Tag Archives: New York

Over the Falls


IMG_1675 (2)

Our jaunt north to visit Ozzie for his birthday was extended to include a trip abroad. Since Ozzie’s birthday falls on President’s Day weekend we had Monday off school. This allowed for an impromptu trip over the border. With Molly leaving in a month, and everyone itching to get a little more use out of their passports, we made plans to head to Canada, following our visit with Ozzie. Ozzie didn’t have permission for an overnight excursion and Braden didn’t feel capable of managing the emotions of the weekend, so that meant we were down to four family members for our impromptu adventure into Canada.

We had 24 hours free to explore this neighboring nation and planned to make the most of this mini vacation.

After dropping Ozzie back off at his residential facility (following his 16th birthday celebration in Erie) we drove two hours north to Niagara Falls, New York. We found a motel for the night with plans to cross the Rainbow Bridge in the morning.

The next day we headed across the border, ready for some fun on the Canadian side of the falls. I must admit that the trip across the border was met with some anxiety… anxiety that was justified given my last Canadian adventure with Toby three years ago. For those who’d like to relive that excitement see the link below:


This wasn’t our first time visiting Niagara Falls, but it seems that no matter how often I visit, it takes my breath away. No picture or video does justice to the overwhelming sense of awe that you feel as you stand beside this magnificent wonder of the world.

IMG_1673 (2)

The roar of falling water, the spray of the mist, and the view of millions of gallons of water rushing over the edge of the rock face is powerful and it soon becomes evident why this view…this experience…draws 12 million visitors each year.

IMG_1669 (2)

We decided to start our day at the falls, enjoying it first from the front, and then from the back.

By signing up for “Journey Behind the Falls,” we were able to take an elevator down 125 feet to explore the 130 year old tunnels that run behind the falls.

IMG_1687 (2)

The lower observation deck was closed due to ice,

IMG_1684 (2)

But we were able to get a great view of “the backside of water” through the viewing portholes behind the falls.

IMG_1699 (2)

It was a wet excursion, and we were grateful for the complimentary ponchos we received.

IMG_1679 (2)

As we walked along the underground corridors we were able to learn more about the history of the falls thanks to the informative signs posted throughout the halls.

IMG_1703 (2)

Here are some fun facts about the falls:

  • Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls, from largest to smallest, the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Niagara Falls’ vertical height is over 176 feet in some sections.
  • The American and Bridal Veil Falls were turned off in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers to study the effects of erosion. There are plans to “turn off” the Falls again to rebuild two, 115-year-old bridges.
  • Niagara Falls’ current erosion rate is approximately 1 foot per year and could possibly be reduced to 1 foot per 10 years due to flow control and diversion for hydro-power generation.
  • The water that flows over Niagara Falls is at 25-50% capacity at any given time.
  • The first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor. She is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls in an area called Stunters Rest, along with other Niagara Falls daredevils.
  • Cave of the Winds, located at Niagara Falls State Park is torn down and re-built every year.
  • The birth of Niagara Falls can be traced back more than 12,000 years to the end of the last glacial period.
  • Despite myths to the contrary, Niagara Falls does not freeze in the winter. However, the flow of water was reduced to a mere trickle for a few hours on March 29, 1848 because of an ice jam upstream in the Niagara River.
  • During periods of peak flow in the summer and fall, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second pour over Niagara Falls.
  • Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
  • Niagara Falls is not the tallest waterfall in the world; however, the beauty of the falls comes from the height and the incredible volume of water running over the falls at a given time.
  • Fish travel over Niagara Falls and most survive because of their ability to flow with the water

When we emerged back at the surface, we headed outside to get some pictures by the falls. The blowing mist made photography a challenge and our efforts resulted in some cold fingers and noses!

IMG_1717 (2)

But we were  blessed to catch a glimpse of a spectacular rainbow that had formed as a result of the sun shinning down on that blowing mist.

IMG_1706 (2)IMG_1709 (2)

From there we headed over to Clifton Hill to spend the remainder of our day, before our four hour drive home.


We started with a stop at the Hershey Store…

Which we found to be a bit anti-climatic after our visits to Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but we were able to nab a picture with Kiss in front of the falls.

IMG_1730 (2)

Before we began exploring Clifton Hills, we stopped for lunch. In addition to Subway sandwiches, we order a bowl of poutine and a Mr.Big bar to share as part of our Canadian cultural experience.

IMG_1726 (2)

Then it was on to Clifton Hill!

IMG_1761 (2)

 Clifton Hill is one of the major tourist promenades of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Reminiscent of Las Vegas, this street contains a number of gift shops, wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, restaurants, and themed attractions. Unlike the Vegas Strip this touristy street is completely G-rated and popular with families.

IMG_1731 (2)

Although this area of the falls is touristy and tacky, there was something fun about strolling among the neon lights and crazy buildings that made us feel like we were on vacation.

IMG_1747 (2)

What drew us to Clifton Hill was a coupon we received for a discounted Fun Pass. This Fun Pass offered admission to six different Clifton Hill attractions for $25.00, an incredible discount when compared to the cost of paying individual admission prices. 

One of the attractions that was included was the Movieland Wax Museum.

IMG_1774 (2)

The laughs we enjoyed at the expense of some very sad looking wax figures made the cost of the passes worth every penny.


I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.

IMG_1778 (2)

While there were a few realistic representations of famous stars,


Most of the wax figures were only recognizable because of the signage or the staging.


IMG_1787 (2)

Our next stop was The Great Canadian Midway where two more of the attractions included in our pass were located. The first was the Wild West Coaster, which was a fun 4D ride.

We took our seats. This unique theater had seats that moved with the 3D cartoon, taking us on a rollercoaster ride with a cowboy and his horse on a cute and kitschy adventure through old abandoned mines.

Also located in the midway, on the opposite side of a room filled with hundreds of arcade games, was Ghost Blaster.


This was an actual ride. We climbed into our cart and entered a world of black lights and glow in the dark ghosts that we had to shoot with our laser guns. Our ride kept track of the points earned by each target we successfully hit with our laser beam. 

Our next stop was the Niagara Skywheel.

IMG_1735 (2)

The Niagara Skywheel, which opened in 2006, stands 175 feet tall and offers visitors magnificent views of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.

We got in line for one of the 42 enclosed passenger cars. I am terrified of heights and there is no amusement park ride I hate more than Ferris Wheels. I will ride the most thrilling of coasters and love them, but that slow crawl of a Ferris Wheel passenger car up to the heights of this one, terrifies me…

But the promise of amazing views and great photo opportunities, propelled me to set aside my anxiety and climb aboard. Molly and Tyler were excited by the prospect of the thrilling views and exciting ride, but Rusty was firmly seated in my camp, wondering if the views were worth the anxiety…they were!

IMG_1739 (2)IMG_1740 (2)

The views were even better than promised.

IMG_1744 (2)

IMG_1746 (2)

And because my heart health hadn’t been tested enough on the Skywheel, we decided to elevate my heart rate even more with the final experience included in our Clifton Hill Fun Pass…

Zombie Attack!

This, like the Wild West 4D show, involved sitting in a moving seat that took visitors on a ride while immersed in a 3D movie. This experience differed a bit though, as we were also armed with laser guns that allowed us to interact with the 3D movie on another level as we battled zombies that were popping out of the screen at us.

I know it sounds horrid, but as a closet fan of zombie thrillers, I LOVED this attraction. It was like stepping into The Walking Dead.

IMG_1757 (2)

I can’t handle most horror movies. Zombie shows are the only horror films I can handle, and only because I believe that zombies are one threat I could actually outrun. 😉

It was a blast… by far the highlight of the day for me.

We competed against the other visitors that filled the theater. Rusty represented magnificently, earning 1st place in the tally of zombies killed.

IMG_1756 (2)

I spent more time screaming than shooting and came in second to last, earning a score only slightly better than an 4-year-old boy whose hands were pressed against his eyes the whole time. 😊

It was a magnificent day of fun in our neighboring nation’s backyard!

Ozzie is 16…wait, what?!


IMG_1667 (2)

As hard as it is to believe, Ozzie is now 16 years old. It is hard to wrap my brain around that fact. In my mind he is forever that awkwardly skinny ten-year-old boy with the chipped front tooth and quick smile. It has been quite the journey for Ozzie to reach this milestone age…

A journey that has been anything but smooth or easy. He has fought hard to get to his today, overcoming a mountain of obstacles along the way…

And we have been part of that climb for the last six years.

I have always felt that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is the inability to see what is coming. He knows what is around the next corner and He graciously protects us from that knowledge until we are capable of facing it. It is a good thing He does. Just consider all of the amazing blessings we would willingly decline if presented with the journey we would have to take to earn those rewards. Instead, He shines the light just far enough ahead for us to feel comfortable taking the next step. Step by step He equips us for the next challenge by placing people in our life to teach us and strengthen us for the next challenge. He builds in us muscles of patience, strength, endurance, fortitude and faith as we tip-toe our way through life, walking just past the edge of where the light shines.

Step by step we move forward, uncertain of our progress until one day we look back and are blown away by how far we have traveled.

It is journey of faithful discipleship that often involves two steps back for every one step forward. It is a journey of faith that is accompanied by tears and tantrums, as we ask God, “Why?” There is a reason that discipleship is referred to as a “walk.” There is nothing passive about Christ’s invitation to “Come, Follow Me.”  It is an invitation to move intentionally. We must make a choice daily to put one foot in front of the other. To not plant ourselves in the middle of the Road to Damascus, but rather to continue shuffling forward even through the weariness of the walk.

This journey of opening our hearts to the hurting has been a deliberate choice and an intentional walk. This does not mean it has always been smooth. Most days are more hard than easy, but most days are also more joyful than jarring.

How grateful I am that when God placed me on this staircase He only showed me the first few steps. I am afraid that had He revealed the entire staircase looming ahead, I would have be paralyzed by the enormity of the climb. He knew that, so He lovingly revealed just enough for me to step forward in faith. He knew the view from the top was a view I wouldn’t want to miss. And he knew that the invitation to climb would be transformative in my own personal growth.

Here we are years later, still climbing, still wheezing from the effort, but enjoying a vista that only can be seen with the effort of a steep climb.

This weekend was one of those moments when I took a break from the climb to simply soak up the view and appreciate the gift that this journey gives. This weekend we celebrated our son. We gave thanks for this monumental birthday and God’s hand in getting him here. We celebrated the healing and the hope and the dreams we have for his tomorrows. Our son is 16-years-old and he got to celebrate the anniversary of his birth into the world surrounded by family that loves him.

Ozzie’s birthday plans had to be adjusted slightly from our original plans. Concerned for his ability to navigate the emotions of the weekend effectively, his therapist felt a day pass, rather than a weekend pass, was a better fit for his big day. Ozzie was disappointed  as he was hoping to attend the International Auto Show in Pittsburgh, but this momma had something even better in the works. I wasn’t going to allow that news to ruin my boy’s 16th birthday, so plans were made to make our Plan B better than his Plan A.

Ozzie’s newest obsession is model trains. I say “obsession” with great love, because Ozzie is a kid that doesn’t pursue any interest or hobby casually. He is an “all in” sort of kid, and his love of model railroads is no different. It is a newly developed hobby but he is already an “expert!” He has researched this hobby extensively, checked out library books, subscribed to model railroader magazine and spoke extensively with model railroad enthusiasts. After spending hours researching the different model options, and sketching out possible designs, he is ready to start building.

His vision is to fill our basement with raised tables and miles of track, a dream we explained we would approach slowly and deliberately after he asked Toby to pick up 30 sheets of plywood from Home Depot so that he can begin building.

Instead, the first purchase we decided on was some track and a few cars, and we decided that would be his birthday gift from us. Rather than shop for his birthday gift online, we decided to make part of his gift the experience of shopping for his gift, and he got to do that at a model train convention that was being held in New York.

IMG_1645 (2)

When looking for something fun to do in Erie last weekend, my research led me to information about a huge model railroad convention being held an hour away in western New York. We couldn’t wait to surprise Ozzie with the news of his birthday plans. I knew he was going to be over-the-moon excited…

And he didn’t disappoint!

Molly, Rusty, Tyler and I headed north on his big day to celebrate the big 1-6 with Oz. Braden wasn’t in a place emotionally that he could handle the visit so Toby stayed home with him while the rest of us ventured north. We picked up Ozzie, surprised him with his traditional birthday cupcake and birthday song in the parking lot and then started driving. When we arrived at our chosen destination Ozzie was still puzzled as to our plans.

IMG_1641 (2)

That is, until we walked in and he saw what was inside the convention center. Stretching before him were booth after booth of model railroad displays.

IMG_1652 (2)

Some were advertising local clubs, others were selling their wares, but all offered what Ozzie was looking for: information!

IMG_1654 (2)

He spent three hours canvasing the place, asking questions, and lovingly fondling the miniature trains…

Examining them with his eye for detail and carrying on a running narrative of each item’s history and details.

IMG_1643 (2)

When he found out he had the $50.00 we were going to spend on his birthday gift to spend on the starting pieces of his set, he was ecstatic.  We then re-circled the convention center for the fourth time, this time with Ozzie viewing each display through the lens of a shopper with money to burn.

IMG_1661 (2)

The other kids were grateful that the convention also offer antique toys for sale, as it offered a break from all the train displays that held zero appeal for the other kids.  It was fun looking at toys from the 1940’s-1980’s. Memories rushed forth as we stumbled across iconic toys from my own childhood.

IMG_1650 (2)

Eventually Ozzie made his choices. He used his money to buy three train cars and a bundle of track. If I was really a good momma I’d be able to tell you what train cars he bought and what scale he decided on. But alas, I am not that good. All I know is that two train cars were blue and one was yellow. Next time you see Ozzie, be sure to ask him about his model railroad purchases and he will give you all the details!

IMG_1663 (2)

It was an unconventional birthday celebration (as Ozzie’s usually are) but it was a perfect 16th birthday celebration for Ozzie who declared this birthday celebration the “Best One Yet!”

Happy Birthday, Ozzie. We love you!


Panama Rocks


Years ago Toby and I enjoyed a weekend away for our anniversary. He booked a hotel in western New York near Jamestown. While staying at the hotel a fellow visitor told us about a hidden gem, revered by locals but widely unknown by those outside the area, called Panama Rocks. It was recommended we check out this scenic park before leaving the area so we did and were so glad we did. It was one of the most magical places I had ever seen! 

When Grace and I made plans to visit Jamestown I knew a visit to Panama Rocks was a must, so following our morning at the I Love Lucy museum I told Grace we had one more place to visit while we were in the area, not giving her any clue of the magical world she was about to enter…

IMG_0791 (2)

Panama Rocks Scenic Park:  “an enchanting world of towering rocks, deep crevices and passageways, cool, cavernous dens, and small caves.”

IMG_0866 (2)

Formations are composed of conglomerate sedimentary rock, according to their website, and extend “about a half a mile and read upwards of 60 feet tall — one of the largest of its kind in the world.”

IMG_0860 (2)

There’s not many people in this day and age that aren’t familiar with the J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Most of Tolkien’s well-known story line takes place in the magical setting of Middle Earth, a fictional fantasy world that’s covered in vibrant green landscapes and mythical wonders. If the idea of not being able to visit such whimsical place like this has always broken your heart, then no need to get upset…

We found Middle Earth!

And it is only a 40 minute drive from Erie!

IMG_0806 (2)

Operating since 1885, Panama Rocks Scenic Park is touted as one of the best outdoor attractions you’ll find in this area of New York.

IMG_0837 (2)

From deep crevices to cavernous dens, there was so much to see and explore in this extraordinary scenic park.

IMG_0939 (2)

Not only does the scenic park feature a one-mile long trail that leads visitors to fascinating places, off-trail exploring is also allowed here! Grace and I were able to make our way through passageways and explore crevices that looked like places from out of this world.

IMG_0845 (2)

The trail is great for visitors of all ages but does feature moderate inclines and pathways that will take you over the many roots you’ll find exposed throughout the park. (Which adds to the magic but requires watching your step.)

IMG_0922 (2)IMG_0915 (3)

One of the main reasons that this park is so eye-catching and unique is that the mosses and ferns create a lush scenery amongst such rough formations.

IMG_0889 (2)IMG_0914 (2)IMG_0884 (2)

It really was nothing short of magical and we found ourselves looking for the fairies and gnomes that we knew must call this fantasy land home.

IMG_0943 (2)IMG_0966 (2)

Pictures just don’t do justice to the awe-inspiring magnificence of this magical park. It really is another world and by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

IMG_0965 (2)IMG_0906 (2)

IMG_0875 (2)

I was so grateful I was able to share the experience with Grace but we both agreed we must return soon with the entire family so that we can enjoy a day of exploring together in this fairy tale forest.





I Love Lucy!


This week we are experiencing a rare phenomenon at Patchwork Farm. Grace and I find ourselves alone for a whole week, something that hasn’t happened for the last 18 years. This week Miss Molly is in Costa Rica working with the endangered sea turtle population and Toby, Rusty, Ozzie and Tyler are all at Boy Scout Camp for the week. Which means Grace and I have had 6 days at home together.

When we realized we would be home alone for the week we began making plans, determined to make the most of this rare gift, recognizing that it will probably never happen again. We decided to use this week to be tourists in our own town, visiting places we have always wanted to go, and participating in activities we normally can’t do when we are a family of 7.

This week has been all about connecting with my first born child and making memories that will be treasured years from now.

Our week of mother/daughter adventures began with a road trip on Monday.

We decided to make the 2 1/2 hour pilgrimage to Jamestown, New York to pay homage to the queen of comedy and one of our favorite leading ladies…



There in the heart of Jamestown (the birthplace of Lucy) is the Lucy Desi Museum and Desilu Studios. We spent the morning learning more about this comedy icon and falling deeper in love with Lucy!

IMG_0721 (2)

Since 1996, Lucy’s hometown has welcomed visitors from all over the world to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. Inside its doors we found a warm salute to the First Couple of Comedy with priceless costumes, awards, photographs, and other vintage memorabilia on display from the estates of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

IMG_0725 (2)

With a push of a button we could hear audio clips from Desi’s autobiography as well as stories of their youthful antics told by Lucy’s childhood pals. A unique radio plays clips both from Lucy’s 1940’s radio series, My Favorite Husband, and some of Desi’s famous Latin songs.

IMG_0727 (2)

IMG_0730 (2)
The panels on the left of the Museum (as you look toward the back) described Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s personal histories. As we proceeded down the panels, we learned about Lucy and Desi’s early careers, how they met, and their creation of the most famous comedy series of all time.

IMG_0736 (2)IMG_0740 (2)
After touring the museum we headed next door to Desilu Studios. Desilu Studios is devoted to the “I Love Lucy” TV series. It is home to original props, costumes, memorabilia and more. Inside we found complete re-creations of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s New York City apartment and the Hollywood hotel suite where Lucy pantomimed with Harpo Marx and set her nose on fire with William Holden.

IMG_0752 (2).JPG

Desilu Studios is the permanent home of the “I Love Lucy” 50th Anniversary Tour Sets that traveled the country in 2001-2002 to celebrate the most popular show ever on television. Exhibited at convention centers, state fairs, music festivals, casinos, and more, it featured exact reproductions of the original sets.

IMG_0776 (2)

Here are some of our favorite Displays & Exhibits:

IMG_0743 (2)

My Favorite Husband Radio Studio Set: When CBS asked Lucille Ball to bring her wildly popular radio program, My Favorite Husband, to the new medium of television, she agreed–as long as her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, could play her television husband. Desi was traveling the country most of the year with his popular Latin band, making it difficult for the Arnazes to achieve their dream of starting a family. CBS declined, believing that the public would not accept this “mixed marriage” of an all-American woman to a Cuban with a heavy accent–despite the fact that the couple had in fact been married for several years. Here we were able to pick up the headsets and listen to excerpts from this radio show!

IMG_0748 (2)

“I Love Lucy” Episode #6–“The Audition”: To prove to CBS that the American public would accept them, Lucy and Desi created a vaudeville show that they took on the road in 1950. In one of their touring skits, Lucy plays “The Professor,” trying to break into Desi’s night club act with an audition on her special cello. After six months of tremendously positive live audience response, Lucy and Desi produced a pilot episode and CBS agreed to Desi’s playing Lucy’s husband. “The Professor” skit was part of the pilot as well as “I Love Lucy” episode #6, “The Audition.”

IMG_0763 (2)

623 East 68th Street, The New York Apartment: This was Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s apartment after the birth of Little Ricky. Their first apartment, which did not have a window over the piano in the living room, was too small for the three of them, so they moved upstairs to a larger apartment (episode #61, “Ricardos Change Apartments”).

IMG_0754 (2)IMG_0760 (2)IMG_0755 (2)

Artifacts: Among the costumes and props on display from “I Love Lucy” are the original cello and professor costume from the show’s pilot and episode 6, “The Audition,” as well as a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble worn by Pepito, the Spanish Clown in episode 52, “Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song.”

IMG_0778 (2)

Beverly Palms Hollywood Hotel: When Ricky was cast in the motion picture Don Juan, he took the whole gang (Lucy, Fred, Ethel, Little Ricky, and his mother-in-law) to Hollywood with him. During this period from 1955-56, the Ricardos lived in the Beverly Palms Hotel. It was on this set that Lucy burned her nose while meeting William Holden. Harpo Marx also re-enacted one of his most famous movie scenes here with Lucy, in what later became one of her favorite episodes, #124, “Harpo Marx.”

IMG_0771 (2)

Wall Mural: Enlarged from a 4×5” image, this wall shows the studio audience at a taping of “I Love Lucy.” Desi Arnaz can be seen (back to camera) “warming up” the audience, and both Lucy and Desi’s mothers are in the top row near the center.

IMG_0770 (2)

Episode #30, “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”: do you pop out at parties? Don’t be tired and listless or unpopular! This hands-on exhibit allows all “Vitameatavegamin” lovers to give it a try. The dialogue is in front of you. Here you can amuse your fellow visitors with your own version of “Vitameatavegamin.”

lucyIMG_0780 (2)IMG_0782 (2)

After touring Desilu Studios and enjoying a morning of belly laughs with my oldest we drove past Lucy’s childhood home in Jamestown, NY before heading to our second adventure of the day. (Don’t you just love the paint job on the garage?!)

IMG_0790 (2)

When Grace and I finally made it home (after a day of galavanting around western New York) we put on our PJs, stretched out on the couch, and enjoyed an “I Love Lucy” marathon,

Watching all of our favorite episodes before heading to bed after a long, eventful, and fun day of adventures.