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Sunday, August 13, 2017

More to Do Around Erie

Last summer I wrote several posts on things to do in Erie, PA.  We visited some additional sites this summer that are worth mentioning.

The Erie Art Museum in downtown Erie is the place to be on Wednesdays in the summer.  Admission is free on that day, and at noon there are concerts just outside the main entrance.

 The Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park is definitely a hidden gem.  The paths meander through both wooded and cleared areas, beside a creek, and past gardens.

Even though we live in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain, we got closer to a doe and her spotted fawn at the arboretum than we do at home.  An added treat is Romolo Chocolates which is just across the street from Frontier Park.  This family owned artisan chocolate store is well-known for its sponge candy, something words can't describe.  

I know I mentioned the amazing sunsets over Lake Erie before, but they are worth mentioning again because they are truly spectacular.

You see what I mean?

My children always like hunting for beach glass at the Walnut Creek Marina, but this summer our youngest son also collected flat rocks to create a walkway and a border for his hand-dug "hot tub."  These didn't come home with us.

Fishing at one of the piers at Presque Isle is always fun for our teen son.

There are a number of universities in and around Erie, and we try to walk around the campus of a college or two each summer.  Mercyhurst is of interest to our high school sophomore, and it is a beautiful campus.

Just a twenty minute drive from Erie is Edinboro University, which has the attention of our high school junior.

Finally, if you do venture to Erie any time soon, be on the lookout for these cute painted rocks.  They're hiding all over the place, and apparently, you're to take your picture with them and post to Facebook, then hide them somewhere else in the city.  Our children found five during the week we were there.  Our youngest daughter thought this was especially exciting, and she gave a lot of consideration to where she would place them.  

For more information on Erie, PA, go to

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Scenes from Lake Erie

Photos of Lake Erie at the Walnut Creek Marina two weeks ago.  It was windy, 66 degrees, and COLD!

But flocks of seagulls were everywhere bracing themselves against the strong winds.

That is, until our loud family showed up and the kids started running into the midst of them.

They temporarily took flight, but returned moments later.

Our main purpose for braving the misty winds was to look for beach glass, but there was barely any beach left as the waves came crashing in.

We had to settle for watching the seagulls and the lake instead.

In my opinion, the waves and cloudy skies provided enough interest and photo ops anyway.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Farm-to-Table Community Dinner

As a belated anniversary gift to each other, my husband and I purchased tickets to a fun farm-to-table dinner in Bedford, PA.  One of the main streets in town was closed so this event could occur, and it couldn't have happened on a more perfect evening.

This was a bring your own bottle of wine affair, but there was plenty of mango iced tea provided by a local shop owner and tables of delicious local goat cheeses, chutneys, herb butter, crackers, and homemade bread.  We helped ourselves to these as we waited for dinner to officially begin, and a kind lady seated across from us generously let us borrow her corkscrew since I didn't think to bring ours.

The four-course meal was catered by Horn O' Plenty Farm to Table Restaurant, and local celebrities and non-celebrities alike volunteered to serve around a hundred people seated down the center of South Juliana Street.

Organic ingredients from local farms are used by Chef Mandy at this restaurant, and all of the food was amazing!  These wooden chargers were handsawn from cherry trees locally.

The tables were rustic, yet elegant, with white linens, the wooden service plates, burlap table runners, and Mason jars filled with fresh flowers that a number of local guests got to take home at the end of the night.

A couple of talented local musicians performed throughout dinner and created the perfect background sounds.  No traffic from surrounding streets could be heard, yet the music wasn't so loud that we all couldn't comfortably chat with one another throughout the evening.

It was a full "house" and every seat was taken.   Not only did this event promote local businesses, but the proceeds benefited Downtown Bedford Inc., which is revitalizing this charming small town.

Not only was it a large crowd, but each course of dinner was large too, and I was stuffed by the end of the night.  And I definitely threw the low-carb diet out for the evening as well.  Everything was just too fresh and too good to pass up or feel guilty about consuming.  It was a lovely evening with interesting people and so inspiring for me to see people come together to support a community, good food, and each other.   It gives me hope for other struggling small towns that have been abandoned and overlooked.  Bedford has made an incredible comeback in a way I never would have dreamed twenty or thirty years ago.  For me, this dinner was a symbol of what is possible if people are willing to think outside the box, try something new and different, and commit to a vision for the future.

Needless to say, we look forward to attending this inaugural event next year, and I hope to see more of its kind nearer to where we live. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Day at the Falls: Taking a Family Day Trip to Niagara

 Our family just returned from our summer vacation farther north.  We spent one day at Niagara Falls, NY, after many months of planning what we'd most like to do on this side of the border.

 I had been to the falls twice decades ago, but always on the Canadian side in Ontario.  There isn't quite as much to do on the American side, and my kiddos gazed longingly across the Niagara River at the large hotels, ferris wheel, and tower that they could clearly see from the US.

But we spent plenty of time hiking the many trails along the Niagara River to take in every possible view of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.  We were on our feet most of the day.  

We started out walking from the Niagara Falls Visitor's Center and approached the falls from up high near the rapids.  Then we crossed the bridge to Goat Island and hiked down closer to the tip of the American Falls.

If you stood close to the railing, you almost felt as if you were going over the edge.

And you got wet.

Some of us stood back and simply took pictures.

Even though I have heard great things about the Maid of the Mist ferry ride that takes you up close the base of the falls, I wouldn't agree to doing that because even with the poncho they gave you, those people looked drenched.

So we simply kept on hiking until we got to the Horseshoe Falls, which were definitely more impressive to our boys, but because of the mist, they were harder to photograph and see well.

After walking through the crowds of people from all over the world for an hour and a half, our kids were drooping, so we popped into the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.

Our children had never been to this franchise before and raved about the size of the hamburgers for days.  It was mostly 80s music playing with music videos on the screens from my teen years, which was kind of nostalgic for me, I guess.  But I have to say that seeing Billy Idol and a bunch of big-haired, leather-wearing young women dancing rather provocatively doesn't seem cool anymore now that I'm seeing it through the eyes of my children. 

After sustenance and resting our legs, we made the 1.5 mile walk to the Aquarium of Niagara.  We like to support small museums with a family membership each summer wherever we travel, so we did the same here.

Even though my younger children enjoyed watching the sea lions show off and swim around, I have to say I was rather disappointed.  After having been to the aquariums in the Baltimore Harbor, Charleston, and the penguin house at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, this one paled in comparison.

We spent about an hour and a half there, but only because our daughter kept wanting to look in the gift shop.  It was small, rather rundown, and very crowded.  Plus the layout of it was kind of weird.  I definitely wouldn't go again.

After hiking back down to the parking lot and getting more pictures of the falls from yet another angle, we were ready to call it a day.  We were being approached by a number of strangers asking for money---something my children have never experienced before---and it was getting hot and very crowded.  We spent about five hours there, which felt long enough, and I was glad we hadn't made this a week-long destination like I had considered doing.  It was awesome seeing these famous waterfalls as a family, but we were pressed to find enough interesting things to fill our day that weren't...tacky.  I think if we went again, we would probably visit some places in nearby Buffalo, but my kids just really wanted to veg out and not walk anymore.  So we drove the two hours back to their grandparents' house, stopping at a college (more about that another day) and a restaurant for a light dinner, and everyone slept late the next morning because we were beat. 

And being the list-maker that I am, I can now check that off the bucket list of places I'd like my kids to see.