The Hornblower: It Was Worth the Drive to the Airport

On July 14th my husband and I departed for the airport to fly to Buffalo. From there, we were going to rent a car and head to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. My husband did not comment when I arrived 15 minutes late from a PAReads meeting in West Chester. He had already packed the car with our suitcases, so we headed to Norristown to pick up my sister and brother-in-law. Of course, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway and the Blue Route. My husband drove, gripping the steering wheel until white-knuckled while muttering, “We are never going to make it.”  My husband – the eternal pessimist (although he says he is only being a realist).

Niagara Falls 2c Hornblower Falls Tour (74)

I tried to tell him that we would make our plane, that F Terminal is not that busy, that we were all TSA precheck, that we were not checking any bags, that the plane could be delayed, that all that mattered was that we were there before 6:30 to board.  Then I shut up. No response from Ralph as the minutes seemed to tick by in a deafening tone. And then, we were moving. We found a spot at the parking lot, hopped the shuttle, and made it to Terminal F. Yes!  It was not crowded. The plane arrived, and we made it to Buffalo. After a short flight, we arrived and piled into our car rental. About an hour later, we were crossing the border.

Niagara Falls 3e View from Observation Tower (American Side) (5)

We woke up early the next day, ready for fun and adventure. After walking the beautiful path from the Welcome Center to the ticket line for the Hornblower (the Canadian version of Maid of the Mist), we were pretty hot (and I would learn later, that I was getting a good sunburn!). Even though it was about 75 degrees at 9:30 a.m., the sun reflected off the sparkling water.We had stood to take photos of the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Falls. Now we were walking down a long ramp with many turns and out onto the dock to board the boat. We all donned out melon-red ponchos. Ralph and my brother-in-law Willie were not sure if they would use their phones or cameras to take pictures. It was obvious we were going to get wet. The air was filled with chatter in many languages – French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and English. Then  the Hornblower arrived and after it emptied, we piled on.

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Our plan was to head to the upper level, starboard side and as close to the front of the boat as we could get. We succeeded!  As we approached Horseshoe Falls, the air became filled with mist and the sound of the water conveyed its incredible force. I was in awe!  We had such a good view, but occasionally, I found myself closing my eyes due to the driving waves of water. It was an incredible experience. The beauty of the falls and all its splendor is something to add to your bucket list if you’ve never been – and I would suggest a stay on the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls 2c Hornblower Falls Tour (64)


We returned and did all the other attractions – The Cave of the Wind, the whitewater walk, the aerocable car across the Niagara River. Eventually, we made our way to Niagara on the Lake, a charming town where we will stay next summer. We hope to rent for at least a week and enjoy the vineyards, ice wine slushies, fresh fruit from the farm stands, Lake Ontario, and a possible return to Niagara Falls where we will ride the zipline(?????????)!



Goat Island: There are good people in the world!



On Saturday, my sister, brother-in-law, husband, and I crossed from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls back to the U.S. to visit Goat Island.  It was difficult getting to the park because of traffic and one-way streets. We breathed a sigh of relief when we finally found a parking spot and walked to the Horseshoe Falls on the American side.

It was breath-taking! We were right at the point where the river spilled over the cliff. The air was filled with mist on this bright, sunny day. It was wonderful to enjoy temperatures in the low eighties instead of the heat we left behind us in Dresher, Pennsylvania. My husband Ralph took many pictures as well as my brother-in-law. They are both crazy about taking photos. Willie has even won photography contests, especially for his black and white photos of citiscapes and everyday objects.

Willie and Ralph walked over to the ticket area as we planned to visit the Hurricane Deck below the American falls. To everyone’s dismay, it was a very long line, so Willie gave his camera to my sister and left us with his prized possession. “We’ll put it here between us so it will be safe,” my sister said as she sat the camera with its neck strap on the flat rock where we were sitting and enjoying the view. We started to grow impatient, even with the falls thundering and splashing glorious sprays into the air.

After what seemed like  a very long while, Diane got up and motioned for me to follow her to a shady spot much closer to where our husbands still stood in line.  I was already lobster red and without any sunblock lotion. We were lucky to find seats on large rocks beneath a tall shade tree. Finally, with tickets in hand, Willie and Ralph started to walk over to us.

As we stood up, Willie asked from across the roadway, “And where is the camera?”  We both froze. My sister’s mouth opened, but no words came out. We both turned without a word and ran back to the rocks near the Welcome Center where we had been seated. On the way Diane asked, “Didn’t Willie take his camera?”  I shook my head. We were in big trouble, but I remained hopeful that we’d find it. I was wrong.  No camera.



Almost in tears, my sister said, “That’s it. I’m finished. We are going back to the hotel.” But I urged her to think positively – that someone probably found it and returned it to the Welcome Center.  My brother-in-law and husband had had the same idea. They emerged from the  building, and Willie was smiling from ear to ear, holding his prized possession.



Diane then lost her ticket to the Hurricane Deck as we hurried to the line. We had to go back and search for it. “We’re jinxed!” she exclaimed.”We should just go back before something really awful happens!” But Willie spied the pass in the grass, and we proceeded to the Hurricane Deck to feel the fury of the falls and get soaked in the process. “When Ralph gives me his camera to hold, he always places the strap around my neck first,” I said. Willie replied, “And after today, he will never hand you the camera without putting the strap around your neck – in fact, he may reconsider ever giving you his camera to hold. You and your sister are peas in a pod!”

I may be exaggerating, but I think I saw my husband grasp his camera a little tighter.  Thank goodness we made it through our trip and back home again without losing anything else!  It was good to know that there still are honest, good people in the world. Although we will never know who did this good deed, we all whispered a prayer of thanks and gratitude into the winds of Niagara Falls.

Choosing a Laptop

Once again I found myself in a precarious position. My laptop, three years old, has decided it does not want to write this fifth book with me. Finding ways to frustrate me each day, it has now decided to render the touchpad inoperable; thus, I am forced to return to a mouse to make anything happen.

Today it was burning hot, the processor running at 25% – way too much, according to my techy husband. I left it behind this morning, and armed with a flash drive, I delivered a presentation at the Summer Writing Institute…except that my embedded video clips (tested at home) would not run either (You’ve got to be kidding, Computer!).

This afternoon a mad dash to Best Buy with Consumer Report stats in hand. In the end, we bought a model not reviewed. My husband claims I need a lot of hard drive memory – one terabyte (What exactly is that?????). I think I better start using the Cloud! After we chose an HP model with 1T of memory, the gentleman helping us informed me that he did not have one in stock. So after a long weekend vacation in Niagra Falls, I will pick it up Monday and have to learn the ins and outs of Windows10. Oh boy, more fun…..


A Boston-Philadelphia Friendship

Slice of Life2When I became a Stenhouse author, I was thrilled to meet the Stenhouse family. My editor, Bill Varner, has become a valued friend as much as he has become a valued editor. It is always wonderful to be able to spend some time chatting in person. Usually, Bill is wearing many hats at a conference –  checking in with all the authors, attending many sessions of Stenhouse authors, attending sessions of potential authors. It’s a busy time. Chandra Lowe is a joy to behold! Her smiling face and laughter, quick wit, and generous spirit will put the grouchiest soul in a good mood!  Dan, Chuck, Nate, Lise, Maureen, Tobi (She was dearly missed on Saturday!)  – spending time at the Stenhouse booth in the exhibit hall is comforting – the display makes you feel you are in a beautiful library!  It was at one of these gatherings that I first met Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan.

Friday night was a special treat for my husband and me. We took a Uber to the North End with Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan. I was particularly looking forward to this part of the Conference trip. Clare and Tammy are special people, and I feel so fortunate to have forged a friendship with them. They make me laugh, get me to try new things, and make me feel that I can just be me, and that’s enough.  I love them dearly!

When we arrived in Boston’s North End, Chris and George joined us. I quickly discovered that their husbands were equally fun and easy-going. Ralph and I learned how to play bocce. The object of the game is to roll your bocce ball closer to the jack ball than the opposing team. Each team has four balls, and after observing Chris and George, I realized you can do more than roll the ball. Bouncing, throwing, and banking your ball are all allowed!  Although Ralph and I were new to the game, we vowed to find a bocce court in Philadelphia so we could continue to practice and improve our game!

We walked to Hanover Street and dined at Lucia Ristorante with appetizers of fried mozzarella bread and calamari. We exchanged stories, ate, drank, and laughed. But no time for dessert here. Instead,we made our way to Mike’s Pastry – unbelievable. The crowd on the sidewalk eventually made its way into the pastry shop. “Think about what you want to order now,” Clare advised.  This Italian bake shop has ever cannoli you can imagine – straawberry, caramel pecan, chocolate-covered chocolate chip, limoncello,  pistachio, and even expresso – as well as biscotti, cookies, cakes, gelati, marzipan, and tiramisu. Of course, we chose cannoli! The pastry was thin and crisp and the ricotta was creamy and delicious!

We’ve made plans to set a date in spring to return for a ballgame at Fenway, another Boston excursion, and of course – a bocce rematch!  It is funny how you meet people who stay in your life, regardless of distance and circumstance, who you carry in your head and heart wherever you go.  I am so very  lucky to have Clare and Tammy as friends who are always with me, even though we live three hundred miles apart. I admire their friendship, the work they do as educators, and their generosity of spirit – particularly the way they welcome everyone to their “party” – the more the merrier.  I think that’s probably how they work their magic with the students and the teachers they plan with and coach – that sense of belonging,  of thinking and laughing and working together. Clare and Tammy create a family, in some respect, everywhere they go. And that is something to celebrate!