We’ve been on vacation this past week. It started off with a bang – literally, and not in a good way. We were only about twenty miles from home and were going through a school zone when a man came running through the traffic waving his arms shouting, “Stop. A cop’s been shot!”
We were just moments behind the flying bullets which took down a deputy. He was shot in the eye, arm, and chest. Even with these injuries, he managed to get off a few shots at the assailant. When traffic was finally released and we passed the scene, five shots were noticeable in the truck’s windshield.
While we sat in the middle of the highway only a few hundred yards away, but still in range of bullets, police and first responders swarmed in. We had a front row seat to the assailant being taken down by the police.
What made the scene even more eerily, is this happened in a small town where I attended school as a child and the bus I rode turned in to the school in this very spot. Back then, this was unheard of. When crossing guards motioned for you to stop, you stopped. You didn’t get mad, flee the scene and return with a gun.
After an hour delay, we were on our way to New Orleans. We had just cleared New Orleans East when we came upon two company trucks, pulling road warning signs of all things. I say this because the driver of the second truck was busy texting and in the process wasn’t paying too much attention to how close he was getting to the truck in front of him. Although they were hauling road caution signs, they were not displaying much caution.
People texting while driving really irks me. While hubby drove along side the truck, I looked up the company name on my phone. Once we had the truck number, I phoned in to speak to the safety manager. He was a little surprised at the information we were able to provide. He asked what the driver looked like so he could be sure he spoke to the correct person. We not only provided a description of the driver, but the mile post, direction, time, and truck information.
The safety manager said that he was sure that the driver would deny the accusation, but also remarked that where there was smoke, there was normally fire and with the information we provided, he wouldn’t be able to easily weasel out of the problem. I guess when the driver decided to text, he wasn’t expecting a trooper to be watching. The safety manager thanked us for the information and told us he was glad we had called in.
I think we were heading through Alabama (from Louisiana) when we came across this on the interstate. I couldn’t resist clicking a picture.
It’s not often you see this!
Our trip originated in Southern Louisiana and we traveled through Mississippi, Alabama, and then Georgia on this trip on our way to the Smokey Mountains in Northern Georgia. You see a lot of strange things out there on the interstate!
We headed through a rainstorm that insisted on following us part of the way north.
With the morning delay, by the time we made it to Atlanta, we hit work traffic. It was a mess. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced Atlanta traffic. It was years ago. We came off of an overpass and around a curve and saw eight lanes of stalled traffic.
This was only six lanes wide.
North of Atlanta, we ran into more rain as we headed into the mountains.
Even with all the delays and weather, we still ended up arriving at Walnut Mountain before dark – just! These photos were taken on the mile drive up to the top of the mountain. This is actually a very steep incline.
The fog rolled in as we reached the top.
I invite you to stay tuned for more of our adventures!
*Update – On the trip home as I was checking on the condition of the deputy that was shot, I stumbled across the name of the shooter. My heart skipped a beat when I realized that it was someone that I attended school with for five years. It is hard to reconcile the individual who picked up a gun and shot at another human being with someone I knew so long ago. Proves once again, it’s a small, small world.
Gosh, but it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write. So much has happened in the past two months and it’s left me turning in circles and unable to focus for a while.
December found us spending more time in church for funerals of family members, than not. I lost my dad at the beginning of December, a very close friend the day after Christmas and my husband’s niece lost her baby only days before her due date before New Year’s.
Losing a parent is rough and going through a funeral with family members at each other’s throats is not a pleasant situation. Losing someone who has been an integral part of your life for the better part of 17 years isn’t easy. Especially when that person sees you as part of their family and that is how it was. This man was as close to a saint on earth as I have ever met. He touched so many lives in a spiritual way and his legacy will live on forever. He was that kind of man, truly special.
Our niece’s baby did so many somersaults that she managed to twist her umbilical cord to the point it cut off her life-line to her mother. She was a beautiful little baby, pink as could be as she had just passed before delivery. It was heartbreaking for everyone. Her passing marked the third death in my husband’s family in five months.
As I look back and try to absorb all the emotions that have been floating around, I told my husband that I didn’t know what was the hardest – grieving a parent you’ve known your entire life, watching the burial of a beloved man, or watching two twenty-eight year olds standing with their arms around each other when they finally make the decision to allow the casket to be closed on a baby they will never get to raise.
Life is strange and definitely not for us mere mortals to understand. At the baby’s funeral, our priest said that the week before we had buried one of our finest (our friend) and that day, we were burying one of our purist. On New Year’s Day when our priest visited at the hospital, he spoke about the baby being a true angel, that she wasn’t tainted by this world. She had never taken a breath of this life. I thought of the Blessed Mother carrying a Savoir, and I thought what an honor, to be chosen by God, to carry an angel. That is special.
This past week I had the chance to play with the penguins at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans. A friend of mine has a child with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, and he was eligible to be part of the Easter Seals program that sponsors the event. My friend invited me to go along. She is too funny and sweet. The aquarium is closed on Mondays and she knows that I am an introvert and suffer from social anxiety. When the person told her we would be the only ones there (besides the other four families) she immediately thought of me – so off we went on a field trip, the two of us and two of her children. Did I mention how great it is to have such wonderful friends who love you and take your quirks in stride? I was not always so lucky, so I know that I am truly blessed.
We had so much fun, but the day wasn’t without incident! “Lucy” just had to do something! After learning about the penguins and their habitat, we were invited to enter the habitat and play with them. Of course, the habitat includes a huge swimming hole! I think I prayed the entire time that I would not fall in, because if that was going to happen to anyone it would have been me!
Most of the penguins are quite friendly and we were able to hold them. We were allowed to stay and play for a long time, which was nice. We weren’t rushed at all and the penguins seem to enjoy the visit as much as we did. The person in charge was as eager to answer all of our questions, as we were to ask them.
The only thing I feel bad about is that I am in most of the pictures because Mom was busy taking pictures of the kids and I was helping them hold and play with penguins! I felt she should have been in the photos instead of me, but at least the camera was safe in her hands. At the end of the visit, we were squired away to a room where two penguins with paint on their feet walked all over paper taped to the floor. Each child went home with a stuffed penguin and a picture “painted” by the penguins. We had so much fun!
Okay “Lucy” did have one incident that could definitely have been disastrous, but wasn’t. When we entered the door to go to the penguin’s habitat, don’t ask me what I expected to see. A staircase perhaps? What I saw was a ladder, much like those used in boats to climb down into the engine rooms. I had to laugh at myself and even said, “Oh! A ladder.” We climbed up the ladder with no problem and I forgot all about it – that is, until it was time to leave.
Having spent a little time climbing up and down such ladders, I knew as I watched everyone climbing down as though it were a staircase, that it wasn’t. Soon, it was our turn to follow Jude’s mom and sister down the ladder. They laughed when they turned around and saw Jude and I descending the ladder the same way we had climbed up. A ladder is a ladder is a ladder, I don’t care how you call it. She thought I was little nuts when I described how I climbed down, but Jude and I made it safely to the bottom with him climbing down by himself (like a big boy) surrounded by my arms.
That was the safe part, because as I turned around and started out the door, I didn’t see the raised lip and almost went flying. I still can’t tell you how and where I caught myself, but fortunately an accident was avoided.
And, what do you do on the way home with kids? You stop for chicken tenders! We had a great day and it was nice to be light-hearted for a while.
Tuesday, I had an appointment at Ochsner for a MRI on my hand. The diagnosis was erosive arthritis and if you follow me on Instagram, (@SouthernCharmPlanner) I am documenting my progress with a medication that was prescribed. My doctor told me Erosive Arthritis is a cousin of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not a lot is known about it and there is no cure or known treatment – rare was what she called it. That didn’t surprise me as I already have two “rare” blood disorders. I am an INTJ and have a “rare” personality – 4% of the population share this personality. Rare is quickly becoming part of my vocabulary.
Since Hubby was off at the duck camp, a friend went with me to the hospital. On the way home – laughing here – we stopped at iHop. It’s not only children who like chicken tenders! We ended up sitting and talking until almost dark!
I escaped two incidents this week unscathed – which still has me shaking my head. The second was Friday evening when I went to the dog’s kennel to check to make sure their blankets had not been drug out of their houses. Their kennel is the white picket fenced yard surrounding my Garden House (the pic is above). Their houses are located under an overhang to the side and on a wooden platform. As I walked onto the wooden platform, my foot slipped on the slime (it’s been raining) and down I went. My arm went down on top of the fence between two pickets and I hit my knees. My thought as I was going down was this is going to be a bad one. By the Grace of God, I was kneeling down and wondering what I broke when I realized I hadn’t hurt myself, not even my knees! I am still shaking my head because I’ve done more damage with less traumatic falls. My favorite jacket was even spared.
Other than catching up on Etsy orders and book reviews, that has been my week. Hope you enjoyed visiting!
My answer would have to be no. I am always multi-purposing bags. These two pictures are perfect examples. Both were originally intended to be make-up bags. I, of course, found better uses.
The green bag is an Orla Kiely bag from Target. I love her products and actually do have one of her make-up cases that does house my make-up.
This green bag, however, was the perfect size for my Zink hAppy printer. There are two zip compartments on this bag. One that is about 1.5″ in depth on top and then the larger bottom compartment. The top houses the recharging cord perfectly. The bottom compartment houses the Zink hAppy and two of the 2″ wide rolls of film. The case will protect them while traveling.
(The extra little photo at the upper right is a thank you note that I recently sent to someone who so thoughtfully gave me a plant. No one really wants to ask the recipient exactly what the florist sent, but at the same time, you’d like to know that it was as nice as what was described. This is when one of the little printers comes in handy. I snapped an photo and added some thank you text to the it and printed it. I then adhered it to stationary and mailed it. This would be especially nice to do for those holiday gifts that were mailed to you or your child.)
The second photo shows a little bag I purchased from Talbots online this fall. I love the pink and blue combination; very feminine. It is just large enough to house the LG photo printer and its charging cord. It also has space to add a pack of extra film. While the Zink hAppy is much to large and bulky to tote around on a daily basis, this handy little LG is the perfect size to tuck into my tote bag.
While I enjoy using both products, I have to admit that I like the convenience of the LG’s size. Both products offer several of the same amenities: collage of photos and adding text. What the LG does not offer and is actually a great selling point for the Zink hAppy is the ability to print on sticker paper. Both products use the same type of film, only the Zink hAppy allows you to peel off the backing and adhere your photo to your choice of medium.
I keep a travel journal and this allows me to print and stick my photos alongside my commentary of the trip. I use an iPhone 5 and each printer has its own app that makes printing a snap. The Zink hAppy communicates via wireless and the LG uses Bluetooth. The Zink hAppy allows you the option of printing using several different size widths from 1/2″ up to 2″ and I think up to 18″ long. You can also make a banner using this device. When printing from my phone’s photo album I was actually able to print a number of photos without stopping. The photos were automatically clipped so when I cut the long thread, all I needed to do was peel each individual print off of the backing and place it on my book pages. These are options not offered by the LG. Your prints are 2×3″.
The quality of the printers is actually amazing for little printers. The photos from each of these two devices is comparable so either would be a good purchase. Both use Zero ink technology. The prices are comparable. The Zink hAppy did cost more because I purchased a battery so I did not have to rely on plugging the device in. The print paper is approximately the same for both. The packages contain different amounts of film. The jury is still out on the LG battery life. The Zink hAppy’s battery life last a very long time. I’m not sure if I charged the internal battery on the LG long enough – the light was green – or if it died quickly. The instructions are in another language with no English offered so I’m figuring out this printer with no help. It also does not have a designated on/off button per say; the Zink hAppy does. You definitely know when the printer is on and off.
*Note here – I just watched several You-Tube videos on this little stinker and it turns out the little lock/unlock button on the side is the on/off. I thought it meant that the device locked to insure the lid did not open.
The Zink hAppy can be dressed up with different colored skins (purchased separately). The LG comes in white, yellow, and pink.
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and I’m not packed! What would you do and how do you cope? Just to let you know, I am not leaving in the next few hours, but I wouldn’t stress if I were. Why and how? you ask?
It’s not my nature to stress over the easy things and I have packing down to a science. If I were – and I’m not – leaving in a few hours, this is what my day would be like.
First, I’d grab a pair of jeans. Then one of my favorite go to ensembles – a sleeveless white blouse and a cardigan (notice my photo to the left.) Next would come undies and I’ll leave what I grab to your imagination! And, off to the shower I go.
Getting out of the shower, I grab my shampoo and conditioner and toss them in my “Bathroom Bag” (first in a large zip lock of course) and then grab which ever bath gel I’ve decided I like for the day (most likely the fullest bottle – I keep four or five refillable bottles in the shower of different gels) and toss that in with the shampoo/conditioner and zip it up.
I then pull another zip lock out of the Bath Bag and after spritzing my hair with detangler, toss that in the bag (I reuse the zip locks and store them where used). Same goes with the deodorant and my perfume. (This bag is still sitting on the counter.) I dry my hair and toss my comb and brush into the bag and it’s ziplocked. The dryer goes into the big bag. I apply makeup and that container goes into the bag. After brushing my teeth, the toothpaste and toothbrush goes into another zip lock and into the large bag. Little things like Q-tips and a bar of soap stay in their containers in the Bath Bag so I don’t have to bother packing those every time. There have been years when Hubby and I have traveled a lot so there are many items that I have two of. The second stays packed.
Let’s pretend that I’ll be gone for three days and I don’t need dressy clothes. I grab my all time favorites and eliminate the hard decision-making about what to wear. I fold four (I always grab an extra) white sleeveless blouses (I know – I like what I like) and four different color cardigans and slip two sets each into two gallon zip lock bags, toss in a couple of fresh dryer sheets and ziplock squeezing out excess air. (I normally grab a couple of LLBean soft t-shirts and pack for those days when you want to change in the evening due to the weather.) I then grab a couple of pairs of jeans and follow the same procedure. I use a rolling duffel bag from LL Bean and using zip locks keeps my clothes situated, fresh smelling and clean. (I have two sizes and the length of the trip determines which size I use. With the large, I can eliminate the bath bag.) I don’t like a jumbled mess and if you are flying – the zip locks keep the hands of the agents searching the luggage off your clothes (yes, I think of everything!) and I’m sure they appreciate it as well. (Dirty clothes get put back in a ziplock with a dryer sheet.)
A note here: If I am only using my rolling duffel and not bringing my Bath Bag, I just toss the zip locks (just a phrase because let’s face it, I never just toss anything) into the duffel and don’t worry. Everything is protected.
That’s it folks. I’m packed for a three-day trip and the whole thing took me about an hour and fifteen minutes (and an hour of that was showering and dressing.) And, may I add here, I didn’t stress a bit.
(All of these photos are from another – and much longer – trip.)
When my children were little and traveling with me, I packed a day’s clothes in each ziplock to make it easy for them (shorts, shirt, socks, undies.) Pajamas with a change of underwear would be packed into another ziplock. They were able to grab a bag and know that everything was there for them to get dressed. And with the dryer sheets, clothes smell straight from the dryer.
If there was a need to pack dress clothes, they would be carefully slipped into a white garbage bag that I make a little hole in the top to accommodate the hangers. I would then wrap them around my pillow and place in the top of the duffel. We also like to pack our pillow – what can I say except I like my own pillow. I have never had to iron (and I only buy cotton) clothes. I do the same with Hubby’s dress clothes.
The idea of the duffel came around when Hubby retired about seven years ago and we began taking lengthy trips. I didn’t want to be hauling three and four bags into a hotel each night while on the road. I purchased a LLBean X-Large rolling duffel for each us with that in mind. When you use one bag, you don’t stress over leaving something behind and it is so easy to roll the bags. We traveled (drove cross-country) to Washington and then on to an Alaskan cruise/tour and were on the road for three weeks. Everything we needed fit in these bags, including a pillow and our Lands’ End squalls. It worked wonderfully – one bag each! To answer your unasked question – yes, there were other bags. After all – I’m me. I had a backpack jammed with entertainment things and books, etc. as well as our plans for each excursion and my purse. But, I promise you – that was it. And, Hubby had his own backpack so he could cram his jacket into his own backpack and not mine.
Have questions? Need clarification? Please leave a comment.
As always thanks for stopping by My Life. One Story at a Time.
How do you pack for a trip? Have any tips to trade?
It seems my life resembles one country song after another lately. Take for instance,Thursday. I picked out my clothes for a meeting I needed to go to. Since the weather here in the South is normally stifling, I didn’t put my jacket on. Because the weather is so hot, I decided to wear one of the cute thin cotton shells that I have. I tossed the jacket over the dining room chair alongside my brief case and phone – all things I did not want to forget. As it got closer to my designated leaving time, I gathered up the last of my belongings I needed and headed out the door. I grabbed my jacket (or so I thought.)
Fifteen miles later I pulled up in front of the parish office and got out of the car. I reached back in to retrieve my jacket, briefcase and bag only to find no jacket. I was mortified. The cute sleeveless blouse I had chosen to wear under my jacket was a little thin side. In other words you could see through it. After panicking and searching frantically for a jacket that wasn’t going to magically appear, I called hubby.
I was frantically telling him I had left my jacket at home and there was just no way I could sit and conduct a meeting in a room full of men in a see thru shirt, and could he please meet me with my jacket – all in one unbelievably long breath. Of course being such a sweet husband he said yes. I then proceeded to tell him to look on the dining room chair and on my office chair and so on. He then got a little perturbed and told me he would find it but I needed to hang up. What is it with men? Can they not walk and talk at the same time. I wanted to stay on the phone walking him through each room and be there when he located it so I could quit panicking. Okay, so I can be a little OCD at times.
I began heading back down the highway from wince I had come hoping to meet hubby in record time even though we were now encroaching into the work knockoff traffic. He then called me to say he was hung up in traffic (there is only one road up and one road down the bayou so this was not good). I was driving through a little town and began announcing every landmark I was passing in the hope that he would say “I’m almost there.” “I am passing the post office. ” “I am passing the library. ” “The post office?” “The library?” As in we have one of those? Picture me rolling my eyes and wondering if I would actually meet him in our driveway rather than on the road.
We finally met at a small grocer. He was traveling north and as I approached the store I saw him put his blinker on and turn in from the far side. We met with our windows already rolled down. He handed off my jacket and it was “Bye” “Bye” and we were both off again. Reminded me of my favorite Dr. Seuss book, Go Dog Go. “Hello!” “Hello!” “Do you like my hat?” “No. I do not.” “Goodbye!” “Goodbye!” I managed to get back in plenty of time to begin the meeting on time.
My birthday is coming up soon and I’ve been wanting a laptop. So…Hubby said I could get one. My cousin was in from Georgia so it ended up being the perfect time. I would get to visit and do something fun – like buying a computer at the same time. And, I needed his expertise.
As always, when I arrived at their house on Monday morning, a wonderful meal was waiting for me. I’m a challenge to cook for because I’m so finicky, but, he’s learning. He scrambled eggs and melted smoked gouda cheese on top and then spooned it onto tortillas. He then folded the tortillas and put them back in the pan to toast them. When I tell you, it tasted like a little bit of Heaven, believe me. Some of my favorite ingredients – eggs, cheese, and tortillas. Can’t go wrong in my opinion. Doesn’t that look good?!
And, all of this on a Monday morning. I normally do not schedule anything for a Monday because I am not a Monday person. I normally hang around the house in my pajamas until the grass is dry and then I get dressed and mow grass. Supper is whatever I find frozen, usually gumbo. It’s sort of a non-lazy lazy day. So, to not only be up and about, but in New Orleans at 9:30 in the morning – well it was a miraculous day all around.
I’ve spent most of today attempting to navigate around the Mac. One difference I’ve found is that there are not as many menus available in the programs as there are on the PC. I am finding that quite a challenge. Next up on my list is to try to download a few favorite fonts. I was not at all successful in my twenty thousand tries today. Maybe tomorrow will be the day.
I invite to leave a comment on how your week is going. See you next week!
We’ve come, we’ve gone, and we’ve returned; and I am forced to confess that I am barefoot once again. It seems that I have become one of those people who only wear shoes when they have to (when I say I have to). While you might not think it strange in itself, you would if you knew me.
There was a time in my life (for thousands of years) when I didn’t walk around the house without makeup and goodness knows there were always shoes on my feet. It is not as though I don’t own enough shoes to make wearing shoes an adventure each day, it’s the fact that I love going barefoot (I also LOVE shoes, go figure). How did this happen? I am certainly the one at loss here.
Not even the fact that my feet look as though they belong to a monkey traipsing through the jungle for hours on end can make me put shoes, or at the very least slippers, on in the mornings.
We returned a few days ago from another cross-country trip, this time to New York City and Niagara Falls. I assume the trip could be called cross-country. It seems like cross-country would mean left to right, east to west, so what would up and down or south to north be called. We traveled from Southern Louisiana to the northern portion of our country. And, believe it or not, I wore shoes the entire time. My feet didn’t squawk they didn’t rebel – well, maybe a little. They were actually very happy.
I bet you are wondering when I’ll stop talking about my feet and tell you about my adventures – yes, it wouldn’t be a trip with me, Lucy, if there wasn’t at least one adventure to be told!
The trip up began with removing the back seat in the suburban (the waaaaay back seat) in order to fit two huge ice chest (and two small ones) filled to the brim with prepared shrimp. It seems that you can take that little Cajun girl out of Cajun country, but she needs her fix of shrimp to tide her over until her return. So, like any good dad, Hubby trawled just for her, had shrimp peeled, packaged, and frozen JUST for Katie-Beth. In fact, unbeknownst to her, she has her own freezer here at the house (just for her shrimp.) Those shrimp filled one ice chest. The other was filled to the brim with containers of de-headed jumbo shrimp. It is now safely ensconced in her freezer in Manhattan now, and her drawer full of shrimp recipes.
And, when she doesn’t feel like cooking, there is Mom’s spaghetti sauce, Mom’s chili’, Mom’s chicken potpie, and Mr. Jimmie’s shrimp and crawfish etouffee, as well as fish. We also brought up boiled shrimp and crabs. You can only imagine the feasting going on! We had a good laugh just thinking about the garbage and wondering if the New York sanitation workers would be able to identify the strange smells. Can you imagine? That must be an awfully strange smell for someone not from the South.
The Friday we were there, we ventured out to visit Katie-Beth’s new school. The fifty graders treated us to a recorder concert.We witnessed her fourth graders receiving their tonets and playing them for the first time. We also observed several of them “accidentally” making sounds with them and having them taken away for three and five minute intervals (yeah – accidentally – as in how did the sound come out if the recorder is standing on your knee? The kids were seated on the floor.) It was too funny.
Katie-Beth is very fortunate to be part of this particular school. The principal is very involved and believes strongly in the arts. The children have a full-time music teacher – Katie-Beth – and are learning tap dancing and have extra music lessons – all provided through teaching partnerships. Each semester, the children experience different elements of the Arts. Katie-Beth has been very aggressive in obtaining monies through programs such as Donor’s Choose in order to provide the children with music instruments and opportunities to go to Carnegie Hall. You will always see me posting her projects on Facebook and Twitter for help with donations. This great program allows teachers to solicit funds to pursue worthwhile projects. Please check the site out. The site is http://www.donorschoose.org/
Getting back to our trip, we did the usual things like eat pizza at Patsy’s Pizza, and of course. I had to get my chocolate chocolate cookie from Levine’s Cookies. We also witnessed the New York Marathon. That was interesting. I admire these people for running twenty-six miles, but I have to be truthful. Why would you want to run 26 miles if you “look like crap” when you finish, and you “feel like crap” when you finish, and you “look like crap” when you finish. I’m just saying….:) But, if that’s what you want to do, go for it.
Getting back to the food, I do not think I have ever eaten so much food at one time in my entire life. Thursday, we had boiled shrimp and crabs. Friday night was a shrimp and fish fry, along with REAL fried potatoes. Saturday, there was shrimp and crab omelet with croissants for brunch (who could eat breakfast!) and shrimp pasta for supper. The in-between hours were filled with fresh fruit, and – oh yeah – Hubby’s peanut butter fudge and pecan pralines, not to mention Southern Sweet Iced Tea! The four of us had a marathon of our own that involved eating, eating, and more eating and watching as many episodes as we could of “Lie to Me.” Anytime someone asked what the next meal was going to be, we promptly dissolved into laughing fits.
We did take a short break from eating on Saturday so Katie-Beth and Jude could teach a few music lessons. Hubby and I took the opportunity to walk to Riverside Park and then along the Hudson River to the little red lighthouse. It was a beautiful day for a walk.
Hubby and I attended Sunday morning mass at a beautiful little church on the Columbia University campus. There was a beautiful grotto located behind the alter. I am posting a picture of it, but it is really something you want to view in person.
We had a lovely time visiting with daughter and son-in-law. On Monday morning, we hauled an elevator full of luggage and ice chests back down to the lobby, loaded up the suburban, and began our trek across state to Niagara Falls. Once again, we were blessed with beautiful traveling weather. We drove through two wonderful little towns that reminded me of Stars Hollow from The Gilmore Girls (my all time FAVORITE show.) I told Hubby to drive slowly because I didn’t want to leave the town. I decided on the spot that I wanted to live there. Hubby even liked the town. There were flags blowing in the breeze everywhere you looked. It just looked like a town where everyone liked each other. When I described the town in those words to my best friend, she laughed. Anyone following my blog knows it ain’t so around here. I guess one can always project what you want onto something you know nothing about. I still stand by my thoughts that everyone must like each other in those two little towns we drove through.
There are times here in South Louisiana when we think we are just going to die from the awful smell emitting from the sugar mills as grinding season goes into full swing. I honestly didn’t think there was a smell that could rival the stench – that is – until we drove along some of the back roads of New York. We passed through cattle country. There were pens where the cattle were fed and did their “pooping” (there is NO delicate way of putting it). THEN, that manure is recycled into the adjoining fields for fertilizer. It was pretty bad, and just might beat out the stench of bagass. I would say it is a very close race.
Friends gave us hotel recommendations based on their stay in Niagara Falls, so I called the Four Point Sheraton and reserved our room. We did learn a few lessons along the way. When you use the recommendations of others, first find out WHEN they stayed there, AND check to see if the hotel is still in the SAME location. Just sayin’…..
The trip there was easy, finding the hotel was another story altogether. First, Sheraton did not register on the GPS in the US, only in Canada; and we could actually see the big bold letter of SHERATON! We found a Sheraton, but it was not the Four Point. We followed their directions, which led us down a deserted street, through some type of industrial plant, before the road got so rough I made Hubby turn around. The Falls were in the opposite direction, so it didn’t make sense that we were headed away from them; especially since our friends said you could walk to them from the Four Point Sheraton. We rode around some more, checked out directions and ended up back in front of the Sheraton. Hubby went in again (I was NOT going in) and asked again.
Sure enough, they told us to go back down the deserted road, assuring us that the Four Point Sheraton was there, on the riverfront. Off we went. We left the lights behind. We left the Falls behind. We left civilization behind. We bumped along an almost impassable road. We locked the car doors. We double-checked the locked doors. We drove and we drove (for seven miles). THEN, what do you think we spotted, in the middle of who in the hell knows where, the Four Point Sheraton, standing in all of its brand spanking newness, on the riverfront. It was a beautiful hotel, but we wouldn’t be walking to the Falls from there.
I always ask for either the lowest floor available or the highest. I have a policy that I go by. I either want to be able to jump to the ground or be the first rescued by helicopter. We had the seventh floor. If you travel to Niagara Falls, it is a beautiful hotel to stay at; it’s just out of the way.
The next day we headed out to see the Falls. We were so excited. We decided to cross over into Canada and see the Canadian side first; especially since everyone we talked to recommended the Canadian side. It seems everyone thinks the Canadian side is prettier – more on that later. This was our first time actually driving across the border so we were a little nervous. The border patrol takes their job very seriously. They asked for our passports and then proceeded to stare us down. It was a little intimating, but hey, I can play that game. I stared right back!
He asked why were crossing the border. I was thinking, duh – aren’t the falls splashing right behind you? Now, I didn’t voice my opinion, but I have a really hard time with seriousness. I tend to laugh – at the most inopportune times! He wanted to know where we were from and when we said Louisiana, a strange look crossed his face.
He then wanted to know if we had food – no on that one. We left it all in Manhattan. He asked if we had weapons and Hubby and I exchanged looks. Hubby was thinking he had a pocketknife and I was thinking about the sawed off broomstick I had. We looked at him and then back at each other. Hubby finally told him he had a pocketknife. By this time, I am barely holding it together. After asking if we were transporting liquor, he gave us directions to the Falls and sent us on our way.
We drove along the river towards Niagara Falls. It was beautiful. The school of Horticulture maintains the gardens and they were gorgeous, even for this time of year. There is a very nice welcome center with shops and restaurants right there, literally, where the water falls. We parked and began our walk. There are nice walkways along the river and you can view the Falls from afar or close up. We spent a couple of hours doing just that. You can see by the pictures just how close to the Falls you can get. We were within three feet of the edge, just watching the water go over. It was truly amazing to see.
Once we had taken a gazillion pictures, we headed back across the border. Once again, we were stopped for passport inspection. The US Border Patrol takes their job seriously as well. He took our passports and examined them and examined us, and began his questioning. He could not get a reading on our license plate so he asked the state. Why does Louisiana garner such strange looks? Is there something we don’t know? Once again, he is so serious, and I want to burst out laughing. He begins his questioning. Why are we here? Why are we so far from home? Do we have any liquor? Do we have any weapons? By this time, I am staring out the window trying to remain serious. THEN, I hear my name. I looked over and he says, “Ms. Donna, would you remove your glasses?”
I am so used to wearing sunglasses that most times I forget I have them on. At that moment, I realized that in my passport picture, I have blonde hair, and here I sat, with red hair and sunglasses! I started feeling like a fugitive trying to cross the border – and you know what that means – I was about to start laughing! I was thinking, oh my goodness, I am going to laugh, and he is going to ask me to step out of the car and I’ll be cuffed and detained at the border – because I was laughing and giving the impression that I was hiding something! I slowly turned toward him, and with the biggest, stupidest grin on my face, removed my sunglasses. He then looked at me, looked at the picture, looked at me, and after the longest second, closed the passports and handed them back to us. I think every scenario of every movie involving a border crossing went through my mind.
After all that, I still do not have any stamps on my passport! I’ve been in and out of Canada on different occasions and have yet to have my passport stamped. I want a stamp saying I have been out of the country!
After some more driving around, Hubby and I found the Niagara Falls Park on the U.S. side. I quickly concluded that one side is not better or prettier than the other side. They are completely different and actually, in my opinion, cannot be compared.
The Canadian side offers astounding views of the Falls, but the United States side offers a serene park setting. If you wish to view the Falls, you do need to venture out on the elevated walkway that is located in the park, but you can still view the American Falls and Niagara Falls up close.
The park offers walking trails and the chance to visit three little islands that are connected by stone bridges. There are also benches for sitting and viewing along the trails. You can even picnic in the park. I hope that my pictures will show you that one side is as beautiful and majestic as the other is. Altogether, we spent the entire day at Niagara Falls and had a wonderful time.
Hubby, of course, had to venture down to the water “to touch”. He even tried to get me to go with him. We all know what would have happened – Lucy would somehow have ended up going over the Falls. Hubby finally cupped his hands, filled them with the Niagara River, and brought it to me to feel how cold it was. He’s so sweet!
After a long day at the Falls, and an evening spent tasting their local brews, we called it a day. The twp day trip home, surprisingly enough, seemed to go by rather quickly – or so I thought – until Hubby informed me I kept falling asleep. I honestly did not think I slept much, but maybe I did.
Meanwhile, Louisiana was not without its adventures either. We found out on the drive home that Calypso had created some of her own chaos. The day we left, someone was driving by on the highway and noticed a water gusher in our front yard. That person called another person, who called another person, who called another, until finally someone called Hubby’s brother, who then left work, turned off the water, repaired the damage, and turned the water back on.
Hubby has all of the water faucets wrapped with insulation and taped up with duct tape and electrical tape (he means business). There are four or five down our long driveway. Calypso decided that she was going to chew and pull the insulation off the faucet at the end of the driveway. With all of the wrapping and tape, it would take a human with a sharp knife to unwrap the faucet – which is why it stays wrapped all year! Not so for Calypso, the mighty dog! Judging from the insulation and tape that I had to gather from around the yard upon our return leads me to believe that next time I need a sharp knife, I will just call Calypso. Anything eye level is fair game to her.
I hope she outgrows her chewing stage SOON! Hubby had to tie old paint cans around the taillights on his utility trailer. I was summoned quite early one morning by an angry Hubby to see where Calypso had left teeth marks on a taillight along with chips along the bottom (this is a brand new utility trailer.) The smile was there, but I didn’t dare laugh! My life and Calypso’s were at stake (remember me in serious situations.)
My second installment on my New York trip (Monday – Wednesday)
On Monday, Jessica and I took the downtown tour, which included a visit to the Empire State Building, downtown Manhattan and a trip out to Brooklyn. It was my second trip to the top of the ESB and Jessica’s first. I am always surprised that the Statue of Liberty seems so small. For some reason I was expecting it to loom over the horizon, and while it is huge, it is not the towering inferno I thought it to be. I have also become convinced that there is NOT a tour guide that is NOT sassy. Some have truly gotten on my nerves and I have to admit taking a tour with someone that speaks with a foreign accent (literally from another country) is a little disconcerting (to us from the south, everyone else has a strange accent.) Case in point, I called several places that my daughter enjoys frequenting to surprise her with gift certificates for her birthday, and although I speak perfect English, for some reason a northerner could not understand a southerner over the phone (and visa versa.) Another tour guide thought he was the next Robin Williams.
Getting back to our tour guides, we had a Broadway wanna be as our guide to Brooklyn. He actually acted with Hugh Brenner on Broadway. He was also hoping to get more work on Broadway. He treated us to many songs along the way, making our bus the spectacle at many stoplights. It was interesting. For any of you who live in New York, if you have never taken the Brooklyn tour, you must. There is so much history and it is very intriguing.
Tuesday afternoon, we again explored New York via the tour bus, this time, uptown. It was partly cloudy and threatening rain when we boarded. Jessica was murmuring about it raining on us and I was ever the optimist claiming it was going to wait until the end of the tour. About half way through the tour, we felt drops of rain, but still the weather held. The rain held off through the tour of Harlem. As we began our trek around Central Park on the way back to Times Square, the rain came down in earnest (the one day I left the umbrella home.)
The people who were boarding the tour bus about this time were given rain ponchos (or Garbage Bag Couture as I refer to them.) Jessica and I actually had to ask for them. Before we garnered up enough courage to ask for the “Garbage Couture”, an elderly gentlemen (and there are some left in this world, and this was one of them) turned around and offered us his poncho. Who says chivalry is dead? It may be in New York, but this gentleman was from Arizona. Not only did this kind gentleman give us his rain poncho (and proceeded to get drenched himself) but when we acquired an additional poncho, he opened them up and guided us into them. He made sure our heads found the hoods and our arms found the armholes (such as they were.) He then tied the little drawstring under our chins so our hoods would not blow off.
This was not an easily accomplished task. I was definitely having a “Lucy” moment and had tears streaming down my face along with the rain because I was laughing so hard. Jessica was not pleased about this adventure and attempted to disappear completely into the poncho. She just needs to loosen up a bit and enjoy the childish moments when they come our way.
This trip I got to see the Manhattan School of Music where my son-in-law, Jude, graduated from last year. That’s Jude!
This adventure was only the icing on the cake, the finish to an odd day for us. Earlier in the day, we made a trip out to the Statue of Liberty. We boarded the downtown subway and made our way to our exchange station. This is where we caught the “express train” as my daughter keeps correcting me. I seem determined to remember it as the “fast train” and she is mortified when I voice this term in public. By the end of this trip, I was remembering to call it the express train and she was happy about that (I’ll probably forget by the next trip. It goes super duper fast. It’s a fast train.)
Anyway, we made our way to Battery Park to catch the ferry out to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. In October, my husband and I stood in line for the longest, but this time, Jessica and I breezed right through security and onto the boat in no time. We were on the wharf at Liberty Island waiting on the ferry to take us to Ellis Island when the security guards started evacuating the wharf. We had to walk to the flagpole in the park, which is quite a distance away from the wharf. We then saw the Harbor Police and their German shepherd (yeah Shepherds!) board the ferry. After a thorough search, we were ushered back onto the wharf and onto the ferry. Talk was that there was a package left unattended.
Wednesday, we headed for home. Even the trip to the airport was not without its drama. I am thankful just to be alive after the cab ride. Has anyone ever ridden in a New York City cab? I have one thing to say, at least on a roller coaster (no matter how thrilling the ride) you know the cars have a high probability of remaining on the track and not sideswiping or rear-ending each other. After a tour of Harlem (been there, done that on the tour) we finally made our way to the Robert F. Kennedy bridge and headed towards the airport. We were in the lane that would eventually take us to our drop-off point when someone cut in front of our cab driver. I was astounded as he began fussing the other driver for doing what he had been doing since we climbed into his cab and put our lives in his hands (no wonder there are seatbelts in cabs.) The thoughts were whirling through my head and I had a hard time wiping the grin off my face at the audacity of this driver. We finally made it to our terminal and exited what felt like a 45 minutes bumper car ride. I also did not know if the car or the road was falling apart. I was constantly looking for anything I could grab onto to hold on!
Bags that weighed in at 32 and 35 pounds on check in at the New Orleans airport now weighed in at 49 and 47. I still haven’t figured out how that happened (yeah, right!) Next, on the agenda was security; off with the shoes, off with the jewelry, everything into the bin. Smooth sailing or so you would think. The man examining the bags as they went through the x-ray machine had this very intense look on his face. I looked at the front bins and the back bins and it suddenly dawned on me that he was deciphering the contents of my bag (not always a good thing.)
As I was emptying my bag (purse) last night, I had to laugh. I kept thinking of that poor man looking at the x-ray of my bag. I pulled out memory sticks, fruit rollups, peanut butter and crackers, maps, coin purse, little black jewelry pouches, Kindle, container of plain crackers (I get motion sickness), flosser, my Princess thermos (water bottle) (which of course, I forgot to empty) various pens, various sized Band aids and wipes (Shout, Wet Ones), glass case, vitamins, medicines, nail emery board, phone, hand lotion, Dramamine, and zip locks for ice (I get motion sickness and need an ice bag on my neck.) (I confess that I no longer wonder why it was so heavy.) It must have been fascinating to try to figure how the eclectic mix made its way into my bag. My carry-on was just as fascinating (and heavy.)
So, that gets us through security. We boarded the plane, taxied off and were on our way home. Jessica and I both had aisle seats, which meant, we both had two companions. While she was kept busy with a mom and daughter coming to New Orleans for orientation at Tulane University, I had my hands full with two young gentlemen coming to New Orleans for a bachelor’s weekend. Oh, but what a tangled web we weave! They were busy making a list of all the great Cajun dishes they wanted to try while they were visiting the city. What can I say? I am a Southerner and Southerners help. I helped them discover that Jumbalaya did not exist, but Jambalaya does. I told they needed to eat Gumbo, not Jumbo. I recommended Etoufee (crawfish) and alligator. I made sure to mention that a visit to New Orleans would not be complete with a trip to Café du Monde for beignets and coffee. Then, they asked me about “that other dish we eat. The one that we catch in the swamp and eat.” I finally realized they were speaking of Andouille (a sausage in Gumbo.) Believe me when I say that it does NOT swim in the swamp, it swims in Gumbo! How I managed to keep a straight face is beyond me.
You might think that was the end of the conversation, but I assure you, it wasn’t. It was only the beginning of a memorable conversation. They asked if there were any restaurants that became famous because they survived Hurricane Katrina. I smiled gently and said no. I then gave him the names of a number of well-known restaurants that are well worth the visit. I also told him that the little mom and pop groceries on the corners were excellent establishments at which to find our “local” flavors.
The conversation went on and as he quickly input all of the information I was imparting into his little gadget, he mentioned that they were going to take a swamp tour. Imagine my delight at hearing that comment (I am sooooooooo devious.) I asked him if they were taking a flat-bottom boat or an airboat tour. He answered that he didn’t know. He then inquired as to what they might expect to see. (It was too easy!) I smiled and told him probably the same things I see on my wharf each day. I told him I lived along a bayou and it was not uncommon to find an alligator sunning itself on the wharf. I just sort of dropped that in. For a moment, I thought he had swallowed his tongue! (Now, I must confess, I am not usually that bad.)
Obviously, he had not had his fill of conversation, because he continued. He asked where the levees were and if they could see them. (I promise that I did NOT laugh at loud! This poor boy was from the north!) I explained that the levees ran along the Mississippi River and that if he told his cab driver to take them to River Road for their trip into the city, they could ride alongside the levees. I also told him to have his driver take them down St. Charles Avenue so they could see the Garden District. I recommended that they ride the streetcars before they left as well.
Oh Chere’, the story ain’t over yet! They asked about the French Quarter. I told them they should see Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral and the River Walk. I told them that would be where they found Café Du Monde. Being a Southerner, I warned them against straying too far into some of the less desirable areas. They asked why and I told them they might find trouble. Their eyes got really big and they asked what kind of trouble (they were intrigued.) I looked them straight in the eye and told them the “same kind you have in New York”. They just made it too easy! I did tell them, however, that they should ask their consigner for a map once they were safely ensconced at the hotel.
I know what all of you are thinking – and I am NOT a bad person! It fell into my lap. What was I supposed to do? Oh! One more thing. I told them they needed to go on a Cemetery Tour (with a guide, of course.) I have only one excuse for my behavior. I get motion sickness and I rode the entire trip back high on Dramamine and with an ice pack on my neck. The plane landed and we parted. I wished the guy well on his wedding and told them I hoped they enjoyed their visit to the great city of New Orleans.
Next stop was the conveyor belt for luggage. Jessica’s luggage came through on the conveyor belt first and it was evident that the bag had been searched. I found the same evidence when I picked up my bag. Last night as I began to empty out my bag and began the process of organizing the different piles of laundry, I found some interesting things. I always pack my clothing in two gallon freezer Ziploc bags with dryer sheets to keep the clothes fresh smelling and I press the air out to compress the bags for neatness and organization (and to fit more of course. Knowing people are not touching my clothes is a bonus.) I was impressed with the lack of topsy-turvy in my bag. Books that I had packed between the bags to keep nice were carefully placed in a tote I packed in the bag and two little statues I purchased were inserted into one of the Ziploc bags.
Other than the extremely warm (lots of licks) reception I received from Ryka and Calypso when I got home, that is the end of my story. Hope you enjoyed it.
As I posted last week, I traveled this past week to New York City to spend a week with my daughter and son-in-law. My best friend, Jessica, traveled with me. This was her first trip to NYC and we had lots of plans, none of which included me getting motion sickness on the approach into LaGuardia. I haven’t flown in a couple of years and the last time I did, I got motion sickness. I attributed that incident to having been on a ship, and then trains for several days without a chance for my stomach to settle before boarding a plane from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle, Washington.
I was fine this trip until five minutes into a 25 minute approach. The plane rocked and rolled, sped up and slowed down for twenty-five minutes. I was having a conversation with Jessica one minute and staring straight ahead barely moving the next. My only thoughts were find an airport, any airport, and set this sucker down, NOW! To make things worse, the person in front of me reclined their seat. Please, if you are reading this, DO NOT do that to the person sitting behind you. Airplanes are not luxury cars. When you recline your seat, you invade the little, tiny, minute space of the person behind you. RUDE, RUDE, RUDE. She is lucky I did not barf on her. Think of that the next time you recline your seat! That sounds like a public service announcement.
The New York City cab ride was next. Do I really need to elaborate on that one? I didn’t think so. For those of you, who have never experienced a New York City cab ride, imagine your worst nightmare – twice.
I spent Friday at school with my daughter, Katie-Beth. She is the music teacher at P.S. 51 Elias Howe School in Times Square. That is always a treat for me. If you had the opportunity to watch her in action, you would say the same. Our day was relatively uneventful until after lunch. The two of us walked about three blocks and ate at the Shake Shack, which she claims has the BEST burgers in all of NYC. We then walked the three blocks back to school and hiked up five flights of stairs only to take part in a school fire drill!
You might be wondering why it was such a big deal. Well, let me explain. Did you catch that I said we walked three city blocks to the restaurant? This chick is no longer twenty-seven, I am fifty-three (did I just admit that?) Climbing the steep stairs at school after climbing several little hills and street curbs (don’t laugh) and walking three (six) blocks is no picnic for someone who lives where the ground is flat.
As I said before, I do love watching my daughter teach, especially when she fusses! “Now my friends, you are good but your behavior is not…..” The children at her school are just delightful and asked me at least 100 times if I was Mrs. Traxler’s mom (ya gotta love it.)
On Saturday, my daughter and son-in-law teach music lessons so Jessica and I set off for the Museum of Natural History. The architecture of the building just makes you want to sit on a bench and gaze. It is beautiful. If you haven’t noticed, I am an architecture buff. I would rather gaze at the outside of a building than I would like to go inside. Since Jessica actually wanted to go into the museum, I tore myself away with the promise that on my next trip to New York, I would walk around the outside.
Katie-Beth told us there was no way that we would be able to see the entire museum in a day, so we should choose what we wanted to see. Do not ever say this cannot be done. Jessica and I did what I refer to as the “drive-by at the museum”. We stopped and spent time in the sections where we had a deep interest, but we literally left no sight unseen.
It was captivating to visit the different countries and to observe the families in each exhibit. The parents, usually the father, explained to the children (in their native language) about the pictures and exhibit. From the look on many of their faces, I would imagine that they were sharing their own memories as well. I don’t know if most people take the time to notice all that happens around them, but I am a people observer. I found the exchange between the parent and child more fascinating than the exhibit itself. I have family who have traveled the world and as I perused the different exhibits, I could hear my aunt telling the stories of their travels. The museum is a wonderful place to visit and everyone should go at least once.
Saturday night we had tickets for the Broadway production of Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre. It was fabulous! Katie could hardly contain herself. She spent the entire day singing the songs so she could get it out of her system and not break into song during the performance. The performers did a wonderful job and I would love to see the show a second time.
Sunday resembled the Sex in the City series. There were four of us women having brunch at a trendy little café called Sara Beth’s. We sat around the table enjoying a leisurely brunch and talking about our lives (okay – what stores we were going to after brunch.) In the afternoon, we visited a cute little tea shop called “Alice’s Teacup,” and Tiffany’s (for all of us), The American Girl Doll Shop (for Jessica), Ann Taylor, Dylan’s Candy Shop (for son –in-law), the drug store (for Band-Aids for me – the extent of my shopping), and ended up at Serendipity for dessert. This was after Katie walked us completely around Carnegie Hall searching for the poster that had her name and picture on it. The poster had been on the billboard for a year and just because we wanted to see it, it was gone. My daughter had her picture on one of the billboards at Carnegie Hall!
I’m not finished, but I’ll conclude this portion here. There were adventures aplenty on my trip, so please stay tuned!