Friday, September 21, 2018

Mini Vacation to Maine

In July we planned a short trip to Maine for August to visit Dan's extended family.  Dan found an off-the-grid cabin in Maine which the owners allow to be used as a sort of rest spot for families and couples serving in the ministry. 
We planned to stay there for three nights.  The drive up to Maine consisted of a lot of random stops every time I saw historical landmarks and every time Dan saw a Farmall tractor- particularly the cubs. 
We stopped to see this Quechee gorge.  It's very deep as you can see, and there were signs tacked and tied with zip ties to the bridge begging people to seek help and reminding readers that they were loved.  I found out later that it's the number one spot for suicides in Vermont.  Pretty crazy. 
When we continued our drive, we went on the back roads mostly and we were starving hungry (despite the fact that I packed a lunch for us).  After looking for a place to eat for about two hours, we found this little gem. 

We indulged in some amazingly greasy food.  Gwen enjoyed watching us eat.  Until we were nearly finished.  Then she cried until Dan took her to look at the gift shop. 

We stopped to take a picture of this dam and beautiful covered bridge. 

And we finally made it to our cabin after getting lost a little bit.  Neither of our cellphones worked the entire time we were there in Maine.  At least the Data.  Mine didn't work for anything but a camera.  Dan could sometimes have enough service to place a phone call when he was in town or something. 
This is the cabin where we stayed.  It was very nice.  Very, away-from-it-all.  It ran on solar panels, so we took short showers and were very careful to not waste any water.  Since it was off-the-grid, there was no internet, TV's or electronics.  It was nice.  When we were there in the evenings, we spent time playing monopoly and banana grams.  I also read four Louis L'amour books since they were on a bookshelf. 

The first night we arrived, Dan just HAD to try lighting a fire in the firepit, which was actually a wheelbarrow! How neat!  I will say...considering I don't normally like s'mores, those were AMAZING.

When we woke up the next morning, we did a little searching on the Maine Atlas that was provided for our exploring needs.  We saw a few attractions in the area, so headed towards the first, the oldest wire bridge in the US. 

I'll be honest, just walking across it was scary a little because the whole thing was giving and shaking with just me walking!  I hate to know how it would have felt if a car had driven across. 

It was neat though. 
When we finished looking at that, we headed to Farmington, where Dan insisted he would be able to find the house where we were to meet up with his family the next day.  Since we went to Farmington, we stopped at McDonalds (to use the wifi primarily) and found a church to attend the next night (Wednesday evening).  I told Dan that we should just text his aunt and ask for the house address, but he insisted he could find it based on his spectacular memory from childhood.  We searched on every street in that town...(or that's what it felt like at least).  Dan would tentatively turn the car onto a street and say "Oh, YES, I remember now!  Its this street for sure.  Middle street.  I remember it...we'll drive up here and the house will be on the left...and its yellow..." and there'd be a dead end with no house.  I got a good laugh out of it, and didn't mind, since we didn't have anywhere else we needed to be.  We did finally find the house.  It wasn't yellow though.  :D 
As we were headed back to the cabin for the evening, I saw a brown sign indicative of a historical site ahead.  We followed it and drove up a driveway to a homestead.  This homestead was where Lillian Norton (Nordica) was born.  I had no idea who that was, so we just walked in and paid the small fee to do the tour.  Apparently, Nordica was a world famous opera singer in the 1800's.  Our tour guide was very well-informed and made the tour fun.  The house was full of antiques and the photos and paintings of Nordica as well as her costumes and dresses for the different roles she played in operas in Europe and America.    

It happened to be the hottest day of the summer that day, so our tour guide gave me a fan to use.  Gwen was thrilled with the tour. 

This was a fan Queen Victoria gave to Nordica as a gift.

It was neat to learn something new.  I definitely enjoyed the tour more than Dan.  He liked seeing the old stove and examining how someone restored the house and put drywall on all the walls and things like that.  He wasn't so much into the opera singing- fancy dress-wearing Nordica.  I got into it though.  Our guide was so happy we stopped that she gave me a free Nordica tee shirt. 
We went back to the cabin and that evening it was SO hot in the cabin.  To save money, I had brought along a pre-baked lasagna (a big pan), eggs, squash, and things for s'mores.  So we only ate out that one time when we were driving up to Maine. 
The next morning, we referred to our Atlas yet again, and then drove to a hiking trail and hiked to the waterfall.  This is me, wearing my Nordica shirt. 

After we finished that hike, we were driving around, simply exploring, when we drove by this tiny sign that said "Cemetery" with an arrow.  Dan knows I love visiting old cemeteries, so we parked at the locked gate and walked back a pathway til we got to another pathway, slightly overgrown. 

We kept seeing more signs for the cemetery, so we kept walking further and further into the forest.  

Sadly, we had to give up because we came to a giant sign saying that it was a wetlands.  I nearly stepped into a boggy, lily-pad covered marsh area not knowing it.  SO we turned back.  But I really wish we had found it. 
We saw what was left of this windmill...
And then the rest of that day we spent with Dan's family.  It was very nice to see his aunt and uncle and grandmother again.  That evening we went to a church where Dan's family used to go when they would visit their family.  The pastor still remembered him!
That was Wednesday night.  It was nearly 9pm when we got back to the cabin because the rain was SO bad.  Poor Gwen's bedtime is at 8, so she was in an inconsolable frenzy, screaming and screaming.  She woke up several times that night screaming as well, which is very unusual given the fact that she's been sleeping through the night now for about a month. 
The next morning, we woke up early and packed everything up so we could get a head start on our drive back home to NY.  Before we left though, Dan and Gwen spent a nice time chatting. 

The drive back seemed to go super fast.  When the GPS said we had about two hours left, Dan really wanted to go a little out of our way and visit the Vermont Country Store.  I didn't know what to expect because I'd never even heard of it.  But he said his mom used to order things out of their catalog when he was a child. 
It was really a neat store!

Dan got some sea-salted caramels and I got one chocolate covered cashew cluster. 

Gwennie got to ride her first tractor in the form of a tire swing.  Or maybe it was a tire swing in the form of a tractor?

 It was a neat place to get Christmas presents for kids.  I told Dan that someday we need to go there to get Christmas presents because they have old-timey games and toys made of wood and leather and things, not plastic junk with batteries in it.
We made it home safely, even after being pulled over by a policeman.  Dan was driving at the time and was going 65mph in a 45 zone.  The officer was extremely kind and generous in just giving him a warning instead of a ticket.  You can be sure that he was watching the speedometer the rest of the way.  :D
It was a nice little vacation for us.  We were happy to be home after it though.  
That's the last of our adventures in August.  I'm very late posting this. Today is the first day of AUTUMN!!!!!
Crazy how time flies.  Soon, it'll be snow that's flying... 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tickets please, punch punch punch!

Last year in July, Dan and I took a doozy of a trip to Baltimore to pick up my car after we moved here to New York.  Since the Uhaul could only haul one car (Dan's), and I was driving Dan's pickup with his work trailer, we couldn't bring my car.  We ended up leaving it parked in Baltimore and picked it up three weeks later. 
The biggest quandary was how to get to Baltimore without driving down, so that we wouldn't have to then drive TWO vehicles back 8 hours.  I opted for the cheapest route we could find.  I ended up doing something foolish (who? ME? ) and bought train tickets from Whitehall to Schenectady.  We would then have to walk a mile to the bus stop where we could then catch a bus to NYC, transfer to another bus, and ride to Baltimore where we would safely get a cab to take us to my car.  Sounds like a great plan, right?  And the tickets only cost us $60 per person!  Trains, buses and cab! 
The biggest problem was that my calculations of time were off (WAY off) and when we arrived in Schenectady, there had been a delay of about 16 minutes.  Those were the 16 minutes I calculated in for our one-mile walk.  We ran (literally, RAN) to the bus stop, which ended up being a Chinese restaurant in a horrible area of town.  Not only had our bus already left 30 minutes prior to our arrival, but the Chinese restaurant wasn't even open!  We were stuck sitting on the curb of a church beside litter and cigarettes for four hours, waiting for the next bus to arrive.  When that bus DID arrive, there were drug deals being done out the windows and two men got in a fist fight while loading the bus.  Of course this whole time, Dan was trying hard to not be too frustrated with me for not calculating in possible train delays.  We ended up pulling into NYC (a horrible part of it nonetheless) at 11pm, and had missed our connecting bus.  We walked about a mile to a train station (the very same one we WOULD have gone through had I just bought us train tickets straight through to Baltimore) and bought tickets to Baltimore.  We ended up arriving in Baltimore around 6am. 
I just HAD to tell you that back-story because our latest train adventure is BECAUSE of that trip.  Also, it is oddly similar to it as well... 
Dan contacted Amtrak after that disaster of a trip and just told them that because there was a delay, we missed all of our connecting buses.  They emailed him back with a voucher for $80 which we could use on any future tickets.  That was a year ago.  Well, late in July, I remembered the voucher and asked Dan to forward it to me.  I found out that that very day was when the voucher would expire if I didn't use it.  So on a whim (it's very important to note that it was on a whim), I purchased two tickets round trip to Albany for a day trip.  We actually only live an hour and a half from Albany, but it was the only place I could think of that was close enough so that I wouldn't have to spend any money, but rather, just use the voucher. 
Monday, the 21st of August, we set out on our adventure.  We drove to Fort Edward, where we packed everything into Gwendolyn's stroller and waited for the train.   
After boarding the train and enjoying a scenic ride down to Albany, we arrived at the Rensselaer train station at roughly 10:30am.  I had mapped out our trek from the station to our first stop: lunch at a chicken restaurant with cheap prices according to google reviews.  We started walking, and kept walking, following my map.  I got excited when we came to this tunnel, because my goal was to navigate us to the historic district. 

I began feeling accomplished, like I finally was making amends for the botched trip to Baltimore last year, when we came near to the place I had planned for us to eat our cheap lunch.  As we were walking up to it, a woman started shouting at us while running with her young child and pushing a baby stroller. 
"You aren't going into McDonalds, are you??" she shouted
I replied that no, we weren't.  McDonalds was right across the street from our chicken destination. 
"Good.  Don't go near there cuz there's a group of drug dealers in there fighting and screaming! They was fighting over the money." she yelled, and continued running away. 
We really were struggling to keep up with what she was saying, since her accent was so strong.  But by the time I registered what she was saying, we were upon our chicken place.  They were just opening when we walked up at 11.  To be quite honest, it was filthy. 
There were drug deals taking place all along the sidewalk in front of the shop, and one even inside while we were sitting, waiting for our food.  Our lunch experience consisted of us stuffing our food down so that we could leave, and two men begging for money (although I just said "No, sorry" after asking them to repeat what they were saying about 4 times and STILL couldn't understand them). 
We left hurriedly and half ran away from the chicken spot and McDonalds.  We walked another mile to the capitol building.  

My confidence started coming back when I saw it, and especially when we arrived just in time for the next tour at 12.  We really enjoyed touring the ornate building. 

When we got to this room, I found it fascinating that the building had been worked on for over 20 years.  It cost over $25,000,000 to build and it still isn't complete.  When Teddy Roosevelt became governor of NY, he declared it complete and stopped all work on it (because it ended up costing the state way more than it was supposed to).  These ornate little designed carvings on the walls weren't finished. I thought that was neat. 

And the walls are covered in 23k gold... 

We learned a lot of fascinating facts about the building, the governors, and the state of NY.  After we finished the tour, we explored a little bit on our own.   

Our next stop was going to be the NY State museum.  I remember when I was young and my mother would take us to the PA state museum and I LOVED it.  I figured the NY state museum had to be awesome as well, and since our train didn't leave the Rensselaer station until 5pm, we had the time. 
What I DID'NT plan on was that the museum was always closed on Mondays.  So we wandered about for a bit, and then saw a flyer that said we could go to an observation deck of the tallest building in Albany.  So we did that and ended up spending some time there.  When you are up so high, there's so much to see.  There were little diagrams, explaining interesting historical facts about different buildings in the distance as well. 

You'd probably need to click on the picture below and zoom in to see it, but the building halfway up the picture on the far right with two white steeples with green domes is the second oldest church in the state.  It also contains the oldest pulpit in the United States.  When we saw that fact, Dan wanted to go see it.   

We asked for directions, and then walked there.  We called ahead and the secretary said that we could come see it as long as she was there.  We made it there by 2:30 and enjoyed looking around outside first.  The church has a drive-thru church where people can come and park in their parking lot and just roll down the windows and listen to the service and watch from their cars.  Dan climbed up in the outdoor pulpit and this is what he found. 
This is the auditorium.  Dan is sitting in Theodore Roosevelt's pew.


After we left there at 3, we still had time to kill, so we walked to the courthouse and were admiring it from the outside and Dan asked the guard if there was anything interesting to see inside.  He was such a nice man and told us a little bit of the history of the building and said that there was stuff to see inside.  We went in and had to go through a pat-down and metal detectors and even had to leave our phones locked up in a box.  Honestly, there wasn't too much to see, except the pictures on the walls.  One thing that WAS interesting was that there was a courtcase going on.  Even though we weren't allowed to go in, Dan discovered that by craning his neck, he could see in the door and saw a man in prison attire testifying at a witness stand.  I tried to see too, but my neck wasn't long enough.  We left there and I remembered that I had a starbucks giftcard in my wallet from years ago.
I don't drink coffee, much less starbucks, but we were hot and sweaty, so drinking a chocolaty, cold milkshake sort of thing was nice.  We then walked back to the train station where we boarded our train right at 5pm. 
We were sitting in our seats, an the train was about to depart when an employee came to take our tickets and they wouldn't scan for him.  After examining them, he told us that the tickets weren't good until the next day! I had booked the tickets for the wrong day! Because the employee on the way TO Albany didn't catch the wrong date, we were able to exchange the tickets to be for Monday.  How awful would that have been to be stuck in Albany with no vehicle?! 
SO there you have it...the truth about my ability to plan trips. 
Gwendolyn slept like a baby on the way home.  What a shock, right?
In spite of the mishaps and my bad planning fails, we had a nice time.  We ended up walking 8.5 miles around Albany too, so I got my exercise in. 
What a trip!

(Let's see whom of my readers can quote the next line of the title to this post...?)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cruising on Lake George

Well, it's so hard to believe that September is here already!  I had so many things to post about in the month of August, but kept forgetting. So these next few posts will consist of our August adventures.  It works out perfectly too, since we have nothing planned for the month of September except work, work, and more work on the fixer upper. 
We went to a sporting goods store a few weeks ago to see if we could get an infant lifevest for Gwendolyn so we can take her out in our little row boat.  While we were there, we found this decapitated mannequin sitting in a kayak outside the store.  How odd...
A few weeks ago, we were able to go on an island cruise of Lake George.  We have been on the Minne-ha-ha multiple times, but this was our first time doing the island cruise.  One of the ladies from our church gave us the tickets. 

We cruised right on passed the Sagemore hotel.  It's a pretty beautiful place.  We enjoyed guessing how much the mansions along the lake must cost.  It's a pretty ritzy area.  

This new woodcarving depicts the settling of the Adirondacks. 

While we were on the Mohican, we were surrounded by strangers who kept giving us baby advice.  They must have thought I was a bad mother, because nearly the whole trip they spent telling me I should hold Gwendolyn a certain way or should have had a hat for her, or we should be inside the boat rather than on the deck in the shade....etc.   Aside from that, it really was a very nice boat ride. 

Right before we came back into Lake George, it started raining. 
Another thing we've done lately is to attend our town band concerts in the park.  The local, free newspaper comes out every week with a calendar of events (free or otherwise) and I've begun trying to find different things to attend in the community for free.  For such a small town, Granville really has quite a nice band!  They performed in the park three Sunday afternoons in a row.  We were able to go to 2 of them.   
Sadly, they are poorly attended and most attendees are over the age of 65.  Gwendolyn was the center of attention each time because people are so happy to see a young family attending. 
And the last bit of news...our garden! 
I know I've posted a bunch of times about our garden, and some of you all grow huge gardens (or you even farm for a living!) so feel free to skip this part as I'm sure it's somewhat repetitive. 
We are proud of our garden for several reasons.
1. It's our first successful garden
2. Everyone told us our garden wouldn't do well because of our location
3. I haven't had to buy (and won't have to buy all winter) any vegetables from the store. 
Our tomatoes are basically one gigantic shrub.  They were planted much too close together, so it's impossible to walk between them.  We attempted to string them up with stakes and twine, but they're so heavy that the plants are all laying in a heap anyway.  Despite all this, we've already harvested about a half bushel of tomatoes and there are still a TON of green ones. 

Our watermelon, again, was planted WAY too close, and its very difficult to find the watermelons.  Also, they don't get much exposure to sun because its so bushy.  But we've already eaten three watermelon and there are about 13 more still!

I honestly thought the cantaloupe wasn't even close to being ready because they were all super small and green.  But something started eating one of them, and we saw that the inside was nearly rotten.  So we went ahead and picked three of them.  
This scarred, cracked one tasted terrific!
And the zucchini and squash....well....

We went out and bought a new chest freezer, and its completely full of squash and zucchini.  We have over 75 bags of it.  We started selling it for 25 cents each in town because we already gave some to everyone we knew and still had too much. 

And our corn did well this year too.  We planted two rows of one variety and then three weeks later, decided we wanted to plant more.  The second kind of seed, Dan got at Tractor Supply.  That second variety didn't turn out great, but I froze it anyway.   


That second variety (I don't remember the name) had purple silky stuff, not brown.  It was weird. 

I picked everything that was decent and spent one evening husking it all and cooking it and freezing it.  We have about 40 bags of that. 

This was the first variety, which looked and tasted much better...

 In July, Dan told me he wished he could have some okra, so I planted one packet of seeds and it came up SO well.  This picture was taken about three weeks ago, so its much bigger now.  It's almost ready to start picking.  I just have no clue what we're going to do with it all.  There's no way Dan can eat it all! :D

And of course, the chickens are still laying every day.  I started posting the eggs for sale on facebook marketplace.  Now I have a few regular egg-buyers, which is good.  We also give them to people at our church and we eat eggs every day.   

So there you have it!  Some of the things we've been doing in the month of August!  I'll post again tomorrow with news of the other adventures we've been on.  I love this time of year!