Thursday, August 18, 2011

Niagara Vacation Day 3: Niagara Falls, Canada

We got up the next morning, packed up, checked out and headed back across the bridge to Canada. We parked the car and headed out to Clifton Street, the main strip in the area. We went to a wax museum of movie stars, and then walked down to the walkway along the falls. The view was spectacular! From there, we headed up toward the hotels and casino in the area to find a place for lunch. Along the way, we noticed the casino was offering a show that evening: Le Grand Cirque. It looked like it would be similar to Cirque de Soleil and we both have always wanted to see that, so we bought tickets. We grabbed lunch, headed back to the car and then made our way to the hotel. We got a free upgrade to a top floor room with a falls view....gorgeous! We checked into the room and took a quick nap. That evening, we had dinner and went to our show; it was very similar to Cirque de Soleil like we thought: acrobatics, feats of strength and types of dance. It was incredible! After the show, we got chocolate shakes at the Hershey store and headed back to the room. The view of the falls was so beautiful; they light up the falls at night so they were a mix of blues, greens, purples and reds. Perfect end to a busy, busy day.

 The view of the Falls from the Canadian side

 The Casino where we saw the show
 The views from our hotel room

The next morning, yesterday, we packed up and started our long drive back to Michigan. We stopped back in Hamilton to go to the beach again for a bit and round of putt-putt golf. We finally got back over the border around 6pm last night. We were pooped; we crammed a lot of stuff in those four days. We had so much fun: beautiful weather, gorgeous sites, lots of entertainment....all in all, a great trip!

Niagara Vacation Day 2: Niagra Falls, NY

The next morning, we drove back into the States over the Rainbow Bridge. We bought an "adventure pass" that allowed us to do five attractions in the state park: Maid of the Mist tour, Cave of the Winds walk into the falls, Imax movie about the falls, Niagara Aquarium, and the Niagara Gorge Museum. We also purchased trolley tickets that provided a scenic ride all over the park. That evening, we checked into our hotel, showered and cleaned up and headed over to the Canada side of the falls for dinner, some adventure golf and a ferris wheel ride. We then headed back to the NY side and to our hotel for the night.

 On the observation deck above the falls

 On the Maid of the Mist boat

 Heading back from the falls
 In front of American Falls
 In our ponchos for the Cave of the Winds walk into the falls
 Walking up into the powerful!
 Modeling our free sandals from the Cave of the Winds
 Comfy sandals!

 Lunch at the top of the falls
 In the aquarium
 The best Adventure golf ever!

 In the Sky Wheel overlooking the falls

Niagara Vacation Day 1: Hamilton, Ontario

Brandon and I went on vacation for four days earlier this week. We spent a night in Hamilton, Ontario, then a night on the New York side of Niagra Falls and finally, a night on the Canada side of Niagara Falls. On the first day, we headed out in the morning and drove over the bridge into Canada near Sarnia. We got into Hamilton around 2:30, unpacked a bit and freshened up. That evening, we headed out for dinner and then down to the beach. We were going to play some putt-putt, but it had started raining, so we headed back to the room, watched some TV, went back out for ice cream at a local shop and then headed in for the night.

At the beach

 Overcast and Chilly
 Like a GQ handsome

Bowl of Binder

 Showing his teeth...
 Taking a bath...
Taking a nap....

No matter what he is doing, he just doesn't quite fit in there like he used to.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


It's been just over a week since I officially moved in with Brandon. Things are going well and it already feels like "home" here. Our apartment is actually a townhouse style, so we have a full upstairs, full mid-level and full basement. Our townhouse is connected to 3 others in one long building and we have an end unit.  I noticed early on, before I actually moved in, that the front and back of the building were looking a worse for wear. When I say, "worse for wear," I am actually being looked pretty run down; we had grass and weeds growing under all of our bushes, the bushes were overgrown and the paint was peeling off in large sheets from the wood trim around the doors. I mentioned it to Brandon and he said he forgot about it as soon as he was inside.....Not me.

Because we were having a big BBQ "come see the place" party with our friends this last weekend, and more importantly, because I couldn't sleep at night, I made it my mission to clean up the place a bit. I first asked the office manager here if we could add some patio stones to enlarge our patio a little bit; our grill was taking up a lot of space and was way too close to the privacy hedges we have around our patio. She basically told me I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was an improvement (HA....wasn't gonna be able to do much worse) and I took her words to heart.

Mom came over last week to help me get started and so we made a little trip to Lowe's. We bought paint, patio stones, and mulch and headed home to get started. We started in the front, cutting the sod away from the bushes flanking our entrance. She shoveled out the sod while I took hot bleach water and a scrub brush and attacked the mold and lichen growing on our front steps. We then filled in under the bushes with dark brown mulch. I added some potted mums in bright red and gold that I had planted a couple days before, along with a new welcome mat. The front was looking infinitely better, but still needed to be painted, which I saved for the following day.

We then headed to the back to work on the patio. As we were getting started, Brandon got home from work and came out to help us. We began pulling the mountain of weeds and morning glory vines that were suffocating our bushes and air conditioning unit. In the process, I managed to locate a rather large, in-ground, yellow-jackets' nest which derailed the work for a bit. Brandon and I had to go buy a couple cans of Raid because we were out and we wanted to let the swarm die down a bit. After we returned, we doused the nest and rested for a little while. It was getting late into the evening, so Mom headed home and Brandon and I got back to work. We cut out the sod from in front of our patio and laid down 3 rows of 1 foot square patio stones, 6 stones wide. This gave us plenty of space to move the grill out from the main patio and rearrange our table and chairs. We then put edging out in front of our bushes and filled the area with more brown mulch. To finish the space, I added two more large, orange potted mums to either side of the patio and solar lights along the edge to light the space at night.

The next day I put down sheets and painted all of the wood trim around our doors and the kick plates...what a difference it made! I was worried that the staff here might say something to me, but then what could they say... "Quit making our stuff look better!"? I didn't think so.

Unfortunately it rained on the day of our BBQ, so the festivities were held inside and we didn't really get to show it off. I guess that just means we'll have to invite everyone over again when the weather will cooperate.

 Looking out from our screen door at left side of the patio with our table and grill
The view of the patio and back of the apartment from the back lawn

I cannot even explain how much I love this space! I am currently blogging about it while I sit out here enjoying the breeze and the sounds of the birds. I love to sit out here with a cup of coffee in the morning, when Brandon grills dinner, or with a glass of wine in the evening while enjoying the glow of the candles on our table. People keep asking why I put so much effort and money into an apartment, but for the time being, this is our home and I want it to be a space we can be proud of and, more importantly, enjoy using. So far, so good!

Monday, August 08, 2011


Michael came over tonight to see the new place and have some chow. I made naked enchiladas and they were beyond tasty!

Naked Enchiladas
4 chicken breasts, cubed
1tbs EVOO
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small zucchini, quarter chopped
1 cup frozen corn
Mrs. Dash table blend
Green enchilada sauce, small can
Colby jack or cheddar shredded cheese
Sour cream
Chopped tomato
Tortilla chips/Doritos

Saute the onion in the EVOO for 2 minutes.

 Add the chicken and Mrs. Dash seasoning and cook covered until chicken is no longer raw.
 Add corn and zucchini with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until zucchini is soft.
  Add green sauce. Allow to cook for 10 minutes on low. Dish up.
 Top with cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and crushed chips. Viola! YUM.
 And just as a side note, I saw this a while back and it has come in quite handy. To quickly and easily dice up a tomato, cut from the bottom and cut across both directions, but don't cut all the way through. Then turn the tomato sideways and cut slices....easy peasy dicing!

Your Highness.


Brandon and I headed out to my parents' house yesterday so Brandon could help them update their computer and clean their hard drive. I spent the afternoon visiting family and taking pictures because I am no help what-so-ever in the computer area. While out roaming in the field taking pictures, I happened to look down by my foot.....This BIG sucker was mere inches from my leg.

I nearly pooped my pants.

I took a quick picture before it tried to eat me, and then ran, squealing, back to the trail. That spider was monstrous....its body was about the size of an oblong half-dollar. It wasn't enough that it was giving me the heebie-jeebies just for seeing it; I had also convinced myself that her like-sized friends were on my back and hair. For the rest of the evening, anything that brushed against me gave me a small coronary event. It was a long evening.

I did some research today (now I'm itchy and freaked out again) and determined that this is an Argiope aurantia. Some info if you care to know more...

"These spiders are found from occur from southern Canada south through the lower 48 United States, Mexico, and Central America as far south as Costa Rica. (Milne and Milne, 1980; Platnick, 2004)

As is true in many spider species, females of this species grow to much larger size than males. Adult female body length ranges from 19 to 28 mm (3/4 to 1 1/8 in.), while males reach only 5 to 9 mm (1/4 - 3/8 in.). In both sexes, the shiny, egg-shaped abdomen has striking yellow or orange markings on a black background. The forward part of the body, the cephalothorax, is covered with short, silvery hairs. Legs are mostly black, with red or yellow portions near the body. (Dewey, 1993; Milne and Milne, 1980).

Web construction is complicated. To start the web, Argiope firmly grasps a substrate like a grass stem or window frame. She lifts her abdomen and emits several strands of silk from her spinnerets that merge into one thread. The free end of the thread drifts until it touches something far away, like a stem or a flower stalk. She then creates bridge lines, and other scaffolding to help her build the framework of the web. She builds a hub with threads radiating from it like a spokes of a wheel. She switches to sticky silk for the threads spiraling around this hub that will actually catch her prey. It may take a few hours to complete the web, then she eats the temporary scaffolding and the center hub. Argiope spiders often add stabilimenta, or heavy zig-zagging portions, in their webs. A stabilimentum may or may not aid prey capture (see below). The entire web is usually eaten and then rebuilt each night, often in the same place. (Dewey, 1993; Faulkner, 1999; Lyon, 1995; Milne and Milne, 1980; Nyffeler, Dean, and Sterling, 1987; Zschokke, 2006)."

I don't care that she isn't poisonous...still creeps me out.

My Favorite Things

Water, wine, chocolate and my loving man- all in one place? Perfect! On Friday night, Brandon surprised me with a special date...a chocolate and wine tasting tour on a boat! The tour was in Frankemuth, on the Cass River. The boat was small; it held ten people, the driver, the tour guide and a table in the center. Our leisurely ride lasted an hour and we got to try 5 different wines, 5 different chocolates and then were offered a glass of our favorite tried wine.

The ride was beautiful; our departure time was 8pm so the sun had gone down a bit and it had cooled down just enough to be the perfect temperature. The tour guide and the driver were so interesting and fun; they told historical tidbits, stories and jokes...the perfect compliment to the ride. The wine was delicious and the chocolates were to die for! After we got back to the dock, we headed up to their store where we were given 2 more free wine tastings and then were able to purchase both wine and the chocolate.

After our tour, we walked down Mainstreet to the Brewery restaurant where we had dinner (and more wine!) It was such a great evening! If you are looking for something fun and relatively cheap to do (20 dollars per person), I highly suggest this wine and chocolate tour!

On the dock before our tour