Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Legends of the Falls

As I said in my post about Thing 2's class trip to Niagara Falls, I love Niagara Falls. It's only about a 2 hour drive from here, and we've gone fairly often, over the years.

When I was a kid, we seemed to have relatives visit from overseas almost every summer, and every one of them wanted to go see Niagara Falls. And why not? If I was that close to Victoria Falls or the Grand Canyon, I'd want to go see it too. I'm pretty sure my father does not enjoy Niagara Falls, because my memories of those trips involve getting up at 4 in the morning, hammering down the highway at Mach 1 to "beat the traffic", and actually standing and looking for the falls for about 5 minutes before piling into the car and heading back home. I swear we did the entire 5 hour round trip all before lunch, once.
My brother and I would spend the endless search for a parking spot looking for out-of-province licence plates. There would be cars from all over North America in those lots, and the person who saw the plate from farthest away, "won". This lead to incredibly heated exchanges about who saw the licence plate from New Hampshire or Texas first, and then, because of my brother's vast intellectual superiority and general knowledge of geography, he would convince me that New Hampshire was farther away than Texas, and I "lost" every time.

We took the kids to Niagara Falls a few years ago, and for the first time ever, went on the Maid of the Mist. Just to tell you, the Maid of the Mist is a fabulous; a huge bang for the buck. You have no idea how high those falls really are until you sail right up to the bottom of them. And despite the blue plastic burka they give you to keep you dry, you get totally soaked and end up looking like a particularly well-dressed homeless person for the rest of the day. (I went into the bathroom when we got off the boat, to see if I looked as bad as I thought, and while I cleaned mascara off my collar bone, decided I looked worse.) And the Maid of the Mist is only about 15 dollars for a half hour ride....totally worth it.

Not far from Niagara Falls is one of the loveliest little towns in Ontario, Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is at the end of the Niagara river, where it empties into Lake Ontario. It's as genteel and pretty and blushing as Niagara Falls is loud and brash and swaggering. The trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake is really beautiful, all along the Niagara Gorge. At one point, the river takes an almost 90° turn, which results in a pretty remarkable whirlpool. You can take a cable car trip over the gorge from one side to the other, which you would never get me on in a gazillion years. "Sure, I'd love to be suspended 700 feet in the air over a churning vortex of surging water, possibly plunging to my death in the blink of an eye! Then I'm going to taunt a hungry wolf while wearing a bacon suit!". The cable car is mysteriously called "the Spanish Cable Car", although I have never seen any evidence of flamenco dancers or Serrano ham on it.

I adore Niagara Falls, I really do. Someday I should bring my dad and let him see it in the daylight.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Thing 2's Grade 7 class went on their end-of-the-year field trip to Niagara Falls on Friday, and I was able to go along. (Lots of parents were NOT "allowed" to go by their teenage children. That would have been a red flag to this particular bull, but to each his own.) I think I am an anomoly amoung parents, in that I like going on my kids field trips, so long as they are to my taste. And I consider myself lucky that my children see it as a positive thing that I come with them, too. The teacher said she thought I was the only parent she knew who asked to come.
I love Niagara Falls, it is one of my all-time favorite places to go. The stuff that nature made is endlessly fascinating, and the man-made "attractions" charm me utterly, as well. There is no end of entertainment, from the falls themselves to the wax museums to the cheesy gift shops. And the people watching! It's incredible; people come from all over the world to see Niagara Falls, and so you get to see an unbelieveable array of eye-popping outfits, unfortunate shoe choices and bizaare behaviour. It's like performance art.
First, we enjoyed the "Journey Behind the Falls", which is a very fancy name for "tunnels cut into the rock". For some reason, back in the day, someone got the terrific notion that people should be able to see the falls from the back of them. You go down an elevator to some serious clausterphobia-inducing tunnels which smell of years of moisture and cold sweat. It is very loud in there, because there are a few 6x6 foot holes cut into the rock, so that you can see the falls falling from the backside. (Honestly, if they just put a firehose outside of a window, you'd never know the difference. You can't see a thing.) Then they have an outside observation deck, right at the base of the falls. It is also very loud and wet; they give you a flimsy rain poncho which does nothing more than flap around and blind you. It is like standing in a Force 1 hurricane. The kids loved it; except for the girls who straightened their hair that morning. This is the only shot I got that does not have huge drops of water on the lens.
After that, we did another "attraction" that required more rain ponchos, and more more screeching about wet hair. Then it was on to lunch.
Let me tell you, everything costs like crazy in Niagara Falls. Even the coffee I got at Starbucks costs about 25% more than at home. So, when some of the kids wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch, I knew I should probably have called my financial advisor before proceeding. I was not wrong: a chicken Caesar salad and a diet Pepsi set me back by $26.00 after tip and taxes. That is the one thing I DO NOT like about Niagara Falls.
After lunch, when we had dried out and set our hair to rights, we drove up the Niagara Gorge to the Butterfly Conservatory. The drive up the Gorge is actually quite pretty, with an impressive view of the American side of the river. (When I told one kid that was the U.S. he was gobsmacked...."that's the UNITED STATES???" he replied, "I never knew we were that close!")
The Butterfly conservatory is a big glass-domed greenhouse with a bajillion butterflies flitting around it. It's fabulous; some of them are as big as your hand, and you can get up really close to them. Sometimes they land on your shirt or your head. I think the grown-ups liked it a bit more than the kids, although everyone appreciated staying dry. While we were standing around admiring all the butterflies, one of the other mothers mused "Imagine if these were all spiders..." There was a huge collective shudder from everyone within hearing. We got home around dinner time, and I thanked the teachers and Thing 2 for letting me go on the trip with her, and she replied that she liked having me along. So it was totally worth the bad hair day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bathing Suit Bliss

I took everyone's advice and sat myself down and ordered myself a bathing suit on-line. Why did I not think of this before? It is pure genius!! I ordered from Land's End on Sunday and my nifty new bathing suits came today, Wednesday! How happy am I? One especially pleases me; it's a tankini top and bathing shorts. It's dream of a knee length bathing suit gets closer every day. (You know those Victorian bathing suits that had sleeves and came down to your calves? I want those to come back like you would not believe. I would even wear the little hat.)

Trying on bathing suits in the kind and gentle environment of my very own bedroom is a gazillion times nicer than working up a lather of sweat and self-loathing in a florescent-lit changing room. (Why does the room get SO HOT when I try on bathing suits? It's like I develop my own weather system right there in withe me.)

I like the bathing suits well enough, as much as I can like any bathing suit. There's really only so much you can ask of a few meters of spandex and elastic, they are not going to change my Humpty Dumpty shape. I'm an egg-on-legs, no matter what I put on me.

So, thank you for all that suggested the mail-order strategy; I will never endure the Dementor-quality fitting rooms at Wal-Mart again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Every now and again, I find myself dealing with too much of something, usually food. (Clutter, bullshit and talk are always plentiful everywhere.) Now is one of those times.

We had "customer appreciation" day at the salon on Saturday; we had a Tiki Bar set up, and gave out drinks and snacks to the clients all day. (The Tiki Bar is a vaguely tropical themed hutch, sporting coconuts and parrots and a grass skirt. They make fruity drinks and are killer to hire for a party.) At the end of the day, the guy who runs the Tiki bar, who's a friend of ours, asked if I wanted to take home the rest of the fruit, so he didn't have to load it all up and take it home himself. Of course, I said yes, and found myself leaving work with 3 dozen bananas and all the pineapples I could carry. Now I have 3 dozen bananas in my kitchen.

Getting rid of bananas isn't a problem, because all the Loudshoes like their bananas at differnent stages. Although bananas take a few days to go bad, their window of "acceptability" is fleeting. I reckon that a banana is only "good" for about 20 minutes of it's entire life. Thing 1 likes her bananas on the under-ripe side; one spot of brown and it's game over. Thing 2 likes her bananas to actually be crunchy....they are so green and crisp it's hard to believe she doesn't double over with stomach cramps. It's hard to sit near her when she eats a banana. Because of the noise. She won't eat a banana if it has no green on it anymore. I'll eat bananas when they have spots, but are not squishy. The Mister will eat banans when they are so soft you could probably eat them with a straw.
But 3 dozen bananas is a LOT of bananas. I will freeze them when they are good and ripe. (Which is just about the time that the fruit flies will colonize the kitchen entirely, and run me out of town.) The bananas can join the other couple of dozen bananas in the freezer from the last time Don told me I could take home the leftover fruit from the Tiki Bar. (I can only make so much banana bread.)

A few months ago, when the Mister's aunt went into the hospital after her stroke, she told me to clean out her fridge and take whatever would go bad home with me. I ended up with a couple of bags of milk, 2 dozen eggs and 3 bags of apples and TEN POUNDS of onions. (She lives alone, what the hell??) Since nobody else in the house eats eggs much, it was all up to me. (I've developed a small but intense addiction to poached eggs on grainy bread with a nest of alfalfa sprouts. Thanks, Big Liver Girl!) I've had eggs every day for breakfast, and decided that Eggs Benedict made a fine dinner, too. I'm still working on the onions. The apples went in the composter, I can only do so much.

We worked our way through a flat of strawberries when they came into season, and we happily look forward to our "All Blueberry, All The Time" diet that will come in late July. Too many raspberries is the happiest problem ever, and there's hardly even such a thing as "too many peaches".

I can't freeze the onions, but at least they are good for more than 20 minutes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bathing Suit Blues.

There's not a woman alive who does not understand the soul-shredding aspects of bathing suit shopping, but let me tell you, I took it to a whole. new. level. today: I went bathing suit shopping at Wal-Mart. It's a wonder I got out of there alive.

Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 wanted to get new bathing suits, and it was their idea to try Wal-Mart first. As they browsed around and picked up stuff to try on, like a FOOL I took a look at the "grandma" bathing suit section and found a few items that might be acceptable for me. (There are two parts to the bathing suit department at any store, the "young" section and the "grandma" section. The "young section" is strictly for looks, not practicality. The bathing suits there are made of 14 square centimeters of fabric and the wearer needs to stand up at all times, preferably perfectly still. The "grandma" section has bathing suits made of huge swathes of black fabric, and can double as barbeque covers. The wearer can rope steers, pole vault and wrestle alligators without revealing one extra inch of doughy white flesh to the world. )

I tried on the suits, which is a task only for the stout of heart and strong of character at the best of times, and not to be undertaken after a rather large dinner of a crispy chicken Caesar salad wrap, fries and two diet Cokes. (The garlic in the Caesar salad wrap made me thirsty!) Or in a Wal-mart.

I will spare you the gruesome details, but holy schnickies, the lighting in those fitting rooms would make you swear off ever leaving the house again, if only as a public service. How did I not notice that I have varicose veins and barnacles?

I put all of my "grandma" selections back on the rack, and decided to try again another day, at another store. Preferably one that sells three-piece bathing suits, and lights their fitting rooms with candles.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Glad and Mad

One of my friends had a knock on the door recently; it was a one of the neighbours wondering if my friend's 15 year-old daughter would be interested in babysitting a few days a week for the summer. Friend said she thought that would be great, as school will be finished in a few weeks, and her daughter had talked about working a bit through the holidays.

This was about a week after my friend had given her daughter the speech about how she was going to have to go out and, you know, actually look for a job; no one was going to come knocking on her door and just offer her one.

She's delighed her daughter has a job for the summer, but would rather she had obtained it in a manner that did not prove her mother wrong.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bonne Chance, Mes Amis!

I saw this sign at a bike trail in Quebec. Apparently, there are two things you are allowed to do, and four things you are not. But you have to guess what they are.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Open Letter....

Dear Lady on Your Cellphone in the Grocery Store Yesterday,

You really thought you could manage both, didn't you? You probably thought you were doing a perfectly passable job of manoevering your shopping cart and choosing items from the shelf and chatting away to your friend/sister/mother/husband. But let speak for the rest of the customers at No-Frills and state clearly and without reservation: YOU WERE NOT. YOU WERE A FREAKING TRAIN WRECK THAT MOVED ALL OVER THE STORE.

No one could escape you; no matter where we fled, there you were. Produce aisle? You were blocking the seedless green grapes that were on sale. Cereal aisle? You were perpendicular. Freezer department? No one could open a door without getting around you first. I nearly lost my shit altogether when I tried to get around you for the umpteenth time and you veered into the middle of the aisle and then stopped dead. Seriously, I nearly rammed right into you to teach you a lesson; you should count your lucky stars that you have any Achilles tendons left intact.

I kind of feel sorry for the person on the other end of the phone (although, really, that person had a choice to hang up or not, we had to put up with you no matter what.) Your conversation, while entirely audible to all and sundry, was less than scintillating. What the person you were talking to was going to do with the running commentary on your shopping trip is anybody's guess...."They are out of Nutrigrain bars again" will likely not count as one of the major high's of anyone's day.

Please take this in the nicest way possible: "Multitasking: It's not for everyone". Drive the cart, shop for your groceries, talk on the phone, just not all at once. Don't make me sever your Achille's tendons.

Mrs. Loudshoes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Shark FĂȘte

My stomach muscles hurt from laughing so much. I'm covered in bruises and black fly bites. I'm exhausted and sated. I have trouble keeping the giggles from bubbling up when I remember something that happened. I must have had a weekend with the Mother Sharks.
My friends and I spent another glorious, fabulous, hilarious weekend in Quebec at Big Liver Girl's condo in the Laurentian mountains. Big Liver Girl is such a wonderful, accomplished and generous hostess that I am even willing to abandon my habitual slothfulness and go along with whatever activities she suggests. (Truth be told, one of the reasons I like hanging out with Big Liver Girl is that she makes me do things that I would never do on my own, and thus can brag about having done them for the rest of my life.)
This year we went to a place that has skiing in the winter and a Tarzan-like activity in the summer. The place has 59 "stations" way up high in the trees, and you swing or climb or zip-line all over the forest. The zip-lining itself was a blast, I could have done that all day....the longest line is almost a thousand feet long. Seriously, it was absolutely thrilling. The other activities didn't delight me nearly as of the most very basic of human instincts is a fear of falling, and when you mess with that fear, you will come very close to losing your shit altogether.
Here is my friend Shawnee on her way to meet Big Liver Girl way up on one of the "stations". Those two did the course like they were born to it, swinging and cavorting their way from one tree to the next. I think they are both part cat. My other friend, Spinner, and I struggled a bit, being two of the most sluggish people God ever made. We got through it, the course, though, albiet with incessent whining and a LOT of foul language. We are not "Survivor" kind of women, we are more like "Cancun" kind of women.
Spinner even got caught on one of the zip-lines; her glove got stuck in a pulley, and there she was, stopped dead in the middle of the line, unable to go forwards or backwards, wayyyyyy up off the ground. This concerned me greatly, partly because she is my good friend and I was concerned for her safety and well-being, but mostly because I couldn't go past her, and I couldn't get down, so I was stuck up in a tree 50 feet off the ground until she got unstuck. One of the guides was close by and didn't he just skip up the tree I was on, shimmy his way over to the damsel in distress and liberate her, AND deliver her to the next tree, all in about 12 seconds flat. He was magical, that monkey man! If he had been better looking, I think she would have fallen in love.
Here I am coming in on my final zip-line. I think I would like to do that part again, very much.

We live in a part of Canada that is lovely, but very flat; mountains hold a particular thrall for us. This shot is looking back towards the condos with the ski hills in the background, taken when we were walking to dinner. Who wouldn't fall in love with this place?

We went on a hike another day, went out and had drinks at a very swanky bar, were fed well, did some shopping and hung out by the pool. And we talked and laughed and had some sangria and thoroughly enjoyed the holiday from our every day lives. And of course, had spectacular company. Thank you, Sharks, and thank you, never disappoint.