the Victoria Falls in southern Africa. One fifth of all the fresh water in the world, from the upper great lakes, eventually cascades over them. It’s true the surrounding area has seen better days. Buffalo, NY is like a lost soul, wearing ragged clothing. Most of their factories have closed, and tourism is some of the only employment currently available. Poor Buffalo, with it’s brutal winters, steeply pitched roofs, paint-peeled houses, and grungy downtown area, has one fantastic jewel-like thing going for it……the powerful Niagara.

To make this trip affordable, we stayed at cheap motels, and ate the worst food ever, surviving on fast food, bags of peanuts, and anemic looking roadside restaurant salads doused with sugary sweet, slightly rancid tasting dressing.

We naively over-paid for a tour-guide package, which would have cost us half the money if we went to the attractions on our own. We doubted the sanity of the trip, when one of the “attractions” the tour guide bought us to was the run-down looking, open-all-night, mini-mart type of place, which he also called the Dare Devil “museum”. In the corner of the store, past the isles of day-glow-orange cheese popcorn, past the sour cream and chive flavored potato chips was one or two of the dust covered barrels people had used to go down the falls with.

Again, we doubted the sanity of the trip, when we waited over an hour and a half to ride in the Maid of The Mist boat, which brings you right to the falls, bouncing in, and bucking the churning water like a fishermen’s bobber, clutching your brand new camera under your raincoat, hoping against hope that the item you just spent hundreds of dollars on, would not be ruined by the mist and spray and humidity. And why oh why did you bring it on this type of trip anyway, when you knew it might be wet and WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?????? You dumb idiot???

And we really, really, really doubted our sanity when we had to wait in line over two hours for the “Cave in The Wind” attraction, which allows you to don raincoats made out of plastic as thin as the Saran-Wrap you cover Thanksgiving day leftovers in, and fun plastic foam sandals, so that you can stand on a platform directly under the falls. Yes. Many, many times, we had our doubts on trip, and wondered why we had come all this way, but, once we finally reached the wooden decks constructed for viewing, and were able, at long last, to stand within inches of one of the most powerful natural forces on earth, in that second, all was forgiven and forgotten. Smiles broke out on every tired face, which were now covered in the spray of The Great Lakes water. Joyful bliss was achieved as photos were snapped with the dramatic, thunderous water at our backs. Yes, it is nice to see the Niagara from the viewing decks above, and from the Maid of The Mist boat, but, here on the platforms, you are able to FEEL the Niagara, and, I have to say, FEELING the Niagara beats the hell out of just seeing it, any day. I could barely hang on to the rail, because the force of the wind and spray we as strong as being on an Alaskan Deadliest Catch crab boat. Ok. I don’t know that for a fact, because I have never been on a crab boat, but , the wind was pretty strong, and I felt a rush of pure joy, bordering on glee, when I felt the powerful water, which looked as if it was going to land on my head, and sweep me away at any moment. I actually wanted to cry. I liked it so much that, I had Gary hold my camera, while I went back on the platform two more times, to soak up the exciting experience. Yes, the feeling of raw, beautiful power was worth all the bad food, the hard motel mattresses, and the urban blight of Buffalo. For here, in this unlikely place, I experienced that feeling of being a small, grateful dot in a wonderfully vast, complex, and mysterious universe. I have to truly say, the trip, was now, at last, worth it.

Thank you Gary. Thank you Niagara.

So that was our Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

We have a winner!!!!!!

Dear Farm Girls!!!!! Thank you for your help! I have two winners in the contest!! I am giving the prize to Dawn in Il for recommending I email the Morton Arboretum, who correctly identifed the shrub as "eleangus umbellata" or also calld "autumn olive". I will also send the person who answered my question at the arboretum a prize. You have all been so wonderful and this has been so much fun, and now I know so much about this plant including the fact that it was originally from China, is now becomming a invasive species and that it's fruit has more anti-oxidants in it than tomatoes. The fruit is high in protein, and the seeds and flowers can be used to treat pulmonary infections.( for more info go to or . Thank you all for participating. This was educational and fun. Nadine

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Plant Contest

Yesterday G and I went for a walk near Lake Shabonna. We went on a path we've never been on before, that was more travelled by deer, dogs and racoons, than humans. The temperature was perfect, in the mid 70's and the sun was brilliant and warm. The air was filled with the mild, pleasant and slightly intoxicating smell of honeysuckle. The honeysuckle smell was coming from some tree/bush that I can not identify. I have put a picture of it here, and if someone can tell me what the plant is, I will send the first person to be able to identity it 3 cards of their choice from my etsy shop The small tree has silver green leaves and tiny tiny white flowers that smell like honeysuckle. I live in the Midwest, so it seems to be native to Illinois. Anyone know what this is????? anyone????

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sad Day

The night before last at 8:45 pm, our beloved cat, Grumbles died of kidney disease in our home. (He is the grey cat in the pictures.)Both Gary and I were at his side. He was our best friend and our son. Gary knew him for almost 15 years, and I knew him for 10. We will miss him so much. He leaves a big empty hole in our house. He was one of the most loving, gentle beings we ever met. I just feel kind of numb and depressed. It's hard.

Yesterday, Gary had off work and I cleared my schedule. After we buried Grumbles in our yard, we drove to the country and went for a short hike. Afterwards, we sat in lounge chairs out at the edge of the wood, and napped and watched birds. The spot we were in was FULL of bluebirds, which I thought was ironic since blue birds are symbolic of being the "blue birds of happiness" and we were feeling so sad. We also saw blue buntings which have a vivid irridescent blue that is like glowing sapphires. There were yellow finches, red cardinals, sparrows, ruby throated hummingbirds, and many more. We even saw a wild turkey. We were lucky it was a perfectly sunny day, because right after Grumbles died the night before, the skies opened up and there was a tremendous rain storm, as if the heavens themselves were crying.

It will take time to heal, and it hit home when we came home last night, and Grumbles was not there.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wedding Bells

Saturday we went to the wedding of one of Gary's long time bowling buddies. The ceremony was held in a restuarant and our table was upfront and close. Although the ceremony was preformed in the usual way, when the pastor got to the part where he generally says, "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health", this time he said "for richer or for richer", because the guy that was getting married is pretty wealthy. It got a chuckle from the whole crowd. I like that version much better, I have to say!!!! That's positive thinking at it's finest!

The statues on top of the wedding cake were cute, because our friend is a golfer, and the groom statue was carrying a bag of golf clubs. Unfortunately, the groom accidently backed into the cake table, and got cake frosting all over the back of his pants, which also bought a chuckle from the crowd.

The food was great, and I was able to get a fantastic vegetarian dish of spinach pie. I loved it.

The photographer for the wedding had the same identical camera that I just purchased. That was nice to see.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Flowers in May

My partner had the wonderful foresight to give me a gift certificate for a nursery down the street from our house for Christmas last year, and today was the perfect day to use it.

I had so much fun browsing through all the living things. I couldn't decide on which variety of tomatoes to buy, so I purchased five: yellow Dixie, chocolate cherry, early girl, super sweets, and yellow pear. I had my first chocolate-colored tomato last year, when a client of Gary's was going on vacation. She gave him a bagful from her garden, so they wouldn't go to waste while she was away. I had never even seen a "black" tomato before, and I was fully intrigued. It was mysterious, exotic,and full flavored. It was love at first sight and bite. I confess, I love to cut colorful heirloom tomatoes open, and admire how pretty they look sitting on a cobalt blue plate.

I splurged on the early-girl by getting one that is already two feet in height. For the last several years, I have made the mistake of buying varieties that are late to bear fruit, and we haven't had tomatoes until September, which is too long to wait for me. This year, I'm sure we'll be eating them off the vine by mid summer, thanks to the half-way grown plant.

We may be doing a "stay-cation" (vacation taken at home) this year, so I want to make the back yard a tropical Midwestern paradise!

I have to put up my little fountain, and buy more bird seed at Farm and Fleet. Last year some birds got into the store, when they had their big sliding doors open that lead to their garden department outside. Last week, I had to go to the store to do some shoe shopping, and there were still birds flying around the inside of the store!! I wonder if they are the same ones. They sell 50 pound bags of bird seed, and the bags are always breaking open, so I don't think they would have a problem getting food. I don't know how they would get water, though. It really enhances the shopping experience to see little sparrows flying over head. It always makes me feels good!

I'm going to go do dishes, and make Asian style soup for dinner with Soba Noodles. nappa cabbage, and shitake mushrooms Yum!