What? No more school supplies?

My daughter’s preparing to enter her final semester at college.  Although we are anticipating her graduation with excitement, it is also a bittersweet time of life.
Gone are the “first day of school photos”, long gone are the “meet the teacher” events, and gone are the back to school shopping days.
This morning we went out together to shop for school supplies.   As we walked along aisles filled with school supplies, I was taken back to seeing her as a little girl eagerly looking at all the “cool” stuff for school.  I remember her eyes lighting up when looking through the shiny covers on spiral notebooks, or the big box of crayons with the sharpener on the back of the box!

Instead, today she is very specific in her selections—a 3 count package of black pens, a planner, and 4 plain spiral notebooks (one per class).  Sorry, but what fun is that?  She walked right past all the cute, colorful erasers, the boxes of markers, and the boxes of 24 count crayons!  Not even the zippered pencil cases got too much attention!

This is it! School supply shopping takes on a whole new look when it’s your last semester of school!
In order to help me deal with all of this, I found and purchased a super colorful notebook and pencils with “Xtra Sparkle”!
I made sure my pencils were extra sparkly!
I have no idea what I will do when she begins a “big girl job” and doesn’t even talk about school supplies any longer!  Lord, help me!
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Making A Memory Real

We live in a world where we feel the need to document or record every moment of our life.  When we go on vacation, the need to record everything we do and see is increased even more.
As we were walking along the Niagara Falls, White Water Boardwalk I was continually taking pictures of the waves, the colors, the leaves, yes, even the boardwalk itself!  It was as if I had to document every sight so that I could go home and put it all in a scrapbook or photo album to view in the future.
Of course, I did stop a few times to just let it soak into my memory, but I will admit that those stops were few and far between.
As the walk was ending, after taking more photos at the end of the walkway, I came to the top of the steps and looked down at the water.  My gaze came upon a group of people standing on the bottom deck, looking out to the river.  They were a family of Amish people who seemed to be oblivious to all the tourists (myself included).  
I watched this family of 6, expecting them to be splashed by the water moving against the rocks nearby.  Then I suddenly realized something.  Not one of them was holding a phone or a camera. Not one of them was writing on paper or drawing pictures of what they were seeing.  All they were doing was simply looking at the water, the plants, the gorge, the movement and dance of the waves.  They stopped a few times and spoke with the family member who stood beside them and pointed at something they had noticed.  Something that perhaps had touched their heart or something that had caught their interest.
I’m certain that this family will long remember this experience a great deal more vividly than all of us who were so busy taking photos and trying our best to be as creative in our compositions as possible.
I learned a lesson that moment.  Contemplating and truly feeling the world around me is much more important than trying to get that perfect shot.  Taking it all in is part of the process which makes a memory become real in our hearts and mind.

Thanks Are In Order

16 days

….the number of days we’ve enjoyed traveling to and within Canada.  We have seen and experienced so many wonderful sights, foods, and people!  Everyone in this beautiful part of the world has been a joy to be with as we shared new experiences together.

We owe a huge thank you to our wonderful hosts Shiela and Chris from Ancaster, Ontario.  They were fantastic travel partners and proudly shared so many stories about their country.

We’d also like to thank @Amtrak whose staff and trains (#TexasEagle, #LakeShoreLimited, #MapleLeaf) got us across six States, into Canada and back–safe and sound.  We are already planning our next adventure with @Amtrak

A few pics of our adventure!

The Places

The Train and Stations

The Sights

The Flowers

And the Food…oh, the Food!

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Coming from the great State of Texas, we don’t often see a lot of rainfall.  Sure we get our “bad days” of rain, but overall, it isn’t too bad.

For two Texas girls coming to Niagara Falls was an eye-opener.  Neither of us has ever seen so much water in one place (even the ocean is calmer and quieter).  Immediately, we were drenched in water coming at us from what seemed every direction!  I had expected to get my feet wet due to water along the White Water Boardwalk, but we also had what others were calling “mist” coming down on our heads!  Sorry but for these 2 Texas girls, what you call “mist” is actually a good rain!

After donning our rain ponchos and getting ourselves on track, we headed for the White Water Boardwalk. Apparently, this is a fairly new area and it took us right down to the rushing water.  The colors of the water and the movements of the water were almost mesmerizing.  It was difficult getting our heads around this massive amount of water constantly moving and dancing over the rocks.  I now fully understant why this is one of the great wonders of the world.

The other strange feeling came when we began to realize that the tiny-looking people on the other side of the gorge were standing on US grounds while we remained on Canadian grounds.  It’s hard to imagine that we would not want to both share in the beauty that is Niagara Falls.

The grounds surrounding Niagara Falls are just as stunning as the water.  Beautiful, grand flowers and lawns everywhere you look.  Michelle and I had to force ourselves away from the many varieties of flowers and plants.  So beautiful!

Other sights in and around Niagara Falls, Ontario

Toronto-The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

On our final day in Toronto we spent 4 full hours inside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).  Why?–you ask.  Well, that is exactly how much time it takes to see 4 levels of historic and archealogical pieces.  We never even made it to the 5 floor level…it just got too late!

We started out at the Blue Whale Story exhibit featuring one full size blue whale.  This was one of 9 whales that had died and landed onshore the coast of Newfoundland after being trapped in ice and unable to get back out to sea.  Seven of the other blue whales sank to the bottom of the ocean, but surprisinly 2 ended up on the coast.

The ROM asked permission to preserve the bones and some other parts of the whales for an exhibition.  The Blue Whale is one of the gentlest and largest whales in the sea.  The ROM hoped to be able to share all the technical details of this enchanting mammal of the sea.  The exhibit was one of the most touching for a creature of this size.  Even the baleen was restored and shown on the skeletal remains.  Seeing this exhibit was well worth the extra time.

The second level was filled with antique clothing, and everyday tools used by the native peoples of Canada.  The colors used in the clothing were bright and all the tools were incredibly functional.   This level also included large exhibits of dinosaur skeletons and many of the animals and birds of North America.

The second level also included a Gem and Minerals exhibit that was one of the most stunning collections of gems I’ve ever seen.  Words cannot express the beauty and the colors shining brightly under the lights of the room holding these valuable gems.  The room was the only one that had only one entrance, many cameras overhead as well as all along the walls and a security guard.  Probably a good move on their part.

The third level exhibits included relics and items belonging to British Empire, German Empire, Italian Empire and the Asian Empire.  We couldnt resist stopping to read about every item we saw.  It was filled with information that provided the reader with a complete story of the history of Canada.

On the fourth level we found sculptures that had been preserved, saved, and some even pieced back together.  Many of them were full and complete bodies, while others were simply the heads.  All were life size and I found myself standing directily in front of the faces, actually able to visualize what they may have looked like in real life.  The details were incredibly distinct and added life to each sculpture.

The Royal Ontario Museum should be on your bucket list if it isn’t on there already.

 

Toronto Ripley’s Aquarium Visit

Toronto’s Roger Centre is filled with things to see and do.  These include the CN Tower, Roger Centere, and Ripley’s Aquarium.  We’ve always been fans of Ripley’s Aquarium and have visited the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC at least twice, so we decided this would be the place to start.  Plus, this would give me a chance to really test out my photography with my iPhone 7Plus.  In case you didn’t know, I have challenged myself to taking all my photos with only an iPhone 7Plus camera.  So far, I’ve been pleased although sometimes I’ve regretted forgetting my tripod at home.  

 

The Toronto Ripley’s Aquarium is considerably larger and has many more features than the Myrtle Beach location.  Firstly, the underwater moving sidewalk area is extensive, has at least 4-5 large sharks, a massive sea turtle, and is teeming with a great variety of fish.

For the kids, this aquarium has some really fun tubes that take kids (and adults) through spaces that can be viewed by other people, making it look as if kids are inside the water with the fish!  The underwater viewing includes an underwater submarine where kids suddenly pop up unexpectedly and it appears they are in the sub under the water exhibit!  Fun!

This aquarium includes a large jellyfish exhibit featuring unusual jellies and lots of bright color changes.

Of course, all the other typical creatures from the sea are included in the exhibits, but the one that caught everyones attention was the gigantic octopus exhibit.  The creature was immense–and honestly, really creepy! 

We loved this aquarium and I recommend you visit the next time you find yourself in Toronto!

 

 

Goodbye! Montreal–Hello! Toronto

It almost hurts to say goodbye to this lovely city.  Montreal has introduced us to friendly people, delicious foods, breathtaking sights, and plenty of cultural experiences.  We will miss you Montreal…thank you for the wonderful memories!

Sadly, it is time for us to continue on our journey.  We leave our lovely hotel, have our last espresso, and get on the cab to our next train!

Prior to leaving Montreal, we stopped for dinner at a place which reminded us so much of HOME!

Back at the Montreal Union Station, we find the line for boarding–luckily only a short wait.  The train to Toronto is of significantly better quality than our previous VIA Rail train, but still a bit lacking compared to Amtrak in the US.  The seats on this train were reveresed so I was forced to sit facing the opposite direction as we traveled.  This always makes me a bit dizzy so I had to keep the curtain closed most of the ride.  This explains the lack of pictures of the countryside.

Toronto is immensly different from Montreal.  It is a typical big city with its tall, shiny buildings, lots of traffic, lights, billboards, and your everyday big city stores.  We checked into our hotel The One King West Hotel, settled in and headed out to see some of the tourist sights nearby.

Downtown Toronto, Ontario