Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hooray for family gatherings

     My cousin from California is in St. Louis for the week.  Yesterday, in honor of his visit, we had a family get together at my aunt Janet's house.  My aunt bought this sprinkler thingy for all the grandkids (her grandkids, my cousins' kids, my second cousins?).  Anyway, I agreed to snap some shots of the kids playing in the sprinkler.

Boys will be boys.

Uh-oh. They've spotted me!

 Abby and Tessa are such great friends.
I remember when my cousin, Connie, and I used to be that close.

 Tessa is being a good big sister and helping Melody approach the sprinkler.

So cute.

Here's Melody's twin brother, Patterson.  
He likes wearing things on his head.

Melody with her dad. I like this pic better in black and white.

Here are the boys from California.  My aunt Helen's friend made this quilt for Kieren.

Here's Kieren playing shy.

I think Patterson wants a chip...

Hmmm...that looks like a good chip.

Oh, you're taking my picture?


     Apparently this is a game they play with their grandad (my uncle).  They say bump and he lifts them to gently 'bump' their heads on the ceiling.  

Well, that's it.  That's all I've got.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Video of Niagara Falls

     At the end of July, my family and I took a vacation to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side).  This is a video of some of the footage I shot on our journey.  Don't judge my shoddy videography too harshly, I was using a Kodak minicam without a tripod...I don't think there's even a spot to connect to a tripod on it.  Oh and the Maid of the Mist is a bumpy ride.  There is a lot of water in this video, so if you have to use the bathroom, I suggest you do so before hitting the play button.

Click here to view it on YouTube:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Niagara Falls Collage

     Here is the collage I made of my trip to Niagara Falls.  Imagine it as a 24x36 inch poster (because that's what it's going to be when I get it printed).  The format on this blog won't let me post it bigger without spilling over onto the archive part of the blog, so if you want to see this collage bigger, just click on it. Or once I print it, you can just come by and see it in person.

     Next up will be the video of the Maid of the Mist and Journey behind the Falls.  Give me a week or two to do that though.  My eyes are bloodshot from staring at the computer screen too long (all day at work and then all night toning these pics).  So I think I'm going to take the weekend off.  No computer work for me!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How about those falls in Canada, eh?

     This July, my family did something we haven't done in 7 years.  We went on vacation together.  It all started when my mom got a brochure for a conference in Niagara Falls.  To borrow one of my grandpa's favorite phrases, I'm no dummy, and I immediately invited myself along (even though she hadn't).  I then invited my sister and brother.  When my mom saw how excited we all were about the trip, she realized she would have to sign up for the conference. 

We left early Thursday morning (July 28)to catch a plane to Chicago, where we met Joe (for those of you who don't know, he lives in Albuquerque). The flight to Buffalo, New York was relatively short. My brother, sister and I sat together on the plane and only got half way through the movie Tangled. We rented a car in Buffalo and drove across the border.  

Here is a picture of Joe in the car.  I think he has crazy eyes in the photo, but he was ok with that.

     We paid a little extra for a room with a view.  Totally worth it! We had a lovely patio with a table and chairs and a decent view of the falls. 

     We got there around 3:30, dropped our stuff off in our rooms and since none of us had eaten lunch, we decided to get a bite to eat.  There was a TGI Fridays down the street. I know, I know, you don't go to Canada to eat at an American restaurant, but we were starving and it was there. And we were just going to get appetizers.  So we got 3 appetizers and my mom, dad and sister got ice teas.  I believe the bill was around $70.  Yea, that was a rude awakening to the crazy expensiveness of Canada.

     After our meal, we followed the signs for a scenic walk to the falls.  It was a scenic, long, long walk.  But you put a camera in my hands and I'm happy.

Family photo (minus me).  Yea, Joe wouldn't stop talking whenever I took his photo so I have a lot of weird photos of him.

     Did you know Canada has black squirrels? I didn't.  A man was throwing bread to entice this squirrel to get closer for a picture and kept asking me if I got a good shot yet.  The way he was talking to the squirrel, it seemed like this man visited the squirrel everyday.  I kind of felt obligated to take a good picture.

     Here's the Skylon Tower.  Would you believe there is a really nice restaurant up there?  I think the tower looks kinda dingy during the day.  It looks a lot better at night.  Don't believe me? You'll see.

     I love taking pictures of signs.  Especially Canadian signs.  The images are fantastic.  

     By this point we had ditched the parentals and went down to the falls on our own.  Here is a photo of Joe and Kate by the horseshoe falls (Canadian).  Btw, when you get near the falls, it always feels like it's raining.  It's the mist.  

This is a photo of the American Falls.

Back to the Canadian Falls.  They're just better.  Horseshoe shape, more water, prettier...

     Oh look, a way to get up the hill that doesn't involve retracing our steps!  In case you're wondering, the walk from the hotel to the falls was about a half an hour... when you're walking a "Christy pace" which is faster than the average person's pace.

       On our first full day in Niagara Falls, I got up early to eat breakfast with my parents while my siblings chose to sleep in.  This became our ritual.  Anyway, after breakfast my mom went to her conference and we chose to do activities she didn't want to do.  (Her conference ended at noon everyday, so we saved the activities she wanted to do for the afternoon.)

     The first stop on our trip was Sir Adam Beck Generating Station.  I think Kate was the only one who wanted to go there and I'm not sure why she wanted to go.  The tour was pretty lame and we didn't get to see much of anything.  But we did learn that the falls are only flowing at 50% during the day and 25% at night (11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Apparently Canada and America signed a treaty stating that the falls has to be at 50% for tourists.  The water they detour with the dam is used for electricity.  At night, while the tourists are sleeping, they are allowed to direct 75% of the water to fill their reservoir. Yea, that's pretty much the only thing I learned from the tour, and you might want to do your own research to make sure I got my facts straight...

Time for an anecdote?  I think so. We left our hotel at 8:30 a.m., heading for the generating station.  We deemed my sister as the navigator.  I feel like I should inform you all that my siblings and I are hopeless when it comes to directions.  They may try to deny this, but it's true and I for one will openly admit that I am directionally challenged.  So we get to the car and realize we don't have an address for the place.  My sister found one on her iphone (seriously, what did we do before iphones?) and typed it into the GPS.  Off we went.  We enjoyed the scenic view of the water on one side and houses on the other.  Forty-five minutes later, my dad realized we weren't anywhere near where we needed to be.  We turned around and eventually figured out how to get there.  On the way, we saw the floral clock.  Before leaving the U.S., I told them I wanted to see the floral clock(the Missouri Botanical Gardens had a floral clock in 2009 and I thought it was pretty neat). They made fun of me and said we weren't going to see some dumb clock made out of flowers.  Well, we did go to the floral clock and I have to admit that the design this year wasn't that great, but around back they had pictures of past designs that were pretty cool.  The clock took about 5 minutes.  Then we went on to the generating station.  We got there at 5 minutes to 10, to realize that it opened at 10.  So we left the hotel at 8:30 to drive an hour out of our way and made it to the place just in time for it to open.  Great planning!

Here are some photos at the clock.  Don't they look thrilled to be there?

     That afternoon, we went to the Niagara Fury and Behind the Falls.  The Niagara Fury is a 4 dimensional movie about how the falls were made.  It was better than I thought it'd be.  Let's just say that I was glad I was wearing a poncho.

     Here is a photo of my family.  I didn't bring my good camera with me for the afternoon excursions because I didn't want to risk getting it wet.  This photo was taken with my little Kodak mini camcorder.  It takes decent video and crappy photos.

     Behind the Falls, you basically walk down 2 tunnels and can see the falls from behind at certain spots.  When the tunnels open to the falls, all you can see is white and all you can hear is the roar of the water. There is also a balcony where you can see the falls close up from the side.  I used my Canon Elph (point and shoot) for the following photos.

I think if I lived near the falls, rainbows would lose their excitement for me.  We saw rainbows multiple times every day. 

If you look closely, you can kind of see the rainbow arching over the boat.

     Ok, back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and then on to Skylon Tower for dinner!  Skylon Tower has a revolving restaurant at the top.  The food was amazing and the views were even better.  It takes about an hour to revolve all the way around.  Here is a photo of me with my siblings.  

Amazing the view.  I didn't want to put down my camera to eat.

But then my lamb came.  This was the first time I've had lamb.  It was pretty darn good.  

     My mom ordered a drink that came in a glass that was the shape of a tower.  Here is my dad pretending to be sad that he didn't get a drink.  I think he just looks goofy.

     After dinner, we took the elevator up to the viewing deck.  I took a ton of pictures of the scenery, but don't want to lose your attention, so I'll just share a few of the photos with you.

I do have photos without the fence showing, but I like the ones with the fence for some reason.

Well, it's a Friday night.  I think it's time to head down to the falls to watch the fireworks.

Those lights across the street are used to illuminate the falls every night.

I told you Skylon tower looks cooler at night.


     Saturday morning, my dad, siblings and I went to the White Water Walk.  We had no clue how long it would take.  Remember that tram thing I showed you earlier?  Well that didn't open till 9 a.m.  Apparently nothing opens before 9 a.m. there and our tour started at 9:30 a.m.  So we walked down to the falls and started towards our destination.  A little after 9 we were able to get on the People Mover (a bus) that we had passes for.  It turns out the White Water Walk was only 1/3 of a mile.  We walked more miles to get there than that.  But we got pretty close to class six rapids.  I like white water rafting, but I wouldn't try crossing that river!  There were posters filled with people throughout history who have died attempting to swim across the river.

Awesome spider.

     The White Water Walk didn't take nearly as long as we thought it would, so we hopped on the People Mover and headed for the Botanical Gardens.  I love the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and I don't think these gardens compared to ours in Missouri.  A lot of the flowers just looked sad.  Apparently they're having an unusually hot summer.  

I think the birds could take the snake.  
What do you think?

Afternoon adventures: Whirlpool Aero Car and Maid of the Mist.

    Now for the Whirlpool Aero Car and Maid of the Mist, I left my good camera at the hotel.  (When I say good camera, I mean my SLR camera - Canon 50D) Here is the Whirlpool Aero Car.  Yes, we rode that across the river and back.

Nice view.

I would not want to fall in that.

     Here is the view from the Maid of the Mist (back to using the Kodak mini). I took more video than photos.  I plan to put together a video and will post that later.  I just wanted to show you the rainbows.

     After breakfast on Sunday, my dad and I went up to the 20th floor of the hotel to see if that view was better than ours.  You could see more of the street near the falls.  I don't think these photos show it as well.  You'll just have to take my word for it because I don't like the photos that show it as much.  I like the sky in this first photo:

     When my dad asked the concierge what time the zoo opened and she said, "We have a zoo?," we knew this would be an adventure.  In fact, we almost went to Marine Land, but then realized that was a very expensive amusement park, so the zoo it was.

I guess we're going this way.

Zoo/Sculpture park, apparently...

     This owl would turn his head around whenever I pointed the camera at him.  Ha! I got you, owl!

    This parrot said "hello" to us.  Then Kate started talking to him in a mock parrot voice.  I think he took offense to that because he stopped talking.

hot and tired...

In case you didn't know this, a giraffe's tongue is black.

Here's my dad being eaten by a hippo. 

     That afternoon we went to the historic town, Niagara on the Lake.  It was hot and I was the only person who really wanted to go there, so of course we didn't stay very long.  We did get gelato though, so that was good.  We also drove down to the waterfront and my dad let me hop out of the car to snap a few shots.

     Monday was our last morning in Niagara Falls.  The bums decided to spend the last few hours sleeping, but my dad and I decided to go down to the falls one last time and check it out at only 25%.  This means we had to get down there before 8 a.m.  This also meant that unless we wanted to stay down there until 9, we had to walk down there and walk back.  So we started out at a brisk pace at 7:20 a.m.  I snapped some shots of the falls and then we ate the cereal that I thoughtfully brought.  People make fun of my "mom bag" but it comes in handy.

I think this is the only time I saw this sign without kids crawling all over it.

     There's our hotel!  The Marriott on the left, not the Marriott on the right.  It's crazy that there were two Marriotts on the same street.

I snapped this picture as we drove passed it on our way out of town.

Goodbye, Canada.

Hello, America.

    And thus ends the trip.  Oh,in case you were wondering, we finished watching Tangled on the plane ride back to Chicago.  In Chicago, we said goodbye to Joe and boarded the plane for St. Louis.  Jerry was so happy to see us.

Here is a photo I took of him with my phone.

Well, that's it.  Check back next week to see the collage and possibly the video I plan to make of the trip.