Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 review

Happy wood-iversary to us! Today marks a whopping five years of Cameron and Kim. Per tradition, it's time for the annual year in review.


January - I completed my resolution to finish Wesley's wave dresser and Cam's school produced shirts that I designed. Cam started his last semester of classes and started studying for his first boards exam. Wes learned 75% of the alphabet and started speaking Spanish.

February - Cam was a little bummed to not be chosen for jury duty. We made pinewood derby cars with our YSAs. Wes started congratulating me for finishing my food. Wes threw his first dance party.

March - I successfully copied my favorite Cheesecake Factory recipe, and Cam successfully passed his first part of boards. Wes dyed his hands for the first time and we announced our second boy on the way... because we didn't anticipate this year being nearly exciting enough.

April - I co-hosted a very classy tea party, and on a less classy note dyed our ant invasion green. Wes and I ventured to the beach with some friends. We went to Pacific's really awesome luau, and Cam finished his last finals ever.

May - We moved to Connecticut for three months in one checked bag and two carry-ons. Wes and I survived 7 hours of flight time to arrive at the "blue house" in our "tiny white car." We had our first ever Lobster at Mystic CT's Lobsterfest, and Wes decided we need a boat.

June - We took a whirlwind trip with our new friend Laine to Rhode Island, Plymouth, Portland Maine, and Walden Pond. Wes turned 2 and celebrated with a very Elmo birthday during our trip back to Oregon, and had another family party in Utah while we we're there for Cam's brother's wedding.

July - We checked out the Hill Cumorah Pageant and upstate church history sites and found a place to sleep before heading to Niagara Falls and Vermont. We explored Gillette Castle and survived an East Coast humid heat wave with overnight lows in the 90s... with no AC... at 7months pregnant. After having some serious contractions while exploring Philadelphia, we decided it was time to put a hold on my adventures.

August - After 18 hours in transit, we transitioned back to Pacific Time. Cam flew to NC for his second board exam, which he owned. We went to a family reunion, I did my best to take it easy... and saw Train and the Script in concert with my sister. Cam took Wes fishing and we went camping. Our YSA friends threw us a beautiful baby shower.

September - Dawson arrived! I got a tylenol. He instantly settled into a fantabulous sleep schedule... in fact he was so fabulous at sleeping that the doctor mandated I start waking him up every two hours to eat so that he would start putting on weight. Wes started a rotating preschool with some friends and spent a lot of time with Grandma at the zoo and children's museum.

October - My first ever month without a blog post... sorry about that, but between Dawson's rigorous feeding schedule, Wes' adjusting to not being an only child, Cam's long hours at his 2nd rotation, and packing our house, something had to fall off. Cam and I were also nothing for Halloween... our boys were skeletons thanks to my mom buying them costumes.


November - Dawson started making weight, and had nearly grown out of his newborn clothes when it was time to pack them (and the rest of our stuff) up and store it for three more months. We said goodbye to some really fabulous friends, and moved with what we could fit in our car  to Cam's 3rd rotation in Colorado and our new home in a hotel.


December - We explored the Garden of the Gods, survived -11 degrees f, and got a fake Christmas tree in true Colorado style. Wes learned all about Christmas and even made a present for his favorite  brother. Cam took his third and final board exam, and we're still waiting to hear that he passed!

With three moves and a new baby I'm putting my money on this as the most eventful year we'll ever have. Although with two moves already planned for next year... it could be close.

Garden of the Gods

Okay, so this happened a few weeks ago, but then Christmas got the best of me and I'm playing catch-up now.

We found a sunny December saturday and thought we'd bundle everyone up to go see what the Garden of the Gods is. It turns out that sunny winter days in Colorado can actually turn out to be warm, and we all ended up in just our t-shirts by the end of the hike.

There was a paved 1 mile walking trail that walked around the bulk of the rock formations, so we started out with Wes in the stroller. Once he saw other kids climbing up the rocks that was the end of it though. 

 Like his sweet head injury? That's what happens when you fall out of bed when you're asleep. Twice in one night.

 Checking out the birds up on the rocks.

 Daws finally woke up to make an appearance! Hey little man!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy 3 months!

Happy 3 whole months to our Dawson!


Hopefully Wes will be less confused now about which of them is 2 months and which is two years (no really, when he wants to get away with something he's been saying, "but I'm 2 months!" We're not fooled).

Cam and I were discussing how when we look at Dawson we think, "Yeah, Wes looked just like this." So I whipped this up:

Same blanket, obviously different children - right? In more ways than their apparent affinity for food.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Nativity - A Proclamation

As I started thing about what I'm doing for presents this year, I remembered that I never did get around to posting this project I did last year for my mom and mother-in-law.

I knew I wanted to make a nativity, but I rather than just have it be a rendition, I wanted to find a way to help it to mean more. I thought about how the family featured in the nativity is the perfect example of a family, and what better way to represent them than by adding what we believe a perfect family should be.

We asked one of our "mature friends" at church for the use of his scroll saw (I cut out an extra so I would have one to experiment on, which turned out to be integral when I messed up the stain on one). 


To apply the text I used this tutorial for transferring text to wood using an acrylic gel medium (and printing the text mirrored). But I discovered that when they say leave it overnight, they mean it:

The longer I gave it to set the better it turned out. The hardest part is definitely rubbing the paper off after it's applied, that took me a couple of hours each.

I found that the stain turned out funny if I did it after the application (and highlighted any areas I didn't get the paper off well enough), but looked really beautiful when I stained them before adding the text. I also used modge podge to seal the ink, rather than wax, which worked fabulously and added a glossy look.

Hopefully that helps you with your ideas for meaningful gift-giving this Christmas! And now I need to get back to work on my plans for this year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Faux Military and Hotel-Living

We're finally getting settled into our new "house." It's actually not a house or an apartment at all, we're essentially staying in an extended stay hotel. This rotation Cameron is at the Air Force Academy, so we  (through the assistance of a pair of temporary IDs attained at great length) are living on-base in the TLF (temporary living facility).

Both the faux-military lifestyle and living in a hotel are new experiences to us, so in addition to the abundance of airplanes to point at, here are a few of the awesome and not so awesome things we are looking forward to for the next three months:

Our place is fully furnished with a stocked kitchen
Awesome: We didn't have to get a truck, troll craigslist, or include a kitchen in our baggage this time. Also, we've never had a TV before, and we now have three. With cable. With ESPNU. Football season isn't over just yet, and basketball is coming.
Less Awesome: Apparently everyone is not as versed as we are in what constitutes kitchen essentials. According to our experience, a cookie sheet is essential... a corkscrew and two can openers not so much.


Wireless and Utilities are included
Awesome: We didn't have to set them up as soon as we got here, and it's going to be 78 degrees in here all winter!
Less Awesome: Did I mention we don't have an address? It's true. Apparently they don't expect that people will live here long enough to have mail sent. Please send any Christmas cards c/o an immediate family member of ours, and I'm sure we'll get it sooner or later.

We have a dishwasher, washer, and dryer IN OUR APARTMENT for the first time in our marriage. Awesome: No negatives here! Note my above comments about our utilities. You better believe I always have a clean spoon for cereal.

Room service.
Awesome: Who's not taking out the trash, making the bed, or cleaning the bathroom for three months? Cameron. But I don't have to pick up his slack either. They also change the toilet paper and refill the soap.
Less Awesome: They're not allowed to touch personal items so we have to be on our game. My motivation looks like this: If I put my clothes away instead of leaving them on the bed then someone else washes the sheets.

Hardwood floors
Awesome: Bring on the potty training
Less Awesome: Footie pajamas

Apparently the base is home to an abundance of wildlife including deer, bear, cougars, and elk.
Awesome: Wes has been thrilled to spot deer outside the last two nights
Less Awesome: There have been deer in the road the last two nights. Also, the possibility of being eaten.

The base has stables just a few blocks away.
Awesome: Horses are awesome
Less Awesome: They don't have any giraffes (I'll let you guess who was disappointed about that)

There is a playground next to our building
Awesome: It has a "really fast"twisty slide
Less Awesome: The next building over is the Child Development Center with an even sweeter playground and lots of "friends" that we can hear having a great time, but because of our faux-military status Wes can't go there (believe me, I tried). We also can't buy things in the stores on base, or use the gas station.

We get to live in the secure part of the base:
Awesome: Cam has essentially no commute, and I've never felt safer in my life.
Less Awesome: The "threat level" on base is posted on every building. Generally it's Alpha. If it's ever Beta, we can't enter the base (go home) since we only have affiliation with the base as visitors. So if I were to be say at the grocery store and it changed... it would be a long day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Moving by Car

Between getting acquainted with Dawson and squeezing in hanging out with all of our Oregon friends, the last three months sped by. And another three months means that we've moved, again.

This time our move was to Colorado Springs, so rather than flying and taking just three suitcases, we opted to drive and just took what fit in the car. 20 hours. With a 2 1/2 year-old and an 8 week-old. The implications of course are that Wes isn't a fan of car trips, and we could only go a max of 2 1/2 hours before we need to stop so Dawson could eat.

We decided that it would be best to get everything packed up and moved out of or old house Wednesday, spend the night at my parents' so we would have the Thursday to focus on loading the car, getting trip food etc. Then we would leave Friday morning and take three days to get there, staying at my Dad's cousin's at the Idaho border the Friday night, and then at Cam's brother's in Utah Saturday night.

The first part at least went according to plan. Packed up, moved out, and got to my parents' house. After dinner we were sitting on the couch watching the news, and the weather man said that there was going to be a storm rolling in the next afternoon. We verified on several websites that there was a storm  moving just fast enough that it would leave snow in the Blue Mountains just before we got there, make roads icy in Idaho, and dump snow in the pass through the Rockies as we headed through... assuming we made it that far.

So we made the stressful decision to leave the next morning rather than take a day to prepare. We stayed up late packing, called everyone to tell them we'd be a day early, and I got up early to get food. I got a call from my Dad's cousin that her kids had been throwing up all night. So we called a friend of Cam's near Boise and asked if we could stay...that night. We started loading the car up just to realize that Wesley's car seat was in my mom's car from the night before, and she had already gone to work. So I made that hour-long detour before we hit the road as the rain started.
It only took us an hour to get ahead of the rain. It caught up during our first stop for lunch, but we managed to get well ahead of it and over the Blue Mountains as it started to get dark. Since we had to get all the way to Boise it got dark 2 hours before we got to our stop, so thank goodness for glowsticks (thanks Michelle!) and Cam strapping his nexus to the back of his seat so Wes could watch a movie.

Travel day 2 was the hardest for Wes. We woke up to clear skies and piled in the car as the clouds started to appear in the distance. After only an hour and a half, Wes hit a wall and we had to take the next exit which fortunately had a park. When we stopped there was no wind, but by the time we were leaving it had picked up quite a bit. Wes finally crashed while playing with Dawson's burp rags (we're good parents)
We made it to Cam's brother's just as it started to rain on us.

I need to take a quick second to give Dawson a shout-out for his exceptional traveling. We would stop, feed him, burp him, and stick him back in his seat. He would play for a few minutes and fall asleep and not wake up until the car stopped. I am grateful we got the baby we did.

That night we realized that we might not be able to outrun the storm any longer. We went to bed with the understanding that at 7 the next morning we would make the call to either break for it or have to wait it out. The next morning we found out that there would be "blizzard conditions and blinding snow" in the pass, so we finally got that rest day that we all needed, and Wes got a tour of our Alma Mater (can you tell he likes that sweatsuit?)
The next day Cam insisted we leave at sunrise so we'd hit the pass in daylight. Of course, what we didn't anticipate was that the sun would be in our eyes the first two hours. Wes isn't a fan of sun in his eyes, so here's the cave we made to keep him happy (he's wearing brown sweats I promise).
It was sunny and warm all through Utah, and the ice and snow had all melted by the time we hit the pass. We made it safe and sound to Cam's sister's house in Denver... with at least 15 hours before Cam's first day of his rotation!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dawson's Cannon Entrance


All three of my guys are currently taking naps upstairs, so I'm finally getting a chance to tell the story of the newest one's epic arrival last week. For those of you interested in the juicy details, you are welcome to read the whole thing... and for those of you who just want the cliff notes version, if you stick to the phrases in Bold you'll get the gist of it ;)

So I started having contractions with this guy way back in July, so when doctors would ask if I'd had any yet, I would say yes, but they haven't amounted to anything. I had also been dilated at a 2 for the last two weeks. 

The due date of Sep 16th came and went and nothing happened until 1:30 AM on the morning of Wednesday the 18th, I woke up to contractions. I counted several strong contractions at 8 minutes apart. So I woke up Cam and said, "We're going to have a baby today." He asked jokingly how bad it was and if I could sleep through them (some of you may remember the flak he got for asking that last time). I told him no, but given the fact that when I felt this way with Wes he was still 19hours away... I resigned to waiting and finally fell back asleep exhausted sometime around 3:30AM.

At 5:00 AM Cam woke up throwing up. And I thought to myself... this is going to be an awesome day. Especially since Wes had started showing cold symptoms the night before. And now I've got a family of three all quite under the weather, which I was doubting would allow for a healthy and happy 4th member to join us that day. As Cam's digestive problems continued through the morning I called my mom at 6:30 and told her we were going to need some extra assistance that day. By 7 though Cam was feeling quite cleared of his ailment and decided he was well enough to go to work. He left at 8. 

Wes got up about the time that Cam left, and we tried to have a normal morning between contractions. We went walking around the block and stopped in to bug some friends, all the while I'm still having contractions about 8 minutes apart, that hurt, but not too bad. My mom made it to our house at about 9:30. 

My mom, Wes, and I went on a walk to the playroom a few blocks away. We stayed for about 45 minutes before my mom noticed my face turning red during each contraction (still every 8 minutes), so we walked back. By the end of the walk I was having to stop for contractions, so when we got home around 11:00 I called Cam and told him he better make it a half-day because we should head to the hospital in a couple hours. 

He came home and we had a leisurely lunch other than the fact that every 8 minutes I had to walk over to the wall and brace for a contraction. We came up with a plan that my mom would put Wes down for his nap while Cam and I would go to walk for another hour or so and then head to the hospital, when Wes got up my mom would take him to his friend Ross' house and then meet us there. 

It was a great plan, except that while my mom was upstairs putting Wes to bed, my contractions suddenly changed to being every 3 minutes, and were at the very edge of my coping level. So we skipped the walk and headed straight over to the hospital, still confident Wes had time for a nap.

We got to the hospital around 2pm and they checked me... and I was only at a 3. So they hooked me up to the monitor in an exam room to measure my contractions and left Cam and I alone in the room. We were there for half an hour and my contractions were getting harder and harder to deal with and I told Cam that I wanted my epidural. Like right then. He said of course and tried to be comforting. Over the next fifteen minutes my contractions piled up and I continued to insist it was time. Finally after a particularly large contraction the nurse ran in and said they needed to get me to a room. 

We waited for a contraction to pass and walked across the hall. All the while I'm insisting to everyone that they need to get my epidural right now. Like right now. They switched me to the delivery nurses who checked me after the next contraction, and I was at an 8 (less than 45 minutes later). The nurse who literally had not even had time to check my chart said "we may not have time for an epidural..." and I looked at her and said with all the sincerity of my being, "Oh, we have time for an epidural." And she said probably the smartest thing that she could have at that point which was nothing. 

Cam called my mom and told her to get over to the hospital (a 15 minute drive) so he's trying to be supportive while giving my mom directions. Wes was still asleep so she called my friend Stacey who worked out getting someone to watch him, and drove off.

On the next contraction the nurse used the help button and said, "We need a doctor in here right now!" and the on call doctor at the clinic across the street who had been walking over was called and told to run. They told me he was coming now and just a few pushes away. I worked on channeling my energy into some good productive yelling. As the nurse tried to get an IV in my water broke, so she had to start over and try again. I had two more contractions before the doctor ran in the door, and literally on the next contraction she delivered this guy at 3:10PM:


Who was wide awake and made a few squeaks, but was otherwise not too unhappy about the situation.  The doctor then introduced herself and said, "So do we have a boy or a girl here?" and the nurses didn't know either because none of them had had time to look at the charts yet. So we checked and he was in fact a boy. Then they asked if I wanted anything, like water. I said, "could I get like a tylenol or something?"

My mom got there a few minutes later. I suppose the one perk to having no medication whatsoever was that they let me get up to use the restroom only two hours later. Cam went to go get Wes so we could stage this awesome family photo:


Here is Mr. Dawson after his first bath. He has some pretty wild red hair and cute little sideburns. My doctor came in the next day and her first remark was, "So, I heard he came out like a cannon." Which sounded pretty accurate.


My tender mercy for the day: Dawson was only 6lbs 10oz. Look at this guy, not a single roll anywhere- just skin folds. He has the longest skinniest fingers I've ever seen on a newborn. Here he is at 5 days old! The white blanket is the one that Cam made for him, luckily he was further along this time so he didn't have to worry about racing to finish in the delivery room;)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homemade Toddler Travel Toys

I just love a good alliteration, don't you? 

We've been back for a whole month now, and I remembered that I promised that I would do a post about the toys that were essential to our 4 cross country flights and 3 months with limited entertainment. I promised in part because I had several friends who have asked in preparation for their own travels. But the other reason I wanted to post these was that I did a TON of research before we left, and I was amazed at the things that people called "compact" and "inexpensive" i.e. a set of 8 bulky magnetic "travel legos" for 20 bucks. Not happenen' people. 

So I made up some tiny toys of my own.. and here I will share the ones that were worth their weight in case anyone else is ever in need of such a list. (I even made them pinterest friendly so you can remember them for later!) 


First up: The purse playmat. 

I've made a couple of these before as birthday presents for Wes' friends, and learned a few things before designing this one. The grass and road are just a light flannel appliqued. All the other pieces are felt. Wes likes to put the sheep in the convertible and pretend that he's driving. It folds up into sixths, so that the pockets to hold the car and pieces face in and nothing falls out. The folded out dimensions are 14x11, but if I were to do it again I'd make it a little shorter so that it fit better on an airplaine tray table. The ones on Virgin were only about 9inches, and he didn't like that it didn't all fit. 

Changeable Magnet Board
This one was inspired by magnetic boards I had as a kid. Actually, my mom still had them, and I snatched the cool dinosaur magnets and farm magnets from them. But to take up even less space, I bought this silver tray from the dollar store, printed off background pictures that would fit, and covered them in contact paper (I tried laminated but the magnets didn't stick as well). The sesame street magnets I made by attaching them to a magnetic sheet. The backgrounds didn't actually attach to the tray at all, once there was a magnet on them they didn't move, although I wish I had brought a manilla envelope or something to store them in.

Kitchen Puzzles
This is something we didn't do actually on the road, but we made quite a few for entertainment while we were on our trip. They are a great toy for when you actually don't have any toys around to play with. We would just find random things (generally in the kitchen, which is why Wes gave them the name) and I would trace them on a piece of cardstock to make a puzzle. Actually, from a group of objects I would make a couple different puzzles, each left out a few objects to make it tougher. I cut out the cardstock so that it would all fit in a ziplock bag and we could take it along places. 

Sewing Cards
Based on another toy I had as a kid that my mom made. To make it super simple I just cut out the front of greeting cards, laminated them, and punched holes around the outside. You could easily do other shapes as well. Wes wasn't into these so much at the beginning of the trip, but he was ready for them developmentally by our way home, and has used them quite a bit since.

Animal Cards

I was going to make some myself, but instead found this super-cute free printable at busylittlebees.com.au. (you can go there for the high-quality download). She calls them memory cards, but we used them to play memory, go fish, and some other silly games Wes invented. I printed and laminated these and they were probably the highest entertainment to weight ratio of anything I brought.  

The non-homemade toys that were worth their weight:
  • A small spiral notebook- for coloring and making up stories about letters
  • Crayons
  • A stickerbook Grandma gave us. I thought he would blow through it too fast but she found one that had a ton of stickers and once he placed them all he could peel them off again and put them somewhere else.
  • I got a matchbox police car and firetruck that I gave him for the first time on our flight. Loved them.
  • Some tiny (half inch tall) farm animals that my mom had. We used them for playing pretend, counting, all sorts of things. 
  • A beach ball. 
  • Books- I had two books that take him a long time to get through (he has to find things, and do different things on each page) and he somehow didn't get tired of them. 
  • Oh yeah, and my ipod with some songs he liked, some episodes of Sesame Street and Elmo, and some fabulous apps. Well worth it's weight. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Day With Dad

Since I finished my first optometry rotation and took part III of my board exams last week, I've had a lot of free time which means Wes and I have been hanging out more. Today we spent most of the day on an adventure; just Dad and Wes.

We kicked the day off with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast that Wes helped to make. Mom was very grateful when he decided to share some with her. It was good that we had a big breakfast because after getting dressed we headed out to Horning's Hideout for our first father and son fishing trip. Kim was sure to pack us a good lunch and some diapers just in case. 

When we arrived we were greeted by Wes' favorite bird... the peacock.


 After chasing the peacock for a while we walked over to the fishing shack where they outfitted us with anything we could ever need: a fully rigged fishing rod (or as Wes insists "fishing stick"), worms, power bait, a towel, a stringer, and a net. Then to add to the fun the guy handed Wes a smaller net for catching salamanders and a bucket to keep them in. Add our cooler to all of this gear and we looked pretty silly as we schlepped over to the perfect fishing spot. Wes immediately got started with his salamander net while I put a worm on the hook . He's showing me the salamander that he almost got.


Very shortly after this picture... like 15 seconds... Wes took another swipe at the salamander and went head first into the lake. He lost his hat and net but the sunglasses and shoes managed to stay on. I set my camera down and reached into the water and pulled him out by his arm. I knew he was in no danger of drowning when I heard him already in the process of screaming as his mouth broke the surface.

With him securely on dry ground and dripping wet I must confess that I considered getting a picture of him because I already knew what a great story this was going to make for years to come. Alas, I considered what Kim would say to me when she saw the picture and realized that in Wes' moment of need I was taking a picture. So you'll have to imagine a dripping wet Wes, missing his hat but sunglasses still on, standing on the gravel path... crying. I fished out his hat and net before they could float away, took off his wet clothes and changed a rather saturated diaper.

With my son wearing a just a diaper and all of his clothes soaked, it seemed like our fishing trip had come to an end before we even got the line in the water. I thought that maybe I could just let him continue to fish in his diaper, but his white skin was already getting sunburned after about 45 seconds. I had just about given up when I realized I could put my shirt on him. Sorry about my whiteness but the moment needed to be documented.


I laid Wes' clothes out to dry in the 80 degree sunshine and we continued to fish for an hour just like this. We had a great time throwing the line  "WEALLY FAW" and then reeling it back in. By the end Wes had become fairly proficient at reeling the line in but casting is a whole different story.

We weren't having much luck so we decided to head over to a bridge where I thought the fish might be hanging out. On our way over we saw some other kids catch a fish underneath the bridge so we hurried and threw our line in. Within 3 seconds we hooked into a fish. We pulled it up and as I tried to get Wes to hold it for a picture, the fish got off the line and started flopping all over the bridge. We nearly lost our fish but thankfully Wes kept yelling "FISH GET AWAY!!" which helped a lot.

Just before it skittered off the edge of the bridge I managed to grab it. After getting the fish on the stringer and Wes' mostly dry clothes back on, we took the obligatory picture. Wes was too scared to touch the fish so I had to hold it and take the picture... which really worked to our advantage. The fish below may look like its half the size of Wes but really its about 10 inches long.


Wes posed for one more picture before we headed back to the fishing shack with our bounteous harvest in hand.


After such a hard day of fishing we ate our lunch; which included string cheese.


Poor Wes was so exhausted that he fell asleep on the ride home and took nearly a 3 hour nap.

Later that evening we went over to a friend's house for dinner. Afterwards while Kim was helping her with her blog, Wes and I went exploring around the neighborhood and found THIS!


That's right. A bulldozer. Wes was thrilled and spent at least 10 minutes "driving" it and saying "Wes show dad how works."




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gillette Castle

In my research about sweet things about Connecticut, I found this:

And immediately it landed on my "must check out" list. We learned that Gillette Castle was designed by an actor named William Gillette- a somewhat eccentric guy who was famous for adapting Sherlock Holmes to the Stage. He had no wife or kids, so in his will, rather than determining who it should go to he just precluded the possession of his castle by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded." So naturally, the state took it over and it became a state park (he did preclude only the singular of "sap-head"). 

It was built in 1914 (and designed to look weathered and old) and has a number of funky unique features that make it totally awesome. For example:
See all those cool designs on the door? That's the latch. You lift the handle and it does all kinds of crazy moving to open the door... and each door was totally unique. This one also is custom-shaped for the couch that's next to it. 

The staircase. Surprisingly, the whole structure is built with steel, and then the wood and stone are just applied amazingly on top of that. I was really surprised at his decorating skills... you know, for an eccentric guy. The style was mostly stone and wood, and then (as you can see above the couch) there are designs in straw to add a softer texture, without straying from the "natural beauty" of it.  

Do you see the guy in blue standing in the upper left corner? From there, you can see hidden mirrors that allowed Gillette to see what visitors were doing in other parts of the house, like who was coming in the entryway below him so he could decide if it was worth making a grand entrance. 

A balcony with a view: the Connecticut River. The next picture was taken by looking up. 

Each light fixture was also totally unique and really cool. 

And that's what I call a proper picnic pavilion (had signs on it that said, "do not use as shelter in a thunderstorm"... and I thought to myself, that's good to know).

So while we were inside a thunderstorm rolled in. From the third-story windows we got to watch the rain pouring and lightning striking all around us like in a scary movie, which was pretty impressive. Rather than make a run for the car (or seek shelter in the forbidden pavilion) we decided to stick it out and wait the 20 minutes for it to pass. It didn't even take that long, and then suddenly the sun was out and the only difference was 3 inches of water in all low places. 

Wes thought the castle was pretty cool- he may have convinced us that we should live in one someday. I forgot to mention that we also brought along my brother and his family who live under an hour away- and had no idea how sweet this thing was (sometimes it takes being a tourist to get out and explore).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Niagara Falls, Canada... and Vermont


As we were packing for this whole adventure way back in May, my totally prepared Eagle Scout of a husband thought it would probably be a good idea to bring our passports. We had no plans at the time to use them, except we thought that if we did make it up to Niagara Falls we might maybe feel like going over into Canada.

According to our research just prior to starting the drive last weekend, "From the Canadian side you can SEE the falls, on the American side you can FEEL the falls." Gotcha, can't see nothin' on the American side. So we went to Canada. The border patrol asked us how long we were staying, and we answered, "about 3 hours." I'm pretty sure we didn't make it more than 25 yards from the border at any point- just drove the little frontage road, parked, and walked right over.  

Wes checkin out the "sHuge" waterfall. He's totally drenched from the mist, although it was a perfectly pleasant day.

American falls (only really viewable from the Canadian side... otherwise you're looking from the top-down, which is lame).

Horseshoe Falls.

The whole of Horseshoe falls. We started walking down the boardwalk just above the falls and kept going because I wanted to get the whole falls in the shot, but it's so big we ended up walking quite a ways. In Cam's word Niagara was one tourist site "that was not overrated." It was very beautiful and very impressive.

We had a picnic at the park just above the falls, and then popped back in the car at 1pm (didn't want to have lied about that 3 hours) and headed back to Connecticut. Well, via Vermont which is the one state in New England we hadn't been to yet, and I was not about to leave a hole in the map. Besides, it was practically on the way (read: only an additional 2 hours). 

Vermont was so kind as to have a cute little town called Bennington right in the bottom corner of the state so that we could actually see something with only minor inconvenience. Bennington has several of these cute little covered bridges that we checked out before saying goodbye to Vermont and getting back on the road.