Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part I

Snow is beautiful. I like it.

Indiana Snow

Sadly, though, snow does not come with sixty degree temperatures, dry roads, and warm winds. At least not in Indiana. The day I returned from my holiday break in Virginia it was eighteen degrees and felt like four degrees with twenty mile per hour winds.

These are not my ideal dog walking conditions.

Twice a day I bundle up in layers, strap on my boots, and walk The Queen. She prefers the field and brush behind the subdivision to the sidewalks. This makes for adventures wading through ankle-deep or more snow and enduring 20 mph winds in an open field. Other than the satisfaction of making the dog happy, the only thing that makes these required walks tolerable is the view. The Queen doesn’t mind regular stops for iPhone photography.

Model Dog

Eyeing some fresh deer tracks.

Walking Shoes

The proper form for mole digging.

The proper form for mole digging.

Wading Through the BrushSunset on the trees

The Queen watching the sunset.

The Queen watching the sunset.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind tall weeds.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind the tall weeds.

The view of the Indiana countryside also pretty. Pretty enough to make long commutes fun and slow. Slow? Yes, because you have to stop and take pictures. Seriously. I am that person pulled over on the shoulder, stopped in the middle of the road, and holding the camera up to the windshield or side window while in motion. I highly recommend it to everyone with a camera or smartphone.

It is pretty.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

An Indiana farmer's lovely old barn.

An Indiana farmer’s lovely old barn.

Fall in Indiana, Part III

Halloween

The front walk to my house is covered with leaves and last week was also covered with little feet. The first Halloween in the new digs was a success. I had candy and kids showed up. Luckily, the bar of success is low. The kids were charming, sweet, and hilarious. I had princesses, ninjas, and unidentifiable costumes toting plastic pumpkins, grocery bags, and pillow cases (I had never seen pillow cases before). All were fun, but there was one little group that appeared that I wanted to immediately adopt.

A brother and sister presented themselves in what were very obviously homemade costumes – a bat and a kangaroo (complete with pouch). They were totally old-school-Halloween. No plastic masks for them. It was fun to see. Next was a little lady dressed as batgirl, she donned a pink tutu with a pink top with the black batman logo on it. She was precious. She was followed by what I would like to believe was me at 5 – she was so excited to tell me what she was dressed as that she was practically jumping up and down. She asked (yelled) “do you know what I am?” I said, “what are you?” And she look up at me through the little white mask that only outlined her eyes and announced I am spider-girl! She was awesome, I hope she never changes.

Frost

These days 5:30 a.m. comes pretty early and very dark. On a recent morning, after squandering the first 25 minutes of my day laying in bed on my iPhone, I traipsed out into the backyard with The Queen for her morning walk. I was surprised to find the first hard frost. It was pretty – shiny and glistening. That, of course, is easy for me to say because I have a garage. I’m guessing the folks who were warming up their cars and scraping windshields would not agree.

Fall in Indiana, Part I

It is fall in Indiana. The summer breeze has turned into a cold wind, the hot days are gone, and the fireplace is burning. But it is still pretty.

The Anchor Leg: Niagara Falls

Here we are at the end of the line. I left Niagara-on-the-Lake with a two spot itinerary, first Niagara Falls then home. The only way to get from Niagara-on-the-Lake is the parkway, stay off the QEW. The parkway is too pretty to miss.

The Falls are everything they are described to be. Loud. The roar from the water is amazing. Lovely (and loud) white noise. Wet. What people like to call a “mist” is just straight up rain. Seriously. Even if you are just doing what I did and staying at the Table Rock over look you need to take a poncho, umbrella, or rain jacket. When the wind hits the “mist” consider yourself drenched and cold. Beautiful. It is undeniably beautiful. Additional proof, in my opinion, that God is the most talented artist.

I enjoyed my visit, although I kind of pulled a Clark-Griswold-at-the-Grand-Canyon . . . I parked, got out, walked up to it, thought here it is, took some pictures, and left.

Things to know about a visit to the Falls before you visit:

  1. It is a total tourist trap. How can you tell? There is a casino, a Hershey Store, and a Hard Rock Cafe (on both the Canada and U.S.A. sides).
  2. Bring a towel or something to keep your phone or camera lens wiped down. Remember, it is wet there.
  3. Parking at the designated Falls parking lot in Canada will cost you $20.00 and best I can tell there is no where else to park. Monopoly.
  4. The Rainbow Bridge crossing the gorge will be slow-moving but the pictures will be worth it.
  5. People there and throughout Ontario love to say escarpment, as in the Niagara escarpment. Be prepared.

Now for the pictures. Enjoy and don’t forget to pack your raincoat.

I left the Falls and had an uneventful return to FW. It was a great adventure. I look forward to heading out again soon.

P.S. If you missed my blather on my other stops on this trip you check them out . . . Oh Canada!Toronto 1, Toronto 2, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Gluten-free Travel, and Traveling Solo. Thanks for tolerating my shameless self-promotion.

The Niagara Peninsula in Pictures

The second stop on my Canadian adventure was Niagara-on-the-Lake, about an hour and a half drive from Toronto along the Queen Elizabeth Way (the “QEW”). It is a lovely drive and worth a stop of its own. If only I had known. So, head west from the big city and be sure to veer off of the QEW and enjoy the view.

The country side of the peninsula is littered with scenic vineyards and gorgeous views. They don’t call it the Niagara Peninsula Wine Country for no reason. This is the De Sousa Wine Cellars Vineyard in Beamsville, Ontario.

At the Tawse Winery, 2010/2011 winery of the year, you can get a glimpse of the Toronto skyline on a clear day across the lake. It is breath-taking.

While at the Tawse Winery I met a kind gentleman named Dieter. Dieter met me at the door and gave me an interesting and enlightening tour of the winery. The picture on the left shows the gravity fed wine processing system, which is “based on the natural slope and contours of our property. The use of gravity as opposed to pumps allows the wine to move gently from pressing to bottling with minimum manipulation.” Fascinating stuff.

Dieter is also an interesting fellow. I told him that I was living in FW and he assured me that he knows all about FW. How, you say? He worked for GM, retired early, and took up the wine business with Tawse. My new friend Dieter is living the dream. I only spent little bit of time with him and it was clear that he is a happy guy. There is a lot to be said for doing what you love!

Tawse is a gorgeous place, whether you drink the wine or not.

This is the Tawse celler. One interesting fact I learned is that the red markings on the barrels that appears to be from the wine bleed-through is not. No, some poor wine intern has to go around and use the grape scraps to paint the center ring of all the barrels so that they will look neat rather than show the stains from samplings. Poor kid. Also, for the Celiacs out there that are wine drinkers – the wineries I visited make their wine in brand new barrels, not used ones. So, you do not have to worry about cross-contamination from used barrels. How is that for cheers to you!

Another lesson I learned on this trip was that grapes are fun. Fun to photograph, that is. I thought it would be boring, even though I love a farmer’s market. I am glad I tested my assumption and found I was wrong. The way the light moves through and around the grapes and leaves is really interesting and challenging to catch. And, they are pretty, especially the dark grapes – the purple on the green is lovely.

The drive from Toronto the Niagara-on-the-Lake should have taken an hour and a half. Lucky for me it took 3 hours. Three hours of peaceful driving, gorgeous views, and visiting. This area is really a must-see in Ontario. Also, it is impossible to get lost in (there are maps everywhere and great signage) and the people are super friendly and generous with recommendations for where to go next or where to have lunch. All you need is time, a car, and a camera.

The Indiana Coast

I am super lucky to have parents that love to come and visit me and The Queen. I love seeing my family and spending time with them. As my Sister once said, “we are not just family, we like each other. We are friends.” Truth.

However, my parents, Sister, and I all live very differently. My Daddy spends his free time watching TV, checking the stock market, building things, playing with the dog, and practicing his household chore skills (retirement is teaching him a lot). My mom reads, cooks, and cruises the interwebs. I, on the other hand, don’t have cable television (my Daddy doesn’t understand this concept), I don’t keep a lot of food in the house, and I spend my free time at home reading, writing, and watching random programs on Netflix (a lot of Law & Order). The rest of my time is spent at work or traipsing around the country side.

So, in an effort to avoid hanging out around the house staring at each other, and napping, we loaded up in the tricked-out minivan and headed toward the Indiana coast. Seeing the Indiana coast of Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes State Park has been on my short list of adventures for a while now.

We started the day with a drive through Northeast Indiana, including Ligonier, Napanee, and Chesterton. We arrived in Chesterton, Indiana and checked out the weekly European Market. It was lively and full of food, crafts, and friendly dog-loving folks. Next, we headed to the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was beautiful and scorching hot. We walked the dunes and The Queen got her first visit to the beach. She’s not a fan – apparently she only likes still, quiet water.

The Indiana coast is not the Atlantic or Pacific but the inland sea that is Lake Michigan is beautiful and lined with huge sparkly white dunes. The waters of Lake Michigan are clear, warm, and at least three shades of blue. We were all surprised by the quality of the water and beach. We are used to lakes that are full of opaque water that covers former valleys and farms (hello TVA) with the occasional tree, log, or car tire floating along the surface. Lake Michigan is not like a lake at all. It is very pretty.

My Indiana Home

Alright, enough about the mysteries, hardships, and annoyances of first-time home ownership. This morning is a great example of why I love my Indiana home.

This is the view from my kitchen table where I happily sit having tea, eating eggs, and reading the New York Times and Washington Post. All I can see are the lovely trees in the backyard, no highway, no neighbors, and no strip mall. All I can hear are the bugs and birds outside and The Queen as she lounges in the kitchen floor. Ah, quiet is pretty. And all this loveliness is mine.

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday morning.

 

A Walk by the St. Joseph River

On a slow Saturday afternoon The Queen and I decided to enjoy the great spring weather with a drive. The Queen loves to ride, so we hopped in the Volvo, rolled down the windows, and cruised to Grabill to visit the Grabill Country Store.

En route home I stopped at the Riverside Gardens park on Schwartz Road, just off of Route 1, for an impromptu dog walk. Riverside Gardens has both paved and dirt paths, gazebos, and a walkway under the bridge crossing the St. Joseph to access the wide sidewalk trail back to Grabill. The stop was a good one. Pretty and enjoyable. If you have some time and daylight to burn Riverside is a great place to do it.