Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wedding Season

O.K. So I'm totally bummed that I missed my friend Tess's wedding. :-( But I heard it went off without a hitch and that Tess was a very beautiful bride. My parents sent me this picture, and I would have to agree.

I'm so happy for you, Tess and T.J.!

So here in Scotia, NY, things have been pretty relaxed. Lots of computer games with Chris and his dad and friends. :-) We're been rocking out on guitar hero a bunch, as well. Just check out the video. The dancing king is Chris's high school buddy, Ken, who is one of the groomsmen for Mike's wedding.

Today the boys are all off at Mike's bachelor party: they're going whitewater rafting on the Hudson River. Erin is terrified that Mike will come back with a black eye. lol I have faith in Chris to keep his brother out of trouble, though. ;-)

Their wedding is on Saturday. After a two-year engagement, I have the feel that the wedding and reception are going to be wonderful. I'll make sure to take a video of Chris's best man speech. Sounds like it's gonna be a good one.

And then, three days later, Chris and I are heading off to Europe! Craziness!

Baby Ducks

So this is a video of the baby ducks we saw in Washington, D.C. This little one couldn't figure out how to hold its head up while it slept. I guess not everything is inborn for animals.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

"I say whippet, whippet good" (Devo song, anyone?)

Washington was cool. We rode the subway in and walked around so much that our legs were sore by the end of the day. We saw the White House, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Reflecting Pond, the Lincoln Memorial and we went and took a tour of the mint. There, we saw an insane amount of money and wished it was in our pockets. lol

The best part of D.C. was that the Reflecting Pond is the home to about 7 or 8 families of ducks. There were baby ducks in every stage of development. Our favorites, of course, were the tiniest ones. In a larger group, there was one who simply couldn't figure out yet how to tuck it's head back on its body when sleeping. So it would fall asleep and its head would droop forward until it was resting upside down on the cement. And then it would wake up, shake its head, and try again. And the whole thing would repeat. It was hilarious.

After D.C. we drove to New Jersey. Our hotel was only about 20 minutes from Mike's (Chris's twin brother) graduation. Mike and his fiance Erin stopped by that night to borrow our iron and we went out to dinner. Mike and Erin ended up getting a free meal because they restaurant ran out of the ingredients for the item they ordered. Not bad.

The next day was Mike's graduation. He graduated from Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine, so he is now officially a doctor. :) The funniest part of the ceremony was when the graduates get hooded. A doctor is supposed to put this hood over their shoulders, but most of the time, the hood would smack the graduate in the face and it looked like the doctor was trying to put a horses bit in their mouth. lol We went out to a nice restaurant afterward to celebrate.

We drove to Mike and Erin's new house after that and crashed there. The next day we had a little cook out and got to play with their two cats and their whippet, Miley. Super cute dog. She sort of looks like an alien, but for some reason that works for her. She's adorable and very friendly.

We played WoW for a bit and then Chris and I headed back to Ithaca, officially ending the road trip for Chris. For me, it still feels like I'm on it, since Chris's Ithaca apartment isn't my home. Anyway, we got in late last night, with just enough time to finally post those D.C. pics.

Today we're switching out our stuff and getting our bags packed up for Europe and Mike and Erin's wedding and the festivities this week. We're hoping to meet up with some of Chris's friends before we take off for Scotia, as well.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Washington, D.C.

Been pretty busy lately. Will hopefully do some proper updating tomorrow. For now, enjoy these pictures of our adventures in the capital.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

From Our Little Corner of the World

We finally have wireless! Yay!

... O.K. That was an oversimplified statement. The Howard Johnson Express we are currently staying in claims to have wireless in all the rooms--which may be true--but what they failed to mention is that the wireless in all the rooms may not be available in all of the room. lol Get it?

What this means is that we had to move the computer table and chairs practically into the bathroom in order to get a couple bars of signal. So here I am, crammed into the corner, trying hard to keep all our loved ones up-to-date on our whereabouts and happenings. You guys better appreciate this. ;-) lol jk jk We've actually been doing a lot of budgeting and planning and whatnot to make sure we'll be able to afford food by the end of July before we start getting paychecks. Fun stuff.

So for South Carolina: Being still pretty sunburned on Saturday, we spent part of the day at the movie theater, watching "Iron Man". It was good. Chris wanted more fighting, but it seemed like there will probably be a sequel, so maybe he'll get more fighting then. lol

We went to this miniature golf course called "Hawaiian Rumble" next. It was apparently rated number one in the U.S. and has been featured on the travel channel and golf magazines and stuff, but we couldn't really figure out why. It had a neat volcano in the middle that shot out a little fire once, but other than that it was pretty standard. Chris and tied with a 46.

Oh! So something I forgot to mention: it was Bike Week in Myrtle Beach while we were there. So basically, there were motorcycles EVERYWHERE. It was nuts. And I'd say about 70% of the bikers had either a wife or a girlfriend perched behind them on the bike, soaking up the sun. lol We did see about 3 or 4 women actually driving motorcycles the whole weekend, but that was about it. Apparently motorcycles are still a male-dominated interest. It was pretty crazy being up on the eighth floor of our hotel, though, and still being able to hear the Harley's roaring by louder than our television.

We made it to a winery called "La Belle Amie." It was opened up, designed and run completely by this one woman. There was clear evidence of it by the fact that there were even hooks under the bar top to hang your purse while tasting the wine. lol The staff was so friendly and fun. We tried this wine margarita concoction, which was amazing and refreshing, so we bought a bag of the mix and found out they're called "bitch bags." haha All the wines have two names, too. One nice one, and one funny one. Basically, you could be drinking "Muscadine Red" or "You're So Naughty." And we just might have picked up a couple goodies for my parents here. ;-) Guess they'll have to check the mail in a few days and see ...

We did stumble upon a Krispy Kreme while driving on North Kings Highway. Seriously ... this was one of the greatest places around. lol It's like donut heaven. And all of the donuts are so smooth and perfect and tantalizing. After they go through the glaze, the word "pristine" springs to mind (credit to Chris for this perfect adjective). They look so amazing, it's difficult to bring yourself to bite in and ruin it. The other awesome part about this place was the workers, though. They were being so hilarious. We were watching the whole donut-making process with such awe that they must have all decided to have a good time with us. We have some videos on Chris's phone, which I'll post when we get back to Ithaca (where the cord is to connect his phone to the computer).

One last thing I wanted to mention: at the winery, a older local man that was hanging out--and maybe flirting a little with the workers at the winery--gave Chris and I a couple of rocks. We picked them up and had no clue what to say. So he asked if we knew what they were. We shook our heads and he informed us: they were 40-million-year-old fossilized oysters. A while back, they had dredged some of the ocean to replenish the beach sand, and had dug right into the Cretaceous period. Now these fossils can be found occasionally scattered around the beach. Chris and I actually found another one during a long walk down the beach the following evening.

I suppose that's just about it for SC. Not many pictures from the second part of the trip, unfortunately. A few from Chris's phone will be up once we get back to Ithaca, hopefully. But I will get the Washington, D.C. pictures and stories up tomorrow. Good night all!
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

North Myrtle Beach

Since our resort once again doesn't have wireless, Chris and I are now sitting at a smoothie place down the street that offers free wireless. It's pretty cold in here, so I'm going to make this a quick one. lol

Our resort, despite it's internet deficiencies, is gorgeous. Our suite has 2 bathrooms and 2 bedrooms. haha It's soooo great.

Yesterday, we went to the beach. We were out there for not much more than an hour, yet today, I am pretty much as red as a lobster. The back of my legs are so burnt that it actually hurts to walk. Needless to say, we're taking it easy today.

After the beach, we ate dinner--let me rephrase that--we ate a feast at this place called the Crab House. Oysters Rockafeller, lemon sea bass with crab orzo, crab cakes, fried fish, and plenty of fruity drinks with names like Green with Envy and Tidal Wave. It was amazing. We were soooo stuffed afterward, it was all we could do just to stumble over the Ripley's Aquarium. All of this was in the giant boardwalk-like area, called Broadway on the Beach. The aquarium was amazing. You walk through this glass hallway and the fish and sharks swim all around you. There was even one huge sawfish thing that was just hanging out on the glass top. But I'll let the pictures speak for themselves now.

Also, as we were walking over to the aquarium, we noticed this huge group of fish, waiting for tourists to give them food. lol

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Rest of North Carolina

The rest of our time in North Carolina was fun, but Chris and I certainly discovered that we’re more city and town people. It was impossible to find Chinese food, or any restaurant chains, or like I said before, anything that stays open past 9pm. Being out in the woods and mountains, nearby to a gorgeous lake, it was really nice if you want to get away for a weekend. But if you want to get on the internet or eat familiar food … well, good luck. Lol

We went horseback riding one morning at the Cedar Creek Stables. We took the two-hour trip, and it was awesome. Our horses each had their own funny personalities and our guide Jessie certainly knew how to bring them out. She had such funny stories to tell about the horses, and such unbelievable stories to tell about her own life. She said she worked at these stables for 11 years, since she was 14. And when she was 14, she was too young to get paid, so she worked all summer to get a horse.

We tried to go to Chimney Rock Park again, but once again, it was closed. We got some ice cream and headed back to the resort to watch movies and play Diablo II, a computer game.

We did finally get to go to Chimney Rock Park. It was open the day we checked out. Only one problem: the elevator wasn’t working. Dun dun dun! Lol So we climbed the 400+ stairs to get up there, and I have to admit, it was worth the climb. The view was spectacular. We were at an elevation of over 2400 feet above sea level. We continued on for another hour and a half or so, and hiked over to the waterfall.

We drove for the rest of the day—it was actually warm enough to put the top down on the Camaro—and made it to North Myrtle Beach by evening.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

North Carolina

We made it to North Carolina late last night. Our resort, Fairfield Mountains, is nestled waaaayyyy into the Smoky Mountains. Driving here was fun for a while. The roads wind back and forth and around so intricately that it almost felt like a rollercoaster. Driving in the Camaro, you can imagine how much Chris was enjoying it. But after about an hour of winding slow driving, we were ready to get there and be done driving for the day.

We were also a bit worried about getting in because we had called earlier to confirm our arrival time. We had read that we needed to do so if arriving after 6pm. Apparently, the front desk building closes then. So the staff member I talked to said she would leave our key in a safe on the front porch.

And she also said that we might not have electricity.

There had been a bad windstorm yesterday morning, which we began to see traces of as soon as we got within 2 hours of the place. There were trees and branches all over the sides of the road, on top of boats, through fences, pretty much everywhere. As we drove through a couple very tiny towns around 8-9pm, we had some trouble figuring out if the power was out or if everything was actually just closed.

It was closed.

Businesses, gas stations, even restaurants close by 9pm at the very latest. Most close by 5pm. Yep. So that’s been a little difficult for Chris and I to get used to. They say it’s just because they do things a little slower down here, but feeding the hungry tourists doesn’t seem so fast-paced, does it? Our dinner last night consisted of wine, cheese, sausage and crackers that we bought in Wisconsin.

Tonight, we again missed dinner because we were on a tour out on Lake Lure that docked at 8pm. And of course, even the restaurants that claimed to be opened until 9 … were closed. Lol Luckily, we had the foresight this morning to stop and buy some basic groceries at the little convenience store up the street. So we are now sitting here waiting for our Digorno frozen pizza to heat up in the oven.

We tried to go to this beautiful park not far from here earlier today, but it was closed due to the windstorm. It had knocked out the power and there were some trees down on the paths. We’re hoping it will be opened tomorrow because we hear that it’s a magnificent view.

So instead of hiking up in the mountains, we walked through the little town’s shops and ate ice cream. It’s right on a river, so we walked along that for a bit, which was very pretty. This funny guy that sounded like he just might be in the Italian mafia offered to take a picture of us because we were trying to do it ourselves. He even had us move so the sun wouldn’t be behind us, saying “If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it right.” haha

The boat tour, which we took a while later, was pretty neat. It was just nice getting to be out on the water. We got to see all of the million-dollar vacation homes around the lake. In one stretch, there are four houses that have all appeared in “Better Homes and Gardens.” These places were monstrous, really.

One of my personal favorite parts of the tour was a little cove which the locals call “Dirty Dancing Cove.” This is where parts of the movie, Dirty Dancing, was filmed. This particular cove was where they filmed the scene where Johnny is practicing the finale lift with Baby. Pretty neat. Right after the tour, we went and rented the movie to watch tonight.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Mammouth Caves, KY

Have you ever wondered if such a place exists where time stands still? Well, we found it this morning. The only thing is, it doesn’t just stand still, it also jumps around an hour at a time. This place is Cave City in Kentucky.

“How does it stand still?” you may ask. Well, for one thing, you can feel it in the slow nature of the locals. No matter how much of a rush you are in, the man at the ticket counter will take all the time he desires to work the crowd of other future patrons and tell nice little jokes about how the 3x5 cards in his shirt pocket are his palm pilot.

Furthermore, the constantly ticking clock has obviously abandoned the old caves beneath the land in Kentucky. The cave guides are eager to share stories about Stephen, the slave that explored and mapped much of the caves. You can still see signatures on the limestone walls of the late 1800’s elite that were able to afford a trip through the caves. At one point in the tour, the guide turns off the already very dim lights mounted sparingly throughout the cave, and holds up a lighter to show you how the first explorers of the cave saw it.

But that doesn’t explain how time jumps. There can’t possibly be any way for time to oddly jump forward and backward without any logical explanation … oh but there is.

Chris and I stayed the night in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a bit north and very slightly east of Mammouth Cave National Park. The night before, we had booked two tickets for the 11:15am Historic Tour. We set our alarm for 8:15am. We got around, ate breakfast, and were on the road by 9:45am. We arrived at the park around 10:40am. So far so good, right? This was when Chris noticed that they were making announcements that the 9:45 tour would be departing in just a few minutes. Checking his cell phone, he discovered that we had, in fact, switched to the central time zone sometime in the past 30 minutes or so.

We ended up cancelling our tickets and purchasing new ones for the 10:15 Snowball tour, which was very cool. You may be unimpressed by our time jumping at this point in the story. Just wait. After the tour, got in the car, drove about 10 minutes back to the highway and discovered that my cell phone read 2:22pm and Chris’s cell phone claimed it was 1:22pm. Sitting beside each other, we appeared to be in different time zones. Another ten minutes of driving, and I too was in the central time zone. We drove east for over an hour before we were both once again in the eastern time zone, which we had been in the night before when we were an hour north of Mammouth Cave. If that’s not a clear example of time jumping without rhyme or reason, then I’m not sure of much anymore. All I know is that we are now in the “normal” time zone, according to Chris, and all is right in the world again.

But consider this: Is the central time zone in Kentucky perhaps not a time zone, but in fact the twighlight zone?

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wisconsin Dells, Part II

Chris and I awoke Saturday morning with the intention of meeting with Ron, a representative of the timeshare people, to fill out a quick survey before heading on our way to the Carr Valley Cheese Factory. We even managed to get up and ready by 9:30am, which let’s face it, for us is pretty early. We weren’t completely sure how to get to his office, so we took the elevator to the right floor and saw an unmarked door. Not knowing what else to do, I pulled one open and we saw a vast office full of cubicles and men in button-up shirts standing by the water cooler. Sort of an odd scene to stumble upon in a resort/hotel.

As soon as we saw this, Chris knew what was up. They were definitely going to try to get us to buy something. The room had “sales” written all over it. We seemed to have found the back entrance, though, because no one came up to us. I shut the door quickly and looked at Chris.

“Not happening,” he said.

He grabbed my hand and we ran downstairs and outside to the car. We jumped in and didn’t look back as we made our way to the Cheese Factory. When we arrived here, however, we found one of the many examples of inaccurate advertising we’ve encountered thus far. Our brochure said we could come and tour the factory as they make cheese until 11:30am. When we arrived at 10:30am, the factory floor was already cleaned up and spotless, not a sign of cheese anywhere. In the store, we were able to sample a couple types of cheese, and even the famous cheese curds, which were made that very morning. Basically, a cheese curd is a very squeaky, almost tasteless piece of cheese. Weird, I know.

We bought some cheese and headed back to the dells, where we went to another cheese store and bought more cheese and some sausage.

After that excitement, we made it to the big destination: the Original Wisconsin Ducks. Apparently, the duck boat/tank things were used in World War II. Our driver was pretty funny. He told predictable jokes, but he gave us a black and white snapshot of himself posing with one of the ducks, which was a riot. The dells were very pretty, but it was kind of cold to be cruising along in the water. We were coasting down the hills and pathways pretty fast, though. Lol

Next, we went on the Lost Canyon Tour, which was a horse-drawn carriage ride through the narrowest parts of some of the dells located just a few miles back from the river. The horses were smelly and endearing at the same time. Lots of horse hair flying back in our faces, but we didn’t notice too much because our guide kept us very entertained. Chris and I were the only ones on the tour, so we got to talk to our guide (also named Chris) a bunch and he had some really crazy stories to tell. We found a wonderful little postcard of him giving a tour in 1982, wearing a fashionable red plaid shirt and sporting a mullet. He was extremely good-natured when we teased him about it.

Next on our list was another water park at the resort. This one was called Wild West Water Park. It was fun, but very similar to the other one. Only this one didn’t have a lazy river, or the awesome Hurricane ride. This one did have a single-person waterslide that sent you flying down into this big room that was basically a ball, and you spun around the walls a couple times before getting sucked down into the middle and being spit out at the end of the waterslide.

After the water park, we showered and put on our usual casual clothes again. We headed out to Field’s Steakhouse, assuming it would be a restaurant where we could get steaks. As we walked in, we past a girl in a short skirt and high heels and laughed at how ridiculous she looked standing out there in the cold. (It was also raining a bit). Once we got into the lobby, however, we realized we were the ones getting laughed at. Over the sounds of a grand piano, and under the soft blue lighting and past the waiters in tuxes, we noticed that everyone was extremely dressed up. We looked at each other and turned toward the door, once again running out hand-in-hand. Lol

We ended up at Moosejaw restaurant, which was decorated in animal heads and furs mounted to the walls. A big chandelier of horns hung in the middle of the cabin-like room. At least our t-shirt and jeans look fit in here. Dinner was good—we finally got our steaks—and we headed back to the room, utterly exhausted from our busy day.

Today was a full day of driving: almost 10 hours on the road. Somewhere in Kentucky, I actually saw the price of gas go up. So as you can guess, we're both pretty exhausted and ready to hit the hay.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Wisconsin Dells, Part I

Yesterday, after making the mistake of driving right through Chicago and O’Hare airport and getting stuck in traffic for an extra hour, we finally made it to the Wisconsin Dells.

We have yet to make it to the actual upper and lower dells, but we have enjoyed our resort, Glacier Canyon Lodge and it’s water parks. It actually has 6 of them! 3 indoor and 3 outdoor. Obviously, the outdoor ones aren’t open yet, but the indoor ones are a lot of fun. There was one ride in particular, called the Hurricane. You ride in a 4 person tube and go through a short winding tunnel, which suddenly opens up into a giant cylinder, which the tube slides up and down on like a half-pipe. It was one of the coolest water rides I’ve ever been on.

We had dinner at the Cheese Factory Restaurant, which turned out to be a vegetarian place. The best part of the meal was definitely the dessert: Princess Cake. It was three layers of white cake with lemon butter-cream frosting and raspberry sauce. Yum!

Unfortunately, everything seems to close by 5pm around here, so we haven’t got to do much in the evenings. We have big plans for tomorrow and Sunday though, so stay tuned.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Niagara Falls

On the way from Ithaca, NY to Jackson, MI, Chris and I made a stop at Niagara Falls yesterday. It was so pretty, and soooo wet. Every time the wind changed directions the spray from the falls hit us. haha But it was a nice stop to get out and stretch our legs between the 9 hours of driving. :-)
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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Our first piece of furniture

A few months back, I was shopping with my mom when I found a little treasure with a red tag on it at the very back of the Home Goods store. The moment I saw it, I fell in love. Sure, it had a few blemishes and I wasn't totally sure at this point how much room we'd have in our apartment, but I knew I had to get this trunk. It was too weird and interesting to resist.

The price was $50 marked down from $180. After finding a few new screws in my dad's workshop to fix the hinge, we had it in good working order.

But this was the first piece of furniture bought specifically for our new apartment. This piece was special. So we couldn't stop there. With some help from my parents, I made this my first project for my new home.

Determined to turn this trunk into a focal point for the new room, my mom had the brilliant idea to add legs to the trunk to give it some height and make it more like a coffee table. Unfortunately, after a trip to Menards, we realized the only coffee table legs were way too tall and skinny. Instead, we found some decorative fence post caps made of cedar that just might do the job.

After some paint, screws and four metal pieces to screw the "legs" into, we had ourselves a coffee table ... or at least a slightly elevated trunk. haha Actually, the legs really have made the piece stand out. And it feels good to have worked on a project to make Chris's and my new home that much more, well, ours. :-)