Thursday, July 18, 2013

ADTE: Day 17

Today we woke up and though the kids wanted one last swim session, we had breakfast and said goodbye to Quebec. We drove into Ontario and to our campsite at Sturgeon Falls. We pulled into our campsite and it was gorgeous! We were literally a couple of feet from the water and the waves lapping against the shore.

This would be a perfectly idyllic evening falling asleep to the sound of quiet waves washing onto the sandy shore. Everyone was super nice and helpful. Most people there were camping there for the summer season or longer and had quite permanent residences. The kids immediately changed into swimsuits (surprise!) and jumped into the lake. As soon as we finished putting up the trailer I joined them in the warm water. There was a slide and baby catfish they could catch by the cupful. Paradise.... right?

While the family showered up, I made some pasta with sausage for dinner and we sat down for a nice dinner... That is when our paradise started taking a turn. Bugs started madly trying to enter our trailer, and succeeding. Big, flying, bugs that buzzed our ears and crowded in for our lights. Yuck! While I swatted like a mad woman with the fly swatter, Mr. John duct taped any entry point he could find. We turned out the lights to dissuade any further intrusions.

Soon we found out why they were looking for cover when the torrential rain started, right at the time we went for a last bathroom break for the evening. Lightning started streaking across the sky enough to illuminate the wet pathway... that was full of frogs. It was like the 12 plagues of Egypt. We just needed: cue the hail! For real. It started hailing, but after we made it back to the trailer. The wind was wild and those soothing quiet waves were sounding ominous and much too close at this point.

The lightning lit up our trailer all through the night and if the light show wasn't enough to keep us awake, the thunder booming and the wind buffeting our trailer ensured a restless night.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ADTE: Day 16

This morning Sage woke up feeling crummy. We had a little breakfast and when Denver started feeling crummy, we decided it was going to be a very low-key kind of day. They both went back to sleep after breakfast and I don't think they've done that since they were infants, so I k we they needed it. They woke up and felt like swimming so that was a good sign they were feeling better. With all the swimming you'd think they be permanently pruney by now.

They made friends and exhausted their pool game repertoire. I figured doing laundry was a good, low key activity and we grabbed our bags. I followed the directions from google maps to the laundromat and ended up at a realtors office... I remembered seeing another option on Notre-Dame and decided to try to find it without directions. It starts to pour. Hard. Harder. HARD. THE HARDEST CRAZIEST RAIN I'VE EVER SEEN! BOOM! Thunder, lightning, the works. We drove carefully through the dumping rain and found the teeny tiny, little laundromat. We grabbed the bags of laundry and ran in. Just in that short time from our car to the door, we were completely drenched. Not damp, but dripping, hair completely soaked, drowned rat WET!

The owners were an Asian couple who did not speak any english, but were super helpful. They took pity on the wet, scraggly strangers and helped us with coins, detergent, and a place to sit and wait out the storm. We watched the deluge out the windows and saw lightning strike right out the window with absolutely no delay in the thunder. It was crazy.

The rain slowed way down about the time we were done with the laundry. We found a little restaurant and had some dinner. Denver asked for runny eggs and they accomodated him as they served breakfast all day. He felt pretty special. They had everything from spaghetti with lots of sauce, just the way Bailey likes it, sage got slouvaki, and I got a turkey BLT... quite the range of cuisine! Dinner was followed by dessert at Tim Horton's. I had my first Tim Horton's donut and it was quite lovely. My favorite was the chocolate walnut donut stick.

We went back to the hotel and the kids decided it would be better if I picked up daddy tonight instead of tomorrow morning and that they would stay in the hotel room. I was a little uneasy about it, but they were ready for bed when I left for downtown Montreal. As soon as I met up with Mr. John, we called the kids to see how they were and we woke them up, so all was well with our crew.

Mr. John always throws a karaoke party at the end of the conference so that is where I caught up with him... On stage singing "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. It was hilarious. We said bye to all his friends and colleagues and headed back to the kids.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ADTE: Day 15

Wow! Today marks a full 2 weeks of traveling. This is about the hallway point of our journey. It's just been the kids and I for the last couple of days while Mr. John is at his conference downtown. I should have had him blog for today as his day was probably more eventful than ours. Don't get me wrong: WE HAD A BALL! Because this is basically what our entire day consisted of.

After breakfast at our hotel, we had plans to go to a park during the cooler hours and then do a load of laundry, but somehow we ended up at a place called Funopolis! It was basically a ginormous hamster habitat with tunnels and slides, trampolines, things to climb, and all air conditioned. The kids went nuts! We were there from 10:00 in the morning and we closed the place down at 6:00!

Besides the hamster-like tunnels and slides, there was a place full of foam balls that you could shoot. There were cannons and guns, and balls that dropped from a holding tank, and slides and bridges and things to hide behind. Then there was a laser maze where a room would fill with lasers and you had to get to the other side without touching the lasers beaming across the room. Then you would hit a button and return over a different arrangement of lasers and hit a button at the entry. I went all Jason Bourne in there!

There was another room where the walls were filled with lights and you had to hit them as fast as you could as they lit up, and your competing with someone on the other half of the room; in my case: Denver. THAT was a workout! I know I'm going to feel those sprints tomorrow!

So, we ran around in our socks all day. The local kids were so sweet and would come up to my kids and ask them to be their friend, or invite them to play on the trampolines with them. How great is that?! Most of the time the kids were asking in French, but kid sign language got them through and they made several friends. So cute! I swear the kids left the with a French accent. They said it helped the other kids understand them. Bailey couldn't stand the thought of never seeing her new friends again, and left with several pen pals via their email addresses.

Today also marked our first taste of poutine. Several people mentioned I needed to try it, so today was the day. What is poutine you ask? French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. I immediately decided it was a fork food and dug in. Woah! Yummy goodness. What is this vinegar packet for. Hmmm, I sprinkled my poutine with it and, it was even more delicious! I don't know if that's how they do it in Montreal, but it was fantastic. I figure its kind of like our chili cheese fries. Sort of. Kind of.

You would think the kids would be tired after running around like hamsters all day, but no. They immediately changed into their swimsuits and swam at the hotel after eating a bite. We also learned something else today: if you order a corn dog you will get a look of confusion. Then clarify by saying "a hot dog... um on a stick?" "Hmmm, oh! That's a pogo!"

Now the hamsters are settled in bed, and I'm about to join them. This mama hamster didn't run around half as much as they did and she's tired! Bonne nuit!


Monday, July 15, 2013

ADTE: Day 14

We slept in this morning with no camper to pack up and no miles to cover. It was a nice break. We headed downstairs and had a lovely breakfast. People seem to be amused by us here, or maybe that's the normal "Montreal way" about people. Very helpful and friendly.

It's amazing how dependent I've become on using our phone for GPS. Since we don't have an international plan, we had to turn off our cellphones at the border and are flying blind. We were going to meet some cookier friends for lunch in downtown so I printed out directions at the hotel and we headed out. With Bailey as my navigator we made it smoothly into Old Montreal... and then proceeded to get completely lost. We were 4 minutes out from the restaurant when one wrong turn released us into a sea of one way streets, streets that changed their names suddenly, and streets completely unmarked.

We knew we were close, but the map that prints out with the directions was too small to have any street detail and we couldn't navigate our way out. I pulled over at a hotel and Bailey sweetly asked them of we could have mapped directions to our address. (We learned this from watching Amazing Race). They were nice enough to accommodate her with a printout of directions and while we made it to our destination late, we were sooo happy when Elizabeth came to greet us with a smile and bring us to our table.

We had a delicious lunch with Elizabeth (of Creations Beaux Delices & Pretty Sweet Designs), Silvia (of Short N Sweet by Sil), and Yam (of Miss Cuit) All incredibly talented women! The garden setting was gorgeous, and it was a beautiful day! The ladies were so sweet (and super patient waiting for us to find our way there) and it was fun getting to know them. Bailey practiced a little French on them. I could have sat there all day, but the kids started getting a little restless when the conversation changed from snakes and spiders to cookies.

It has been so fun being able to meet cookiers along this trip and this lunch was too fun! We said our goodbyes and while the kids wanted to get back to the hotel pool, I wanted to see a bit of Old Montreal. It was quite hot, but we did not drive across the country to swim in a pool!

We walked a bit down the cobblestone street and bought some postcards in a shop. We walked a bit further and we saw a beautiful sunflower painting. Sage asked if we could please go inside there to see more. I'm so glad she did, because we stepped into a gallery full of beautiful paintings! They were so vibrant and the textures were amazing! While I love to expose the kids to art, I am usually a little skeptical about how they will be regarded. Sometimes art galleries give a vibe of unwelcome when they see kids come in.

We were greeted as soon as we stepped into the Peter W Hart gallery. There were two ladies there, Catherine and Francine who were immediately warm and welcoming. They told me about the first piece and Bailey announced that I was an artist too: A cookie artist! They were intrigued so I showed them a picture and we talked about cookies as art and they were so encouraging and sweet. They got little colored pencil sets for the kids and beautiful coloring books with the artist's painting on it.

I was able to peruse all the the stunning art while the kids created their own masterpieces while sitting on a fuzzy rug at a table just for them! The art was so inspiring and vibrant. What an amazing space and wonderful energy. I suggested to the kids it was about time to go, but Sage said she'd rather color here than swim... that was HUGE knowing what water babies they are. I was happy to stay there all day as well and continued soaking in the art and chatting with Catherine who is an aspiring filmmaker. I love those chance meetings when you talk to a stranger you immediately feel like you know! Some of her short films were shown at the Cannes film festival! And won awards!!! Too cool. Catherine St-Arnaud... watch for her!

The kids eventually remembered they wanted to go swimming and we headed back to the car where we were a little nervous about finding our way back. The parking attendant said, "how did you like it California?" We chatted and laughed with him for a bit and he gave us directions that I knew I would forget. He said it was a difficult highway to get to and that made me more nervous, but we decided instead of being nervous, it would be an adventure. Did I mention I'm pretty horrible at directions?

We started our adventurous drive back to the hotel and the kids and I celebrated every correct turn we made and somehow, we ended up on the right freeway, headed the right way towards our hotel! Now that's something to celebrate! The kids changed into swimsuits and they swam for 3 hours straight. There are definite plusses with an indoor pool. You don't have to worry about sunscreen, the water is temperature controlled and no bugs or leaves to scoop out, but the bad thing is that there is never an excuse to get the kids out! They don't get cold, they don't need to reapply sunscreen, the only thing that gets them out is when they get hungry.

We ate, played some games, and now I hear Sage and Denver talking in their sleep. Was that French I just heard?!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

ADTE: Day 13

We woke up before we wanted to and moved the kids to the car while Mr. John and I took down the camper. We are getting good at this! No one ever checked us in to the campsite, so we dropped the money for our camping spot fee in the office door and headed for the border.

We saw this two horse power, zero emissions vehicle on our way. It was a lovely drive and we spotted hawks and even a big groundhog (or something furry and big) sitting by the side of the road scratching his head. We had heard they might take fruit at the border so we stuffed ourselves with all of our fruit we had in the car. We hurriedly ate cherries, blueberries, oranges, grapes, and headed to the border... the border patrolman asked nothing about fruit. Ha! He asked a couple of questions and we were IN! The kids were amazed how much Canada looked like America! :D. We quickly figured out the correct speed limit was about 60 mph (100 kph) and NOT 100 MILES per hour as there were a lot of police cars along the way.

We drove through lots of tranquil places and quite suddenly the city of Montreal just appeared. We learned a lot of new things following the signs. The directions were Nord, Sud, Est, Ouest on the signs and we did not dare to try to pronounce anything. John decided to use one of the only French words he knows a lot: Oui! And the way he said it made us laugh every time. We thought we had it down and were figuring things out when we missed a merging onto our desired freeway... Then things went au Sud. You see, when we crossed the border we had to turn off our cellphones because we heard many horror stories of people who didn't and ended up with thousands of dollars worth of data charges on their phone bill. We were navigating sheerly via "THE BINDER" and a map of Montreal. Yeah... like, REAL navigating. So, one wrong turn on our printed google map directions, and we had to resort the tiny microscopic street signs on a map full of French names that we couldn't pronounce, even if we did ask for directions. I was not finding my 4 years of Spanish helpful to me at this point.

We found a helpful person at a gas station and only got lost one more time before we found our hotel. Ha! It is on the outskirts of Montreal and it is super quiet and almost empty, with an indoor pool. In other words: perfect! We unhitched the old grey mare and I swear our mini van breathed a sigh of relief! Then we drove to downtown Montreal and abandoned Mr. John... For the next four days he will be attending a business conference and talking sports and having a blast with his friends, so we didn't feel bad and neither did he.

I was a little apprehensive about navigating by myself. Though I've lived in big cities, I am and always will be a country mouse. I'm used to my freeways 2 lanes wide and no merging or other connected freeways... or tunnels... or traffic. My options at home were North? Or South? Not: take the 51 Sud to till the 63E exit and merge onto the 720 Ouest, take Rue de something to the Boul Saint something and make a U-turn on Notre Dame... can you start over again with the 51 Sud? This was an adventure!

We made it through all the transitions and made it back to our hotel easily. Thank goodness! The kids immediately changed I to their swimsuits and swam for 2 hours. They came out only because they were starving and they wanted pizza. I looked up a places nearby and chose one and carefully wrote down the directions. Thank goodness for wifi at the hotel!

We entered the pizza place and were greeted with a "Bonjour!" Which we returned with a cheerful, "Bonjour!". She followed with a string of sentences where I assumed she asked if we wanted a table for four. I apologized and said, "We don't speak French." She smiled and reassured us, "That is fine! I speak English." We were treated with a lot of kindness and patience. When my chatterboxes inform everyone about our drive from California to Montreal, they are curious about our journey. One of the servers had such a thick accent, the kids thought she was still speaking French, so when she left they asked me how I understood French! :D everyone is super friendly and I think having 3 adorable kids helps. The pizza came in 4 quarters, on 4 plates and she offered me butter. I thought she must have used the wrong word, but no, she offered butter :D The pizza was super tasty... hold the butter.

Most people speak very good English, it is so impressive! Now and again I will say something that isn't familiar. We asked at the restaurant why the flags were "at half-mast" and that did not translate and a couple of other phrases. It is very interesting being here. I'm so used to reading a sign and knowing what it says, that I can now commiserate with children learning to read! Bailey left dinner that night bound and determined to learn French. She immediately downloaded apps to help and wrote copious notes in her notebook of useful phrases spelled out phonetically. She can't wait to find people to experiment on with her newfound knowledge. Watch out Montreal!

I can't sleep tonight. I don't know if its because Denver keeps kicking me or if it's because Mr. John isn't here. The bed is definitely comfy enough.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

ADTE: Day 12

This morning I tried to sleep in, but once I opened my eyes at 6:30 I couldn't turn my brain off. I snuck out of the trailer and took a shower came back in and made breakfast. The kids slept through the whole thing, but Mr. John woke up and we enjoyed our breakfast together. It was kind of like a date... if you can go on a date in a camper... with your kids sleeping 4 feet away.

We finally roused the kids and bribed them with biscuits and eggs and they got moving. FYI: if you ever go camping and wonder if you can make those cans of biscuits on a stove top, you can! I put them straight into a warm pot and capped them, turned them after a while and they were perfectly cooked.

Kathy came over with all our folded laundry and we set out for the day. She went to all the church history sites with us and The Sacred Grove, which was my favorite. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL in there. All the pictures were taken on my real camera so you'll just have to believe me. It was so dense and green and gorgeous and quiet. What a beautiful, peaceful place.

After a visit to the ice cream store, Kathy stole me away to go antique shopping. First we went to an amazing 3 story home from the 1930's FILLED with treasures! Every nook, cranny, attic was overflowing with treasures. There were 2 or three kitchens set up with dishes, cabinets, everything and one was straight from the 1950's complete with aqua blue metal kitchen cabinets. Swoon! We found... cookie cutters! And some adopted me on the spot.

We went to another beautiful shop that smelled like autumn! Amazing things tucked into drawers and bins. What fun to sift through beautiful things.

Kathy dropped me off at camp and said goodbye to the fam. What a complete sweetheart. She really went out of her way to make our stay wonderful. We packed up Kathy's leftover lasagna for dinner and headed over to see the Hill Cumorah pageant. It was on a large hill with a huge stage and a cast of over 700! Our friends that live in the town adjacent to us in California were in it and they were nice enough to reserve us some seats. Here is a picture of us with the Van Den Eikhofs in their costumes. So great to see them!

The pageant was incredible, with erupting volcanoes, rocks falling, fires, and all kinds of special effects. What a beautiful presentation once again, put on by people willing to volunteer their time and talents. Amazing! It was all outside and since there had been so much rain for the past month we were super careful to cover ourselves with bug spray. We were already suffering from several bites and I had two particularly bad ones on the palm of my hand and the bottom of my foot! Ugh! I'd never been bit in those places, but I can now say with authority: those are two of the worst places to get bit!

We went straight to bed as we planned to get on the road early the next morning.


Friday, July 12, 2013

ADTE: Day 11

We slept in a bit and headed a couple of towns over to Buffalo for an early lunch. We decided, "when in Rome" in Buffalo meant: we need to eat some wings. We chose the birthplace of wings "Anchor Bar" where we ordered a bunch of wings and something called Pizza Sticks which were like pizza egg rolls. Ummm... I don't know if that is supposed to happen, but they were good! The wings were phenomenal and we destroyed that huge tray of wings. We also enjoyed hearing the different accents of the tables around us. NO! We weren't eavesdropping, but we had to smile as we heard the bits of conversation, "you tell 'em who your dad is and they won't mess with you." And, "they were down the street casin' the joint."

After we wiped off our faces and hands of all the hot wing sauce, we proceeded to Niagara Falls. We saw the huge cloud of water spraying into the sky from miles away! The force of the water causes a permanent misting of the area. We walked over to the falls and the sheer power of the water was AMAZING!!! Reading about the people who had gone over the edge, (both intentionally and not) put us in the right frame of mind and there was no climbing of the railings.

As with the arches in Moab, there is no way to capture the size and scope of the falls with pictures. It is an experience! We watched the Maid of the Mist boats go up the river and into the mist and asked the kids if they wanted to go. The response was very mixed, so we were content to keep dry and look at the water from above.

After we walked to all the different viewing points and fed a squirrel (usually feeding wildlife is frowned upon, but the man sitting there with the peanuts "knew" the squirrels and instructed the kids how to do it) we headed back to the car. I found some texts on my phone from Nicole (of Life's a Batch) saying her son was there with his grandma. She told me where he was and we happened to be steps away. I tracked him down and gave him a hug. (Nicole warned him first!). What a small world and too fun to send Nicole a pic of us at Niagara Falls of all places!

We got back on the road to Palmyra and found the fairgrounds where we would be camping that night and our friend Kathy (of The newly created cokie page! Katzinthekitchen) who lives nearby was there to greet us. I hadn't met her before, but have exchanged emails and messages for quite awhile now. She was our welcome wagon and what an awesome perk to have our very own tour guide of the area! She helped us set up the trailer and then took us on the mother of all picnics. She had packed homemade lasagna, salad, bread with orange infused olive oil with chocolate balsamic vinegar for dipping, and tons of fresh fruit! Blueberries, cherries, raspberries, grapes, and even rounded out the meal with a homemade cherry pie! She spoiled us like crazy! We enjoyed our beautiful picnic right next to the Eerie Canal in a beautiful park. We saw our very first cardinal and it was the most beautiful, brilliant red!

As if the glorified picnic wasnt enough she brought a box of treasures. This thing was full of glow sticks, maple candies, maple sugar, flashlights, cookie cutters, homemade ginger syrup, maple syrup, applesauce, pasta, and that is just off the top of my head! We took a walk over to the lock on the canal and it was fascinating to see this amazing part of history. After chasing fireflies around the park for a bit, we went to that place all campers need to eventually go: WalMart. We got some supplies, things we needed, and some things we didn't and headed back to camp. John was beat and immediately fell asleep, but the rest of us along with Kathy stayed up for a bit in the trailer and chatted into the night. She left for the evening insisting on doing our laundry. She is like Santa Claus who does your laundry!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

ADTE: Day 10

We had an early morning and got out at about 6:00 in the morning. We tried to sneak out quietly so we didn't wake anyone, but Krista insisted on waking up to send us off and give us a Tupperware full of cookies for the road. She'd made a bunch of As. We drove away already missing them and wishing we had more time with them.

We rolled into Ohio and visited another church history site in Kirtland. Some of you may be thinking, "this seems like a very "churchy" vacation", and you are right. We've never had the chance to visit these areas and have been excited to experience so much along our way. It's not only church, but family history involved and it has been amazing to see where and how many of my ancestors lived.

Mr. John planned for us to stay in a parking lot tonight... Yes, you read that right. He called ahead to his friend at a minor league baseball team and asked if we could set up our camp in the parking lot. We were ahead of schedule and we decided we would go to the movies before we made camp. we took the kids to see Monster's University and we absolutely LOVED it! I want to see it again to catch all the details.

After the movie we were going to head to our parking lot camp for the night, but Mr. John wanted to forge ahead and get some more miles under us while the kids slept, and go off book.

I think this would be a good time to talk about "THE BINDER". When we go on any kind of trip, Mr. John plans it out in a binder. He prints out google maps and directions. He prints our potential places to eat and to stop. This is an impressive binder. While he is an uber planner he is also good at changing it up. He just likes to have an outline of estimated time of arrival, departure, fun things to do... in other words, he's a little bit of a control freak, but that works out great because I am the exact opposite and we even each other out.

He reveres his binder and I think this story best illustrates his feelings on his binder: (the below story must be read with the right ridiculous tongue in cheek attitude).

John: "Hey, you know when you put away the binder earlier?"

Liz: "Yeah?"

J: "Well, when you closed it, some of the pages were bent so it kind of messed up some of the pages. So, to give the binder the proper respect and to get things back on the right foot, you need to say 2 things you like about the binder."

L: "HA!"

John's infatuation with his scheduled binder is a longstanding one, and my teasing and poking fun at his binder and its "glory and magnificence" (his description) blossomed as soon as our honeymoon trip... with binder in tow, of course.

So, we went "off-book" because we wanted to be able to go to Niagara Falls in the morning. We found a random, cheap hotel room on Priceline and I booked it and we headed toward our new point B. we got there and our room had one bed... This is what happens when you go off book, or when you give me responsibility for booking a room (I SWEAR I booked two beds!) We made the most of it, and some dog piled on the bed and threw pillows on the floor for the others. Bodies were strewn everywhere, and we slept like rocks.

Note to self: take a picture of "THE BINDER" that captures all its awesomeness.


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