Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tired, Near Philadelphia

I'm not one to need the alarm clock, much less one to have trouble dealing with it. I'm an early riser who does her best work before noon. Sometimes I am even able to implement my mother's trick of setting a self-alarm clock, i.e., I can go to bed and say, "Wake up at six." And I do.

We set the alarm, of course, on work days. But more often than not I awaken before it does. On weekends, I'm likely to rise well before Joe and have an hour or so of quiet time to read or sew before he stirs.

This week, however, the alarm clock has not been my friend. Too many late nights with the Democrats following too many late nights with the Olympics. Coupled with intense days at work as we race towards the finish line for the First Day of School. Last night, very tired, I went to bed mid-way through Senator Biden's speech, missing the surprise appearance of You Know Who. And this morning cringed when I woke and saw it was time to get up.

The upcoming four-day weekend (yes, if we get everything done today, we are off tomorrow!) should help me catch up on rest. And next week, of course, I won't need to stay up late!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dems in Denver, 2008

Did I watch Night One? Of course I did. And got some stitching done, too.

I watched the PBS version -- the longest coverage with the sanest commentators. I just can't take Wolf "Kermit the Frog" Blitzer any more. And Anderson Cooper is even worse.

I liked the introduction to Michelle. I liked Michelle's speech. I liked the daughters and the -- what was it? Skype? -- technologic interaction with Daddy. I found Michelle to be smart, credible, warm, sincere, everything good.

Some of the other speakers were so-so. Nancy Pelosi may be a good Speaker but she's not much of a speaker. Caroline Kennedy, so poised, warm, earnest.

But the thing that got me -- I mean really got me -- was the tribute to Teddy and his speech that followed. Took me back in time, so many years, to such positive energy. I was too young to vote for JFK, and lost the opportunity to vote for Bobby. The Kennedys' commitment to public service is echoed in Barack's, and it feels so good and gives so much hope.

I was keenly aware that this is likely Teddy's last convention, and I was so glad to see and hear him. And even to cry as he told us yet again, "The torch has been passed to a new generation."


Down Under -- Up Over?

I was reading Tracey's blog post about anticipating the coming of spring. And it got me to thinking about two things.

First, in the years since I first became a blogger, I've become more tuned in to Australia. Not just the quilters and the designers, but beyond that -- the lifestyle, the agriculture, the lingo. Joe and I met some absolutely lovely people from Australia the year we went to Greece; they were the friendliest people and easiest to be with of all the folks on the ship. When I mentioned this to Andrew, who spent a semester in Sydney, he indicated that, though we do not usually employ over-broad generalizations about a people, this is just how Aussies are. My SSCS partner last year was an Aussie and that relationship has endured and grown. During the Olympics, I found myself cheering for the Australian swimmers almost as much as the Americans!

Of course the topsy-turvey seasons is something else I've been aware of in a new way. When I'm pulling out extra sweaters and quilts, my friends Down Under are talking about droughts and picnics. And now, when I notice that the green leaves are now reddish, these ladies are planting canola crops and birthing lambs.

Apparently the anticipation of the change of season is universal. While I'm not eager for genuine cold weather, last night when I had to pull up the quilt, it felt good. There's a rhythm to life underscored by the change of seasons, and the readiness for each one seems to be instinctive. This coming weekend we'll be heading out to Lancaster County for a family wedding, and en route we're likely to scenes like this punkin field. And it will feel right and good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Be My Guest

Here's What Was I Thinking? at home on the bed. I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell about the guest room.

A few years ago, my friend Petunia and her colleague were starting up a new business, "staging" houses that were going up for sale. They had terrific talent and energy, but what they lacked was a portfolio. "What I need," she told me, "is someone who needs their house staged and would let us take before and after pictures. We'd charge them only for the materials and we'd give our time. Do you know anyone who has a house to sell?"

I didn't. But I had the guest room from hell, overcrowded with uncomfortable twin beds, hideous metallic wallpaper from when we bought the house, spare furniture that didn't go together, and generally an unwelcoming ambiance. I'd wanted to spiff it up but the time, money, and energy for such a project never came together all at the same time. Petunia's need matched my need perfectly!

Joe was suspicious at the beginning -- "What if we don't like what she does?" But Petunia's taste was impeccable, and we decided to give her free rein.

We bought a double bed mattress and springs, gave her $600, and turned her loose. The only specification we made was the color of the paint for the walls, Windham Cream.

Petunia knew right away that quilts were important in our house, and selected one to build the room around. She also decided to feature my angel collections, and she knew from the living room that we liked arts and crafts style decorating. She painted the walls the delicious cream we liked, and added a stripe of rose on the one wall so she didn't have to put money into a headboard. Bunches of huge pillows and a bedskirt completed the look over there. At Target, no less, she found a nightstand and dresser in exactly the right style. Joe, in fact, was so pleased that he decided we should go off to Target ourselves for another nightstand and a bookcase, and so we did.

Quite serendipitously, WWIT? blends perfectly with the color scheme Petunia came up with.

She found lovely, inexpensive draperies that I would not have thought to consider, and it turns out they are perfect.

I only took these few photos, but Petunia also found and hung a great picture of Cape May among other pictures we already had in the room. I found a William Morris calendar and added the lamp that goes with my Willie Raye angels. And just look at this fantastic shelf that Petunia picked out from the Target collection! I wouldn't have thought of that.

Since the room is mostly used by our sons and their wives, I bought a soft cotton robe so that the girls wouldn't have to pack one when they come. It hangs on the rack; Amy added a pair of slippers and we keep odds and ends of toiletries in the drawer of the nightstand.

So our guest room is complete, and we couldn't be more pleased.

Y'all come!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quilting Olympics: Medal Ceremony for Binding Event

The Silver Medal goes to Batik Baskets on Black. These blocks were from a swap we did pretty many years ago. I always meant for it to be on my bed when it was finished, but got really stuck on the borders. I had put on a black followed by a teal batik followed by another block and hated the way it looked. So I picked them all off and put it aside for a year or two.

Turbo was over one afternoon and I sought her opinion. "A narrow light and a broad medium, both of batiks," she prescribed. And I believed her to be right.

I'm certainly not eager for cold weather, but as soon as it comes, this quilt goes on our bed. Custom quilted by Kat.

The Gold Medal goes to the infamous "What Was I Thinking?" More years ago than I can actually keep track of, I made one block from this pattern as part of a group project. When all of the blocks were assembled, I was smitten. I had my very first CW FQ bundle that I'd been fondling and wondering how to use, and "Ibby's Quilt Pattern" (since I never knew what the real name was) seemed to be just right.

Cut the first step and appliqued the circles and quartered them, and managed in the course of one weekend at White Oak with a lot of bad words uttered to get one block finished. And the project came home and was banished.

This past winter it came to the surface and it was found the time Tanya was finishing "When, Oh When?" and I looked at it and said, "What Was I Thinking?" Once rechristened, my interest in finishing it was revived and I worked steadily on it, one unit rather than one block, at a time. Also quilted by Kat, this is going to go on the bed in the guestroom, unless one of my children demands to have it.

The Bronze: Meadowbrook Pasture, started out after inspiration from Nicole and the Meadowbrook Farm pattern. Used CWs from a swap and had a lot of fun putting the various combinations together. When it was time to set the blocks, the quilt nearly became renamed, "You've Got To Be Kidding," and though I was tempted to set it aside rather than go with the prescribed setting, I came up with my own way to set the blocks, and decided I liked it better. Quilted by Branky, this is to be a new home gift for some friends who are moving to a retirement center.

I've not been faithful the second week of the Olympics. I never am. I did a good job on several events during the first week, and then became distracted by the rest of my life. Tonight is the Closing Ceremony and I plan to continue the stitchery on the Living the Dream project. That's one that is going to be a WISP for many, many months.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Main Entry: dec·a·dent
Pronunciation: \ˈde-kə-dənt also di-ˈkā-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: back-formation from decadence
Date: 1837
1 : marked by decay or decline
2 : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of the decadents
3 : characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence
— dec·a·dent·ly adverb

My job is at an independent school Near Philadelphia, and for most of the year I work from 7:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. These hours suit me well, as I like to get up early and do my best work before noon. For nine or ten weeks each summer, however, we have the opportunity to enjoy "summer hours," i.e., working from 9:00 until 2:00, or some variation.

One of the things that Joe and I enjoy during summer hours is going to the 4:00 movie on a Friday afternoon. This provides an early start to the weekend and feels mildly decadent -- as though we are getting away with something, to be grabbing this headstart. This summer, for a lot of reasons, we had not been able to indulge this pleasure until yesterday, the very last day of summer hours.

We'd heard so many good things about "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," some of them even from people whose taste we respect and generally share. We were delighted to find it showing at our favorite theatre at 4:00 and being Woody Allen, it came with the bonus of not making us contend with subtitles. So off we went.

On the way home, we tried to figure out why we didn't like it. The scenery was lovely. The acting was excellent. The music was terrific. Some of our favorite people were in it, one of them with a hairstyle vastly improved over the last film we'd seen him in. There were scenes that were superb, the writing was well-crafted, and we could occasionally almost taste the wine.

But we didn't like it. And couldn't quite pinpoint why.

It was about three -- or four -- women and one man, exploring what love and relationship are about. And explore it they did, in many and various combinations.

But, you know, none of them really ever found it. There was a lot of talk about "having feelings for" someone. Feelings that were implied to be about love and relationship.

This morning at breakfast, Joe said, "It wasn't about love. It was about sex."


Sex, combined with love and relationship, is one thing. Sex as a stand-alone pretending to be love and relationship is something else entirely. Not being judgmental, but rather being clear, let's not confuse the two.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Ready

This isn't my desk. You knew that. Not actually. But in my mind it is.

I spent two days this week at an administrative retreat (retreat? retreat from what? from the desk?) where we outlined the work for the coming academic year. It was very productive, and we worked well together.

Then I returned to the office, bringing all the work from the retreat to add to what was already on my desk. Friends, it isn't pretty.

What is worse, at home there is the list of Things To Do Over The Summer with very, very few crossed off.

I can live with chaos at work if things at home are even. I can live with disruption at home if things are going smoothly at work. Having this kind of stuff going on at both ends is not doable.

So I've spent the past evenings tackling tasks at home. One evening was totally devoted to moving out of the old laptop and into the new -- Andrew will be with us this weekend and I offered him the old one to take home. Check that off the list. Another evening, I got reacquainted with my Palm Pilot and got all the dates and commitments for orchestra, theatre series, and other upcoming events plugged in. And got it all synched to the home and office 'puters. Picked up Bernina from the shop where she'd spent a few days having a tune-up, but haven't even plugged her back in. Plowed through the dreaded stack of papers on the counter and diminished it, though couldn't eliminate it. The list is looking better. Cleaning lady is working her magic this morning, so I'll go home to freshness which will provide the illusion that things aren't as bad as they seem!

There's a wee bit of a chill in the air early in the mornings and in the evenings, and the burning bush has begun to blush and the Nonspeakers' dogwood tree is starting-starting-starting to turn. Signs that summer is coming to an end, and bringing for me the desperate feeling of needing to Be Ready For Fall.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympics Intermission: Happy Birthday [Observed] to Andrew!

Sherry and her family decided to do a short summer vacation in D.C., and since part of their trip fell during a weekend, Joe and I decided to go down, too. They were staying at a hotel, but we stayed with Andrew and Amy.

We left in the middle of the afternoon on Friday and met A&A at the Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House. Andrew told us it was a landmark kind of a place and we really should experience it. Was he ever right! Not only was the place attractive and the mojito extraordinary, the food was delicious and abundant. Our waitress was spectacular -- she got bonus points for never once calling us "guys."

After dinner we walked over to the Reagan Theatre to see the Capitol Steps. And we laughed and laughed.

The next morning S2C2 arrived and after a period of visiting at A&A's place, we headed out to The National Building Museum, hand-picked by A&A as a place we all would like. And they were so right! We had a splendid time there. Sam was dazzled by riding on the Metro, helping to build a 7 foot arch, and identifying landmarks at the model of the city. The rest of us loved the Eero Saarinen exhibit and enjoyed so much more.

After a nap back at A&A's, we changed for dinner. Since it was the weekend before Andrew's 30th birthday, we decided to go out to an excellent Mexican place, and Andrew's good friends Meg and Ben were able to join us. His favorite color is orange, which the rest of us find a bit odd, and Sherry had the scathingly brilliant idea that everyone should wear that color in his honor! With them coming from their hotel and meeting us at the restaurant, Andrew would not really know what was happening until all were assembled. I had brought my infamous marigold orange jumper and Joe hid his new orange T-shirt under a buttoned up plaid shirt. We got to the restaurant and there were M&B at the bar; Andrew noticed that they were wearing orange and it began to come together for him. After S2C2 showed up, Joe unbuttoned and revealed his true colors. It was a lot of fun, especially listening to the passer-by, "Look, Mom, all of those people are wearing orange!" We all went back home afterwards, where Amy had made a yummy chocolate cake with white icing! A perfect ending to a lovely day.

The ride home was long due to some traffic congestion which happened about four times, although we never came to a complete stop. The trip was uneventful, although we did note a car that had a lot of bananas on the roof and thought that odd and interesting enough for a photo op.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sewing Olympics: The Baby Irish Chain Event

With the Sewing Olympics, much like the Beijing Olympics, there is often not much time between events. What did they say last night -- that Michael Phelps had 24 minutes between one event and the next? Sheesh. That's not even enough time to savor one's medal! Though I guess that has become commonplace for our man at the pool.

So, having finished the gold, i.e., Meadowbrook Pasture, for the binding event (podium pics to follow as part of the Closing Ceremonies, I imagine), I moved on to the next event. While on vacation, one night I awoke from a deep sleep with a vision of a super scrappy Irish Chain made out of CW left-overs from Meadowbrook Pasture. I got it started and was even putting rows together when all at once I thought of another one, to be made from left-overs from WWIT? and not quite as scrappy. And, of course, that notion would not sit still until I'd done some cutting. Which led to some stitching.

Here are pics of the dueling Irish Chains baby quilts. The scrappy one on the right seems to be ahead (thinking of Misty May) but it isn't over 'til it's over.

Everything is going on hold for a couple of days. We're leaving in two hours for a weekend in DC with S2C2 and A&A and on Monday I have an administrative retreat that lasts into Tuesday afternoon. So my next step is to get Bernina packed up; she's going into the shop for a tune-up while I'm otherwise occupied, and then it will be onto tracing more of the "Living the Dream" stitcheries to take along to stitch during odd moments in DC and at the retreat.

Don't even have time for a warm-up!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sewing Olympics: The Kiddy Clothing Event

With both "What Was I Thinking?" and "Batik Baskets" all bound, I decided since I had earned a bronze and a silver for the Olympic Binding Event, before striving for the gold, I'd enter another event.

It's been a long time since I made a dress for a little girl. Sherry is 30+ at this point, and I think it was somewhere late in elementary school that we switched to totally store-bought clothing for her. Now I have this precious little granddaughter, and I thought I'd like to resume the practice.

So I entered the Kiddy Clothing Event and last night finished tacking facings and sewing buttons and putting up the hem on this peachy little dress and matching bloomers for Miss Caroline.

We'll all be together in D.C. this weekend, and I believe I'll take it along to give to her there.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Turned the Corner . . . . and Other Odds and Ends

My friend Carol the Math Teacher has an expression for what happens to most of the kids during the summer between their Junior and Senior years. "They turn the corner," she says. The corner toward adulthood, away from adolescence. I've always liked the expression; it seems to indicate moving ahead, in the same direction, but in a somewhat better way. She'll point out kids who turn the corner early, and those who do it late.

Last week Joe turned the corner. We visited the cardiologist who indicated that he was doing well, tweaked the meds, and proclaimed he need not return until December at which point he will feel confident of a 99% success rate of the stents. Later in the week, I began to notice increased energy, less of a need for naps, and a general difference of some positive sort.

I think the vacation helped a lot, being away, having no demands, the opportunity to relax, to play, to think. We did some talking about what he'd been through; hadn't done that before. So my perception is that a corner has been turned, and it is a good one.

. . . .

Did some sewing over the weekend. The Olympic binding event is going well -- I had three quilts to bind, and the batik baskets is done, so I'm thinking I've got a bronze. Started binding What Was I Thinking? for a silver. Yesterday I took a break from the binding event and entered the children's clothing event, getting most of a little jumper made for Caroline -- the bloomers and matching hat are on the list for this afternoon.

Have had a houseguest; Joe's sister who lives in rural Texas has been with us since Saturday and we've had a good time with her. Yesterday she and Joe drove down to Havre de Grace where they met up with Amy and Andrew for some sailing. Saturday night Sherry and her crowd were at our place for dinner along with Bonnie -- everyone made something and the meal was abundant and yummy.

. . . .

Got all but one of the give-aways in the mail at the end of last week and the final one is going out today to Bobbie.

. . . .

Oh, and the leader-ender Irish Chain is moving right along -- four blocks done and lookin' good!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

Didja watch? The Opening Ceremonies, I mean? And weren't they wonderful?

I sat and did the hand-binding on one and one-half sides of my batik baskets quilt while I watched the four-hour spectacle, and was so captivated and impressed! The technology, the artistry, the precision, the originality -- all were so wonderful, so unusual, so well done! I just loved the whole thing. Could have lived without two-thirds of the commercial interruptions (and gone to bed earlier!), but I'm not a bit sorry I stayed up for it all.

Of all of the images, this one of Yao Ming and Lin Hao is the one that will endure for me. After the parade, the cameraman kept returning to focus on these two, and I just loved how the big guy held the little one as together they watched the torch and the fireworks. It was just wonderful.

And, for a while, it took my mind off of how disappointed I am in John Edwards. Sheesh.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Warming Up

Well, I'm getting warmed up for the Olympics. The design wall was naked when I got home from vacation, so I put up these 16s and Pinwheels and some whites and am using it all as a leader-ender project at present. Never hurts to have a baby quilt flimsy on hand. Just in case.

Turbo pieced these blocks and traded them to me for a chance to raid my batik bin. I must admit that though she took out a grocery bag full of warm tones (which she later made into a gorgeous quilt and if she'd send me a picture [hint, hint] I'd post it for her since she is too busy sewing to start a blog of her own, talk about a drawn-out sentence), the level didn't seem to go down very much. There seems to be a batik spring at the bottom of it . . . .

Anyway, here's a block I made this afternoon as part of the Opening Ceremonies at my place. Ms. Jan and I are part of a group that makes blocks for each other on a monthly basis, and this month apparently is hers. She sent all the fabrics and the pattern and I got to cut and assemble this lovely Rising Star for her. She's making a quilt for one of the men in her life. It will be stunning, if you ask me.

It's all Civil War stuff. Drooling. Which reminds me, last night I spent a fair amount of time cutting up the left-overs from Meadowbrook Pasture which I think would make a nice Irish Chain leader-ender project. So many ideas. So little time.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympic Binding Events . . . and More

As I mentioned, when we were away, we stopped at Kat's and picked up two projects she'd machine-quilted for me: Batik Baskets on Black and What Was I Thinking? Already at home was Meadowbrook Pasture which Branky had quilted just before we went away.

For a person who has really no interest in sports or television, every two years I spend two weeks in front of the television, watching the Olympics. I watch as much as possible, cramming two years worth of television viewing into two weeks. It makes no sense. And I like to have a mountain of handwork to keep me busy while I'm doing that. So tonight I did the machine part of the binding on Meadowbrook Pasture and started the same on What Was I Thinking? I'm hoping/planning to have the machine part of the bindings completed on all three before Friday night and the Opening Ceremonies.

And, in case that isn't enough, do you remember those bossy Log Cabins that were taking over the studio a few weeks back? They are all together (see above and left) and once again arguing with me. I wanted to put them in the flimsy stack but they have other ideas. They seem to think they'd like to be sandwiched and tied and get on to their real life with their new owner. I hadn't really thought that far, but they are a presence to be reckoned with and I know better than to argue.

Ideally, it would be terrific to finish them during the Democratic Convention which, I do believe, begins the day after the Olympics end.

Fingers, get ready for a serious work-out!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Phase Three

Our vacation was only a week and a half long, but it seemed longer because it was nicely divided into three distinct phases. Phase One was Blatant Fun at Niagara Falls, and I've written about that already. I had been prepared to be awed at the scope of the place, but I had no idea we were going to laugh and tease so much and enjoy the company of total strangers, some of whom didn't speak our language. But that is what happened at the Falls, especially at the Cave of the Winds.

Phase Two was Relaxation, Recreation, and Reflection at Chautauqua. We pursued all three with intensity. Joe sailed Windspirit several times, we each enjoyed the class we took, we loved the symphony concerts, and we did a bit of serious talking about the early part of the summer.

Phase Three was only two days long. This was Friends and Family. Pictured above and to the left are Lloyd and Roberta, long-time friends from Ohio. Lloyd baptized all of our children, and Roberta and I were charter members of the first book group I ever belonged to. They stayed in Ohio while we moved first to Chicago, then back to Ohio, and finally to Near Philadelphia. Lloyd's health doesn't permit them to travel a lot, and we were delighted when they offered us hospitality for a night before we drove back home. Roberta fixed such delectable fare for us; you would think she had trained at a B&B. We so enjoyed our time with them.

Between Chautauqua and Kent, however, we stopped at Kat's place to pick up "What Was I Thinking" and the "Batik Baskets" quilts. I didn't get a picture there, darn it. The quilts are fantastic; I swear the woman is an artistic genius. They are on the list for binding. Very soon.

Pictured to the left is Guenveur, another long-time friend from our time in Kent. We had wanted to have lunch with her before going to Lloyd's, but it didn't work out according to our travel schedule. Roberta was good enough to invite her to come to breakfast on Sunday, and she is much the same as ever. It was wonderful to be together, though a very large portion of the conversation for all five of us had to do with various physical conditions! A normal part of the aging process, I suppose.

Finally -- and, again, I didn't get a photo -- two-thirds of the way across Pennsylvania, we stopped in Bloomsburg and met Joe's brother and his family for dinner. Bob, Pat and Dave, had rented a cabin at a state park and had only just arrived a day or two before. But they interruped their vacation to drive down to town to meet up with us. We had a delicious meal and pleasant conversation. Dave has grown up so tall and handsome, and Pat was happy to tell about her new job which is much more in tune with her skills and gifts than what she was doing previously.

We arrived home close to midnight on Sunday, to be greeted by a very suspicious Bodacious, who warmed up quite quickly.

Monday, August 04, 2008

And the Winners Are . . . .

Yup. It's a picture of a mayonnaise jar. Some of us are old enough to remember Rowan and Martin's Laugh In TV show, where Dick Martin used to make reference to secrets stored in a mayonnaise jar . . . . Then again, the reference may be utterly lost on some of us.

Anyway, being on vacation, I didn't get to draw the names for my giveaways until last night. And here they are! If you are a winner (well, you are all winners, but specifically a winner of one of my give-aways), please provide your mailing information to me and I will have your package out by the end of this week!

#1, the Judy Martin book, goes to Karen Dianne, Mistress of Leehaven.

#2, the set of five patterns, goes to Ken of Tanner's Notes.

#3, the makings for a Civil War Jewel Box, to Bobbie of Bentneedle fame.

#4, the batik-ish FQs, to Paula the Quilter.

#5, the set of three patterns, to Dot of Rantala Rags.

Can't wait to hear from y'all!

A Week at Chautauqua

After leaving Niagara Falls, we drove down to Chautauqua. If you are unfamiliar with the Chautauqua Institution, you can read about it here. It is very hard to explain -- it is kind of like an amazing camp for grown-ups. A pedestrian community devoted to arts, education, religion, and recreation, it is a rich experience.

Each week has a specific theme with guest lecturers of international renown. The past week focused on world health issues in the them "Healing the Globe." Each morning I attended a talk on a topic connected with world health; each evening we attended a symphony, ballet, or other wonderful performance in the huge amphitheatre.

Joe took a sketching class and a painting class. I took a class on Christian spirituality. I did a lot of stitchery for the "Living the Dream" quilt. We relaxed, we talked, we played, we learned. We had a marvelous time. Here are some random photos that Joe took during our stay.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tourists at Niagara Falls

A week ago, we left Near Philadelphia for vacation. We had a long drive that first day, arriving at Niagara Falls late in the afternoon, after stopping at a mediocre Mexican restaurant outside Binghamton for lunch, and an hour or two later at a roadside rest for a bit of a nap. We arrived at Park Place B&B with a couple of hours to spare before dinner.

Louise recommended a good restaurant in town that we could walk to. We figured out later that it was the only good restaurant in town. Niagara Falls, New York, has a ghostly demeanor. There are many empty shops and boarded up buildings. After about six o'clock, there aren't many people out on the streets, either.

Our choices for dinner were the Red Coach Inn or the Hard Rock Cafe. We opted for the former, the one Louise had suggested. On our walk downtown, within a block of our B&B, we noticed an Indian restaurant. A block later, there was another. No pizza places or burger joints. By the time we reached the Red Coach, we'd counted three more including the Palace of India. After our dinner (which, by the way, was excellent and reasonable), on the walk home by a different route, we noticed two Indian restaurants. We were puzzled, and remembered that at the Red Coach, we'd seen a huge group of Indians, perhaps a multi-generational family or perhaps a tour group.

The Falls is spectacular. The attractions are well-organized by a tram that you hop on and off throughout the day, stopping at the Aquarium, the Maid of the Mist, the Observation Tower, the Cave of Winds, and all of the other spots. The parklands are gorgeous. The lines at the attractions are well-managed and move right along. A single purchase pass for $30 allows admission to everything. The Maid of the Mist boat ride is an exhilarating experience. But even it is outdone by the Cave of the Winds -- we had so much fun there, getting drenched as we stood with our backs just feet from the falls. If you've never been, you seriously might think about making the trip. Especially if you like Indian food!

One of the best things was the friendliness of the fellow tourists. People laughed together as we got soaked, and remarked on the fun we were having. People of different languages and cultures -- we even saw a group of Amish people, with their "civilian" driver, donning yellow raincoats at the Cave of the Winds -- all enjoying the adventure together.

At breakfast the first morning, we were joined by a family of five -- a pair of young doctors and their daughter, and the wife's parents. From India. We spoke of restaurants; they'd considered the Hard Rock, too, and declined. We recommended the Red Coach. "If you like Indian food," said Meera, "you might try the Punjabi Hut. Their cooking tastes just like my mother's."

Bravely, I mentioned the preponderance of Indian restaurants and sought insight. Meera said that people from India like to visit the Seven Wonders of the World, and Niagara Falls is, of course, on the list. I had known the latter, but certainly not the former.

That night we had dinner at a small place in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada and it was very nice. We never did get to the Punjabi Hut.

Nancy, Near Buffalo