Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's been ages...

...since I've written anything on this blog! So much has happened in the span of time between now and my last post. I won't really be updating much tonight, but suffice to say after a very brutal season of life, there are so many wonderful things happening right now! I'm kind of in awe in how God has brought me out of some situations that had left me feeling trapped and honestly, quite hopeless, and given me a completely new set of circumstances and blessings that have left me in awe of the works of His hand.

More to come....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Thrill of Hope.

Once again, I've fallen behind in posting. Mainly, it's because life decided to smack me in the face with a sock full of lemons. I had what one might call, "a series of unfortunate events" befall me as of late, and well, dealing with the real world took over any online...Shenanigans. (See what I did there?)

However, this post isn't about losing a job, appliance malfunctions, or basement floods. (Yes, for real) This post is about grace... namely, a family that loves and supports me through all things, friends that lift me up in every way possible, and faith that God is sovereign in all things and nothing that passes in this world passes without His Word.

And speaking of His Word...

That, dear friends, is the greatest grace of all.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

And that Word that came, that Word full of glory and grace and truth, what of Him?

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

He is our thrill of hope. He is why our weary world rejoices. He is why yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. World, fall on your knees! O hear, the angel voices! O night, divine! O night... when Christ was born.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Niagara Falls! No Barrel Required!

 "Hi, I'm Liz, and I'll be your guide today, here at Niagara. If you'll follow me, we'll take a magical journey behind the falls and to their base, where the roaring rush of water will leave you in breathless awe. Please put on your stylish, yellow ponchos, and watch your step as we travel through the underground tunnels. It's slippery!"

"I know, I know, it's not the most flattering look for a girl, but trust me, you really need the poncho."

"Here we are behind the falls! Isn't it exciting...and wet? I bet you're glad for that poncho now, aren't you? We'd get closer, but there's a couple up there taking upwards of 20 or 30 photos of themselves, eating into everyone's time, so this is as close as we're getting. But, as you can see, it's a continual wall of white, and believe me, the scenery doesn't change much from this vantage point anyway."

"Ah, back on the outside and at the base of the falls! Be careful not to let your camera get too wet. It's extremely misty down here!"

"Here we are, surrounded by great towers of rock, rushing curtains of white water, and spiraling clouds of mist! I hope you can all hear me over the roar. It really is a marvelous sound, isn't it? That sound is caused by the 750,000 gallons of water that spill over the falls every second! That's the combined total for both the American and Canadian falls of course. Though, the Horseshoe falls does claim the lion's share."

"Looking downstream, past the edge of the Horseshoe falls, you can see the American falls, and Bridal Veil falls, the small fall barely separated by Luna Island. The American side of the Rainbow Bridge is also visible. Speaking of rainbows, we've got them! Double rainbows! So beautiful! What does it mean? Well, we don't know, but hey, 'it's a double rainbow, all the way! Whoa, that's so intense'!"

"Thanks for taking the behind the falls tour! We'll take a few moments for photo opportunities before we head back up to the top. Yes, miss, I'll take a screaming photo with you! How fun! There's still a lot more Niagara to see!"

"Poncho, don't fail me now!"

"Isn't this exciting!? I sure think so! Alright, let's head topside!"

"Do you see all the seagulls on that little rock formation, out in the river? Isn't that picturesque? I think so, especially surrounded by all that rushing water!"


"Ooooh! Misty!"

"The entire panorama of Niagara is impressive! I hope you're all taking full advantage of your camera's various settings!"

"Oh, and be sure not to miss the stranded scow in the middle of the river, just upstream of the falls. It's been there for 93 years now, just rusting away a little more day by day..."

At about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Tuesday August 6th 1918, a steel copper bottomed sand scow (barge) was engaged in dredging operation in the fast currents on the American side of the Niagara River opposite Port Day at the entrance of the Niagara Falls Power Company hydraulic canal.

The scow was being towed by the tug boat - "Hassayampa" being operated by Captain John Wallace. The scow had two deck hands aboard. They were Gustave Loftberg, age 51 and Frank Harris, age 53. The tug and scow were owned and operated by the Great Lakes Dredge and Docks Company. During the operation, the tug suddenly struck a sandbar approximately a ½ mile upriver from the Falls. The taunt rope that held the barge to the tug snapped "like a thin string".

"I'd tell you the rest of the tale, but we'd be here all day! Read the rest of the thrilling story at Niagara Frontier!"

"Ma'am, if you'll stand right there, I'll take a picture for you. There's a beautiful rainbow right behind you. Alright, great shot! I hope you've been enjoying the tour."

 "Would you mind taking a picture for me as well? This is my first day as a Niagara guide, and I'd like to document the occasion. Thanks!"

"Yes ma'am, those are seagulls, and no, they're not really scared of humans. However, they're probably getting mad at the fact that you're not offering them food. I would slowly step away now if I were you."

"Yes, the Daffodils are much more docile than the birds. That's a lovely shot. I think it'd make a nice profile picture for the Facebook or the Google+. You certainly are a fun loving person, aren't you? Well, I hope you've enjoyed your tour of Niagara Falls! There's a gift shop to your right, and the restrooms are located on the side of the main building. The bus will be leaving shortly, so please make your purchases and meet us back on board soon! Thanks again from everyone at Niagara!"

"Am I really a tour guide for Niagara Falls? No... but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Enjoy this parting shot! Gorgeous falls, deep blue sky, double rainbow! So beautiful!"

Next up, Jenny and I visit Niagara Wine College. Ice Wine? Yes, please!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Niagara on The Lake... and Beyond!

Niagara Falls is a place of natural, awe inspiring beauty. Looking out into the horseshoe chasm as the waterfall roars over the edge is a breathtaking sight. On the day Jenny and I visited, the falls tossed us the added bonus of a picturesque rainbow! Hundreds of people were there, as I'm sure they are every day, taking pictures and staring in awe of the churning, surging power before them. It truly is an amazing work spun by the hand of God.

And then you turn around... and jutting up to the falls is this gigantic city of hotels, shops, restaurants, and casinos. Call me ignorant, but I had no idea this stuff existed right beside the falls. What was I expecting? I suppose I expected to be surrounded natural grandeur, but you know, souvenir shops and nickle slots are pretty close, right? There was a bit of a disconnect, at least to me, between the fierce and overwhelming force of nature on one side, and the glass and steel empires of man on the other. It was a little jarring.

And because of that... I needed ice cream.

However, I didn't get any. This terrible picture actually took place at the start of our adventure, before the falls, in the little town of Niagara on The Lake. It just provided a nice transition into this part of the story.

Niagara on The Lake is a charming little town, full of beautifully quaint architecture and wonderful little tourist traps. As a tourist, I felt it was my duty to fall into several of them. Again, ice cream comes in handy, as the first thing I want to show you is right behind Jenny. 

 Granted, I can't really call this gorgeous building, The Prince of Wales Hotel, a tourist trap, but it did draw me in like a moth to a flame. It actually reminded me of New Orleans from the outside. It's the kind of place where you walk in and immediately regret your decision to wear blue jeans and a jersey peacoat, because you're sure the Queen and a service of High Tea are waiting right around the corner, and well, she really doesn't appreciate sneakers.

 The interior of the hotel is elegant and sumptuous, filled with rich woodwork, beautiful marble and bronze sculptures, and glorious Tiffany style windows. Every inch of it is filled with Victorian luxury.

Tourist.

This building is also there. I don't remember what it is, but I thought it was pretty, and I'm a sucker for old stonework.

 Usually, my photography skills are not so lacking when I decide to document a trip to a foreign land, or well, anywhere, but for some reason, I don't think I really captured the essence of this pretty little patch of Canada. However, this is the best shot that I have of the main drag of Niagara on The Lake.

This clock tower is located on the main street of Niagara on The Lake and commemorates the Canadian dead of WWI. It's known as a Cenotaph which is "A monument erected to honour the dead whose bodies lie elsewhere; especially members of the armed forces who died in battle." Normally, I'd make a joke about 1.21 giagawatts when I see a clock tower, but I'll show a little respect here for the brave Canadians who died on foreign soil long ago.  Thank you to the vets of a friendly nation!

OK, off to see some water!

Here's Brock's Monument. Who was Brock? Well friends, he was a British Guy:

"Major-General Isaac Brock, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Upper Canada was stationed at Fort George in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake).  He had just returned from a victory over American forces at Detroit.  Now he observed the build-up of troops on the American side of the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown.

On the fateful morning of the battle, Brock raced from Fort George to Queenston.  In a valiant effort to retake the Heights of Queenston, he was fatally wounded while leading his troops into battle.
All seemed lost for the British until General Sheaffe, summoned from Fort George, marched with his men of the 41st Regiment, militia and Native forces and gained the rear of the Heights.  With one line charge the Americans were routed.  This tactical movement ensured a victory for the British and gave the inhabitants of Upper Canada new hope and commitment to the British cause."

Or, in my own version of history, I think he's the guy that insured Canada would always have the cooler side of Niagara Falls.

 I believe that's New York across the way. I was excited to see it, if only at a distance. I've never been to the far Northeastern portion of America, and I hope I get the chance to visit it someday. It looks... just like Canada.

 Here is the Niagara Rapids Whirlpool! It's an unusual little spot in the Niagara river where certain turbulent convergences create this swirling, churning vortex! Check out the science behind here!

 I think this is the same area, just a little removed.

We're not normally this pink. However, if you look past our bubble gum faces, you can see the skycar that travels over the whirlpool rapids. (Top left.) We didn't have time to ride it, but it looked like it was a pretty fun time.

And that's where I'm leaving it, because this post is long enough, and it's almost time for me to jet. Hence, the falls gots to waits. However, next time, it's full tilt to Niagara!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

O Canada!


You're not my home or native land, but I still think you're pretty spectacular. For my 30th birthday this past April, my best friend, Jenny, surprised me with a trip to Canada! Yeah, I know, greatest best friend ever. In reality, it was all thanks to the Pampered Chef... well, Jenny's ability to sell their awesome products.

Now, I've been to Canada a couple of times, once, I visited one of their fine French speaking airports for  48 hours... FORTY EIGHT HOURS, thanks to a menacing snowstorm that refused to budge. Angry passengers were yelling at angry airline staff in angry Canadian French. Me, I slept on a plastic chair with my sister and nephew and subsisted off day old bagels and questionable beverages... not the best introduction to a country I've ever had. The second time, thankfully, was much more fun, and can be read about in my very first blog post!

This trip to Canada however, was nothing but straight up awesomeness. But, it did begin a little strangely... I won't rehash, but to say that the worst string of tornadoes to hit Alabama in my lifetime struck the day before we left, leaving everything in a state of havoc. Driving to Jenny's in complete darkness, no streetlights, no store signs, not even a visible moon, was one of the eeriest experiences in my life.

Anyway...

"What do all these lines mean?"
We flew to Canada, hopped our transportation shuttle, dropped our bags off at the hotel, registered,  and proceeded to immediately get lost on the streets of Toronto. Now, navigation isn't a strong suit for either of us, and I'm pretty sure we won't be earning our merit badges in map reading anytime soon.  Originally, we were looking for China Town, hoping to grab a spot of dinner. Instead we ended up in the gay district looking very much like the helpless, hapless American tourists that we were.

Eventually, we decided to scrap the plan for China Town and headed towards the somewhat closer Greek Town... not that we knew how to get there either. Thankfully, some kind Canadian lady took pity on us and approached, asking if we were lost and if she could help. With her directions and only a couple of wrong turns, we found our way to Greek Town. We were both pretty exhausted from all the walking getting lost entailed, so much so, we didn't bother to take many (any) pictures, but take my word, Greek Town was excellent, mainly because it offered me a meal consisting of Souvlaki, feta cheese, lemony rice, and pita bread- much better than the... unsatisfying bag of nothing... offered on the airplane.

And that was day one in the great province of Ontario!

Day 2, which happened to be my birthday, started very early... all thanks to a couple of high profile Brits. I won't lie... I was excited about the Royal Wedding. I'm not much older than William and have always been interested in the exploits of the British crown. I thought Wills was handsome, Kate, absolutely stunning, and Harry was dashing (and ginger and awesome!)

That dress was perfection.
After watching the wedding, it was breakfast time... and the Pampered Chef knows how to put on a spread, but you'd kind of assume that given that they're "The Pampered CHEF." It was amazing, but we still went for birthday donuts afterward, because, well... 30.

Tim Horton's!

*Cue Homer Simpson face*
I'd never actually had Tim Horton's before this trip, but I'd heard their goodness extolled constantly by Jenny. Personally, I thought they were pretty good, and the one that has cinnamon in it is outstanding, but nothing compared to the wonders offered by our local Fultondale Bakery.

After Tim's... I think we took naps. I know, we're not exciting, but that wedding was at an unholy hour! Besides, it was my birthday, and trust me, that nap was a present. After that, it was time to explore the city a little, and by explore the city, I mean find a place for a birthday lunch. (Seriously, we did do more than eat on this trip.)

Though, obviously, eating was a big part of it.
POUTINE! Yes, Canada's famous concoction of fries covered in cheese curds and gravy finally made its way my face. I must say, I wasn't a great fan of this particular gravy, but the concept is a good one. I do like my fries with an obscene amount of ketchup, but this was a nice departure, and with a better gravy, it'd be awesome.

Jenny liked the beer. I still can't stand the stuff.
We had this birthday lunch at a little brewery, Les 3 Brasseurs, which we found while walking around downtown. We didn't know anything about it, but the food was tasty, the service good, and they offered free tours, which was a nice bonus.

 This gigantic copper kettle is where the hops (or barley or whatever) are cooked... I'm not sure. I'm by no means an aficionado on the brewing of anything, and it's almost sad to have me attempt to explain it. I just know it's a very important part of the process. It's a beautiful piece of equipment, that's for sure. This is the only portion of the operation that's viewable from the dining area of the restaurant.

 Here we are out of the public eye, in the working portion of the brewery. These tanks hold the brew and allow it to ferment for however long is necessary. Also, there's a random guy for your viewing pleasure.

This is where they keep all the grain for the various kinds of beer they make. The guy is pointing something out that's probably important, but I was too busy laughing at the pic I'd just taken, (this one) because Jenny seems to be sauntering through the room like she owns it.

Maybe she does. Jenny's really, really enthusiastic about beer.

Really... enthusiastic.

Me, I still don't like the stuff, but I enjoyed the tour. All of the equipment is interesting, and some of it is downright beautiful. Leave it to an artist to be overwhelmed by the aesthetics of beer while not caring for the taste of it! I will say, I would absolutely love to design a beer (or wine) label. They're often beautiful/funny/cheeky works of art.

A big thanks to this guy, who took us on the tour. I don't remember your name, brewing guy, but I'll never forget you! (Until, I probably forget you.) After that, we played at being the tourists we actually were. We did a little sight seeing, visited the mall, ("Let's go to the mall! ...Today!") took pictures in front of all the American stores, partook of wedding day cupcakes during a replay of the royal vows, and generally enjoyed the rest of the day and the Pampered Chef banquet that night, in my honor. (Well, probably in honor of the thousands of reps there, but delusions are fun!) All in all, it was a great way to turn 30.

Next post... NIAGARA FALLS!