Niagara in the Fall

Haha. See what I did there? Back when Chris and I lived in western NY, we would go to Niagara Falls for small getaways. But we’ve never been to Niagara Falls in the fall.

Our lives are increasingly in the northeast so our getaway isn’t as easy to access, but we were going to Rochester for WordCamp and to visit the kids anyway. Chris had the brilliant idea to trip down memory lane by driving another 90 minutes to enjoy our old stomping grounds.

Mollie was already at work when we woke up Sunday morning, and Hudi had to work at 8:30 am so we decided to head to the falls early, leaving at 8am. I knew it was a long shot, but when we got to the hotel we asked if we could do an early check-in, and they agreed 🙂 Talk about lucky. We also asked for an upgraded room because I am a sucker for a nice fireplace (and the hot tub in front of the fire wasn’t painful to deal with, either). We got their only remaining upgrade. Wahoo!!!

Chris enjoying breakfast at the hotel.

This was a very good start to our getaway. We even got breakfast. I have a weirdness where I’m obsessed with oatmeal servings at hotels. I don’t know why it’s such a big treat for me, but there it is. And this place had oatmeal 🙂

We were a bit tired from our recent travels so after breakfast we relaxed in the tub in front of the fire then took a luxurious nap. When we woke up, refreshed and ready for some exploring, we realized that without our great fortune, we would just be checking in.

Now let me back up a bit and explain this hotel getaway thing. Chris and I are tightwads. We actually enjoy life on a budget for the most part, so vacations are usually limited to camping. However, we found this delightful site called Travelzoo, which has amazing deals.

Just like in times past, we reserved rooms in the hotel at a great rate, and also had a package which included free chocolate, free cocktails daily, free beer samplings daily, BOGO’s to local attractions and best of all — Casino points.

Since we are not big gamblers, but we enjoy the Casino music and lights, we tend to head over to the slots and Blackjack and play for fun with our free credits. As soon as we are up a bit, we cash out. Free money for us. Over the years we also learned that Tuesday night is Date Night. You get an amazing buffet along with more free Casino credits.

Chris enjoying the buffet

Chris got the healthy food while I focused on desserts 🙂 If you look closely on the left, you can see the falls out the window.

So there we were, enjoying our meal and casino points. And enjoy them we did. On Monday our CA$ 50 in credits turned into a bit over CA$75. Tuesday was even better. Chris is good at waiting until the credits he has are almost gone then cashes out so he gets bills. I don’t trust the machines and cash out pretty much when I’m up. As a result, I get a lot of loonies and toonies. A bit heavy, but fun.

Monday found us touring around in delightful weather. Usually we go around my birthday so we can see the Christmas lights. We aren’t used to seeing people, but the tourists were definitely out and about. How very fun! Instead of lights, flowers spilled off lamp posts and lined our paths. The air smelled so sweet. A different sort of beauty from the sparkling lights we were used to. The moon even posed over the Skylon Tower for our appreciative eyes.

Tuesday was a work day for us so I attended meetings and worked support before heading out in the evening. Chris worked on some art. After our lovely buffet and a bit of slot fun we went back to the room to see POKÉMON Detective Pikachu, which I found surprisingly entertaining. Thanks for recommending that one, CJ 😉

As we packed up Wednesday morning, and I headed out for one more round of oatmeal, we ruminated over how amazing the getaway was. We didn’t really do touristy things aside from walking around. We didn’t even use up all our wine and beer offerings. What we did do was talk. A lot. And relax. A lot. Then we talked some more. How can it still feel like dating after almost 28 years of marriage? I’m not sure, but I’m thankful.

Thanks to our Casino points, we had taken a good chunk out of our hotel bill. As we went to pack, Chris decided we had too many coins and asked if I was interested in hitting the slots with my won loonies and toonies, knowing we could lose them all. We decided to splurge and have fun with the CA $18 we had gathered.

On the very last spin of our very last credits, we won CA $200. How fun is that?!?! Together with our other winnings, the three nights in the upgraded hotel room were paid for.

It's very fun watching the winnings build. We finished the vacation with CA $200 :)

From kids to WordCamps to delightful getaways. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

AFK and Blogging

Well, technically I’m not afk if I’m blogging, but I am away from keyboard for work-related customer-support-type stuff. This was going to be an interesting time off, I thought as I headed into my 11-day break. It was one of the first vacations I had in a super long time that had no real agenda. And best of all, I was not feeling like I needed a break.

Now that I’m a few days into the relaxation time, I’m realizing I might not have listened to my body well recently. Twice now, I have slept almost 12 hrs at night, even after taking naps. I didn’t know I was quite capable of such sleep.

tired jet lag GIF

When I’m not sleeping, I’m reading, or yakking with visiting friends or hiking or shopping or watching movies. I’m also honing my CSS skills for fun, taking a Treehouse courses. And I’m indulging in writing time.

Did you know that I have fodder for blog posts that are a year old? How embarrassing. Over the next few days you will probably see me writing about a few past events that were year-highlights for me.

One of the things I love best is how it takes one down memory lane so you can re-live pivotal moments in life. And it’s handy when you want to share these events with people.

In the past two months I found myself using the resource a few times. Once I was trying to explain the beauty of the iceburgs on Lake Ontario, especially as they break up. Then I remembered I had blogged about it, and could easily share the images. Then one day Hudi asked me about my recipe for bread, and Mollie asked for my recipe for yogurt. That one was hidden in my recipe for sour cream, but it’s in there.

And sometimes it’s just for sharing goofy family stories. Hudi mentioned they had a Henry in their apartment, and Chris and I knew what he was talking about, but Mollie didn’t. We caught her up on the basic idea of Henry, but linking her to a record of the account while it was fresh in our brains really gave her more understanding.

I love blogging. And this week while I’m still afk, I am also indulging on reading other people’s blogs from my Reader. I’m off to do that now.

Treasure in the Southern end of Appalachia

While those of us who work for Automattic, Inc. have an open vacation policy (no set number of days per year), we are encouraged to take at least 25 (paid) days off. Love that! And yet I realized that I have only taken about six of those days, and I’ve been here for a year on Sept. 15. Oops. Reflecting on this, Chris and I realized this was the perfect time to visit relatives we have been trying to get to for several years now.

Earlier this year, we visited my parents and sister in Pennsylvania. In early June we visited cousins in Maryland. In July we checked in with my cousin and his wife in Boston. For August, we decided to take two weeks off and have some eclectic adventures. Our first stop was traveling south (after a golf game with my co-worker, Sam, and our friend Amy) to visit my aunt and uncle.IMG_20150829_153045315

I do believe I took the longest road trip I have ever been on last week. Certainly in my almost-24 years of marriage. Chris and I petted our car, told it what a great job its been doing over the last few years and encouraged it to keep that up as we journeyed from one end of Appalachia to another point in the mountain ranges of North Carolina. Whenever we have a trip that entails over 8 hrs of driving, we generally hit the skies. This time, we hit a hotel instead, breaking the 11.5 hr trip in two. It was a good idea, although we figure we might sleep in the back of the mini-van at a state park next time we do that.

It’s unusual for me to get sick, but I was nailed with a nasty cold after camp week, and my body was still dragging, although the cold had broken a week prior to this visit. When my aunt asked what we might want to do (museums, tourist attractions, etc), I commented that all we wanted to do was sit and relax and see their world at the other end of Appalachia (I always pronounced that as apple-long A-cha, but apparently it’s a short “a” such as “throw an apple at-cha.” The things I learn. To our great delight, this is exactly what happened. We arrived at their house around 4:30 pm on Sunday and sat and yakked until 1 am when we forced ourselves to go to bed only to wake up the next day and start the gabbing all over again until the wee hours of the next morning.

This chattering was only interrupted by occasional naps (I was so relaxed, I took TWO naps the first day I was there. Talk about luxury) and by the serving of amazing food. We had pulled pork with coleslaw on it the first night (with a side of fried okra) and we also had livermush and shrimp and grits (yum!!!). Aunt Anne served up a feast each morning. Her idea of a light breakfast is several cereals, some sort of cooked egg, livermush, sausages, bacon and some sort of toast/muffin/coffeecake. My idea of breakfast (coffee only) was tossed to the wind. Amazing. I might need to reconsider this breakfast concept.

Uncle John’s brain is a treasure trove of history just waiting to be tapped. I swear he saved me back in the fifth grade when he tutored me in history. He took me beyond the dates to the actual stories, making the human connection that fed the love I have for history to this day. That hasn’t changed a bit. He still has the knack and has passed on this gift to his son. My cousin John $ regaled us with fascinating tidbits of life in the hills and the history of the Cherokee. I am more familiar with the Seneca nation so it was fascinating to see the similarities and differences in the tribes from different parts of Appalachia.

Chris, $ and I met my uncle’s cousin as well. Peter was visiting from Illinois, coming back to the mountains where he grew up for a dulcimer meeting. He blogs about his music, and to our delight, he gave us a mini concert.

I think I will write a post about this in the future so I won’t go into too many details here, but the musical conversation was very interesting and inspirational. My aunt did a nice writeup on the visit on her blog page.

On our last full day there, $ took Chris and me off to play in the mountains. We hiked for several hours through incredible views. I saw fantastic fungus and fresh-ish bear scat in addition to tempting camping spots. My biggest regret was that we hadn’t packed sleeping bags and planned to stay longer. Now we know for next time.

We completed the perfect day by going to a fabulous Mexican restaurant then headed back to the tranquil house for more yakking before hitting the hay. Wednesday morning came all too soon, and we pushed off leaving as long as we could. Aunt Anne kindly played the piano and sang The Angel Gabriel at my request. If you ever want a glimpse of heaven, you need to hear her beautiful, clear voice singing that.

Topping off the trip, we stopped in PA on the way home and visited with my niece who is in college there. We had such a nice visit, but I forgot to take a picture 🙁 Next time… We also hit the Buffalo WordPress meetup as we journeyed homeward. Now I have one week left of my vacation. The car did great, and we are so proud of it. So much to see and do, and lots of relaxing with loved ones on the agenda. We are blessed.