Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weekend (late post)

This weekend I bought stuff from Amish people. That was kind of cool.

There's this place nearby called the Pennsylvania Dutch Market. It took me awhile to decide if these people are really Amish, or just dressed that way, but I've come to the conclusion that nobody would wear their hair like that just for a job. From what I can gather, though it is run by Amish, most of the goods being sold are bought wholesale from elsewhere. Either that, or the Amish have started raising their meat in feedlots & with antibiotics, and slapping 'made in China' tags on thier knick-knacks. Still, it's a neat place, and they make a lot of fresh baking every morning, and soft pretzels which are chewy, salty and amazingly delicious. Writing that made me realize I've skipped lunch!

After the market we swung by the local garden center and picked up some herbs to plant in a window box. I don't have them planted yet, and so far the boys have not tried to eat them, so all's well. Pretty lazy weekend.

Our furniture (the first batch, at least) will be arriving on Wednesday! Yay! It's been like living in a studio apartment, so I'm really looking forward to gettting the bedroom set up... even if it does mean a few days of putting things together.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Think My Next Door Neighbour is John Cena

I'm not a wrestling fan...

But I know who John Cena is...

And I think he lives next door.

Let me start at the beginning. You know my neighbour in 6d? Well, I heard his dog whimpering in the stairwell, so I crept to the door like the nosy neighbour that I am, and peeked through the viewer...

And there he was, John Cena. At least, it looked like him. But the stairwell was a little dim. Still, I'm going with my gut. I'm also not going to be complaining about the noise anytime soon.

Wake Up Call

As I think I've mentioned, our apartment is bordered on 3 sides by a forested area, and we get a lot of birds. The cats LOVE sitting in the window sills and watching them. The loudest are the cardinals, and being bright red, they're easy to spot. I'd never seen one before moving here, so I thought I'd share this with you! The video isn't mine- I've been trying to catch a pic of them for days without any luck.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ooom-pa-pa- Ooom-pa-pa, Boom-Boom-Boom, Weeeyow-Wow- Clang- Olé!

I'd planned on doing a post with a few pictures of the outside of our building, and the community, but that will have to wait. Right now, I need to vent about our neighbours.

The building consists of three outside doors, each letting in to a foyer with mailboxes. There are six steps down to the two garden-level apartments, six steps up to two middle level units, and another two small flights up to two more units. So, six units per door, eighteen per building (well ours at least; many of the other buildings are bigger).

We have a mid-level end unit, so we really only have three neighbours to worry about, the people below us, above us and to the left of us. Let me tell you, it's more than enough.

As I'm writing this, it's 3pm, and next door has had their music on super loud, on and off, for the past 17 hrs. We've never seen our neighbour in 6d. I have no idea who he or she is, but they like to party. And not just on the weekend, apparently. Things will be peaceful, the sun shining, the birds singing, and then the BOOM-BOOM-BOOM starts. The cats are terrified and go hide and I try to ignore it. It was loud enough last night (between 11pm & 4am) to be annoying, but now the noise seems to be permeating the entire apartment. I could wear headphones, but that's not the point.

You may think the walls are thin, but they aren't. Not overly anyway. We hear the downstairs neighbours at mealtimes, mainly because there's a family of at least a dozen Mexicans living in there, and they're happy, passionate people. The kids are always making happy kid sounds, and there's never any angry yelling. They're loud, but at least they're a good loud.

The only noise we hear from the upstairs neighbour is the occasional creaking of the floor boards in the middle of the night. (Thank goodness!!)

A while ago, I'd had enough. I`d been moving/unpacking things all morning, and I was taking a break to have lunch and watch a show. I couldn't hear the dialogue for the BOOM-BOOM-BOOM coming from next door. So I did something I never do. I put on a CD of my own, specially chosen to mix horribly with the din next-door (Florence & the Machine for anyone interested)... and I turned up the volume...

For one song. I just couldn't do it; it's so rude and inconsiderate. Funny thing is, it also worked (temporarily anyway) because the person in 6d left!

Unfortunately, if only half worked. When 6d left, I turned off my music and through the hum of silence and bruised eardrums I could hear more noise. Downstairs is playing what I can only describe as some sort of hybrid Latin-Oom-pa-pa music. Presumably to drown out the rest of us.

Earphones it is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Setting up House

So, I'm home. My new home, that is, in Baltimore County Maryland. I'm still a little bit amazed that I drove across the continent last week. Still settling in.

The apartment is... well, I'm still undecided. The bones are good, but it's clear shortcuts have been taken over the years, and it's not as quiet as we'd hoped. I'll blog more about neighbours later, but lets just say it turns into a Mexican Karaoke Disco around here on weekends. It's not as bad as it sounds though, because it means we don't have to worry too much about the noise we make. Besides, some of those karaoke singers aren't half bad. (but most of them are ALL bad)

When I first got here, I could tell that Sean had done a lot of unpacking and assembling. The living room was basically unpacked, as was the kitchen.

The kitchen is large for a rental apartment (big enough to fit a 4-top kitchen table), but it has about one quarter of the kitchen storage I'm used to, and very limited counter space. I opened the cupboards, and Sean has them well organized, but they're already full... and there's a lot more to go.

Then, I saw the bedrooms. Yikes. These are some of the empty boxes (Sean broke them down shortly after this was taken and we took them out to recycling).

These are just a few of the boxes waiting to be unpacked. Sean's been hard at work, but the truth is, we've run out of places to put things. You may have noticed there's not a lot of furniture... very observant to you. Let me show you some of what we have.

Our media center where we watch TV & movies, play Xbox 360, listen to music and relax.

My office, where I email, surf the web, and blog.

Our bed, where we sleep. (Don't worry- it folds out!) Also the dining room (chairs which double as tv trays not shown) 

Alright, it's not quite as bad as that. We have a kitchen table which is currently being employed as a computer desk & breakfast nook. We have some cabinets and bookshelves. But that's pretty much it. We didn't bring a whole lot with us, because we weren't sure what was going to fit, and it was going to be cheaper to buy new furniture than it was to ship the old (much of which were hand-me-downs and didn't owe us anything).

So what did we do this weekend? Quite a bit. We ordered a butt-load of furniture for one; bed, mattress, chest of drawers, night tables, desk, more bookshelves, etc. This will be the first shipment of several as we paint and get an idea of what we want to do with the space. We've decided to take the second bedroom as ours because it's quieter, and use the master bedroom (which is almost twice as big) as a media room. It'll have a desk with the computers, a sofabed and tv. We'll see what else we can fit in there.

For those of you counting, that means we're going to have 2 guest beds... enough to accommodate a whole family... *hint* hint* Quinns, Brayfords and Kings! We already have some friends who have made plans to come and visit and I can't wait to have them here!!

We also got some phone lines (land & cell) set up, so if you don't already have our numbers, and you want them, let me know!

The rest of the weekend was quiet because we both needed it to be. We did some grocery shopping, a little housework and just spent time together. Nice to be able to do after so long!

Finally, a big thank-you to everyone who followed me across the country, leaving encouraging comments and emails!! It felt good connecting with home every night and sharing my adventures. I'm going to continue blogging both the amazing and the monotonous parts of life here in 'Bawlmer'. I hope you all stick around for the ride and keep in touch! Leave me a note in comments if there's something you'd like me to write about!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 8 on the Road; A Lovely Drive or Storms, Fog and TORNADO!

My last day on the road was eventful and bladder bursting. Probably not two things you want to be together.

I left Toledo around 7:30am after giving a couple from Georgia a jump start. They were absolutely shitting themselves because the weather report was calling for snow, and they were 'Southern People' and 'sick of all this cold weather'. I didn't point out that it was 7 C.

I had noticed the weather forecast, but it sounded like the snow was to start after I was out of Ohio, so I wasn't too worried. Even if they were wrong, I had excellent snow tires and a heavy laden car. Another thing I'd noticed on the news that morning was how many tornadoes had been cropping up in the area. I counted myself lucky to have missed them.

Once on the road, apart from having to pay a horrendous amount in road tolls ($40 over 2 days!!!), life was good. For the first hour at least.

My darling cats, who up until now (barring that first day) had been excellent travellers, decided that 7 days was their cap. After an hour on the road they were miaowing, clawing at their kennel and making other disturbing noises. When I could, I pulled over at a rest stop to check on them. They were really eager to get out of the kennel! I tried them in a litter box; not interested. I let them roam the car and stretch their legs; still noisy and demanding. I gave them pets and attention; not good enough. Finally, I tried feeding them- and bingo, the little gluttons had been jonesing for a second breakfast. Once they'd eaten (and I'd bought a coffee and an air freshener- cat food in an enclosed space = yuck) we were back on the road, and we only stopped for gas and bathrooms for the rest of the day.

I love Pennsylvania. It's dotted with cute little family farms and picturesque communities. It's also hilly, which I like and full of trees (double like).  It actually reminded me a lot of the drive through rural New Brunswick, north-west of Fredericton. I bet it's beautiful in the fall when the leaves are turning.

As lovely as it was, I couldn't spare the time to stop, so all my pictures are taken (quite skillfully, if I do say so myself) over my shoulder with my fingers crossed for luck whilst driving 140 kms/hr. What I do for you people.

While I was snapping a few of these pics, I happened to look over my other shoulder, and nearly wet myself. Tornado!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't believe it! I snapped another quick pic (just in case I got sucked up and spat out, so someone would know what happened), and booted it. As far as I know, it didn't touch down, but it was huge and freaking scary.

After the tornado episode I didn't take any more pictures for awhile, preferring to keep an eye out for further doom. Later, going over some mountains, the fog rolled in really thick, and the rain started coming down. I crossed the Mason-Dixie line, which symbolizes the cultural divide between North-Eastern United States and Southern United States. Once I was into Maryland it was raining as hard as I've ever seen it rain in Vancouver. A strangely appropriate homecoming. 

I got into Baltimore at precisely the worst possible time- right at the beginning of rush hour. Baltimore rush hours are legendary, and now I know why. When I hit the beginning of it, my (piece of shit) GPS told me I was an hour from home, but it actually took me about 2 1/2 hrs. This was partly because when I took the exit the GPS told be to, I was in the right hand exit lane, when I should have been in the inside lane because (unbeknownst to me) I needed to make an immediate left. Of course, nobody in that left lane was at all interested in letting me in, so I had to loop around on to another highway and come back around again. Bad time to have to pee.

On my way around I stopped at a light and the elderly gentleman in the car in front of me got out and told me he'd broken down. He didn't have a cell phone, so I offered him mine, but he was confused and couldn't remember his number. I stayed with him for about 20 minutes and we tried every number he could think of, and finally got a hold of his niece who was going to send one of her boys to pick the fellow (Mr. Page) up. I offered to stay, but he said he'd be ok, and I told him to stay in his car and put on his hazard lights. The whole time we were there, not another person stopped, but we did get honked at about a billion times. Not very heartening, but I guess that's a big city in rush hour.

Finally getting home to Sean was worth the 8 days of driving, dingy hotels and drive-thru dining. After half an hour it felt like we'd never been apart. I had an amazing adventure, but it's nice to be home.

Today's drive: 778 kms in 10 hrs.
Starting point; Toledo, OH.
Terminus; Cockeysville, MD (Yupp, that's the town where I live, 40 mins north of Baltimore)

Audiobooks: The Taken: A Hazel Micallef Mystery
Albums: The Fame Monster [Deluxe Edition]

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Honey, I'm HOME!

We got here safe and sound! Saw a tornado on the way, and drove through a crazy rain storm, but managed to stay on the road, so gold star for me. More this weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 7 on the Road: Chicaaaago! or Holy Toledo!.


I've decided that most of the pictures speak for themselves, but I'll just add a few things. First off, one of my main objectives in visiting Chicago was to eat a Chicago-style Hot Dog. Those of you who know me well will attest to the fact that as snobby as I am about food, and as much as I love to eat at super-fancy or trendy restaurants and enjoy fine dining, my favourite thing in the world to eat, bar none, is a really good hot dog.

There's a little Jewish deli with a couple of locations in Vancouver called Kaplans. Maybe you've been? Well, if you like pastrami on rye with a side of latkes, this is your place (but you might want to share your plate with a friend- just sayin'). Well, on a visit there a few years ago I had the 'Chicago Dog', which according to Wikipedia, is 
"a steamed or water-simmered, kosher-style, all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, originating from the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish (often a dyed neon-green variety, sometimes called piccalilli), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be "dragged through the garden" because of the unique combination of condiments."
All I can say is I fell in love. And here I was, in the vicinity of Chicago- it was hot dog time!!

Unfortunately, hot dogs don't exist. At least, that is what I found to be the case in Chicago. I only had an hour and a half, and I spent the whole time walking and snapping pics and keeping my eyes peeled for a hot dog stand. I was also using my yoga training to take super deep breaths through my nose to try to sniff one out. I'll tell ya, I smelled a lot of things that day, not all of them good, and none of them hot dog.

If this weren't reason enough to go back, I absolutely loved the city. It smacked me across the face how huge it was, and how quintessentially American. We'll definitely be back before the year is out, and next time I'll be prepared.

Today's drive: 580 kms in 9 hrs. (including detour to Chicago, f*%# up with hotel booking, and GPS taking me to the wrong (2nd) hotel)
Starting point; Princeton, IL.
Terminus; Toledo, OH.

Audiobooks: The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, Book 1) (my personal opinion- absolute crap),
Albums: The Fame Monster [Deluxe Edition] The King Is Dead

Today, I took an hour & a half out of my drive and I went to Chicago and saw as much as I could. Chicago is such an amazing city. I walked around gawking at the skyline with a goofy grin on my face. I can't wait to go back!
It's been a long day, and I had some trouble finding a hotel, so I'm just going to post these pics, and I'll fill in a post later. Tomorrow I think I'll get an early start, and make the great push to Baltimore. It's a little further than I normally drive, but I'm sooo close, I have to go for it! So, you might not hear from me tomorrow either. Sorry everybody! I promise I'll finish this up really soon! I'm off to bed!

First traffic of the trip
Michigan Ave
Chicago Library
Corner of Michigan and Monroe
Chicago Athletic Society Building
Alley- look at the awesome fire escapes!

Wrigley Square
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Bandstand & Great Lawn
The Cloud Gate

Self Portrait
Under the Cloud Gate
A maple leaf I drew on the underside of the cloud gate
Chicago Art Institute
Bust of the famous conductor, George Solti
Crown Fountain

Painted (dead) trees in Lincoln Park
Max, having a bath
Leo, napping yesterday- just too cute not to share.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 6 on the Road: Move Over, Coming Through! or How'd I get to Iowa?

Today was great. Had a good sleep and was on the road by 7:30am. The temperature was only around 0 C, so I didn't even have to scrape the windshield, which is always a good thing. Just as we were getting ready to go, I heard the weirdest sound. It was something like a whole bunch of sirens far off in the distance. It took me a minute or two to figure out that is was hundreds (maybe thousands) of Canada geese camping out in a nearby wetland. The boys thought is was pretty awesome too.

Nebraska was not my cup of tea. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the place made me uneasy. Could've been all the flat, wide, open fields; could have been all the hillbillies. I don't know. This morning we crossed the state line... into Iowa! The funny thing is, I didn't realize we would be passing through Iowa! I also didn't realize we'd be driving through Indiana or Ohio! I guess what happened is I was focusing on the cities & states I'd be stopping in, and just sort of... skipped over the rest of it. So, for your education as well as my own, here's the run down of the states I've passed through and the ones to come!

  • Been through: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa & Illinois.
  • To come: Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland.

I stopped by a rest stop shortly after crossing into Iowa. There was a lady there named Melody (my Sister' name!) whose job it was to direct travellers to whatever they were looking for. I told her I wanted to take a few pictures of some cool things that wouldn't take me too far out of my way, and she hooked me up! I really enjoyed driving through Iowa. It's less prairie-like than Wyoming & Nebraska, and it actually has trees! The landscape is very pastoral and calming.

This is an authentic Danish windmill build in 1848 and transported to Elk Horn, Iowa in 1976. Apparently it is a pretty big deal. It cost the locals $100,000 at the time to have it brought over. You can climb around inside and visit the gift shop and museum, but it was so freaking windy and cold, I just wanted to get back in the car and crank the heat. I did however support the local economy by buying gas and a delicious Cheddar, Pear & Bacon sandwich (on homemade multigrain bread) at the local diner called 'Good Eats'. Yes it was. I just love fruit in sandwiches. And salads. Yes, I'm kinda weird.

This picture is for my friend Eunice, who is clearly very fond of bronze busts (that sounded dirty, didn't it?). Sorry about that. I don't know why they had a bust of Hans Christian Andersen in Elk Horn, except for the reason he was Danish. Maybe that was enough. Or maybe he was on sale.

The next landmark is a sombre one. There used to be a huge graffiti rock in Greenfield, Iowa, where kids would go to let off some steam or make some fringe art statements. Then one year, a local artist named (I kid you not) Bubba Sorensen decided to paint it for Memorial Day as a tribute to the area's fallen military men & women. He's been doing it every year now for over ten years, with a new fresco every Memorial Day. Some local families were so moved that they wanted to scatter their loved ones' ashes at the site, but it was pointed out that the spot is quite windy, and that wouldn't end well. Instead, Bubba suggested they put the boys' ashes in his green paint, so a part of them would be there forever. To date, the ashes of 20 service men & women have been painted on Freedom Rock.

On a different note, today I crossed the mighty Mississippi River! Yes, it does go all the way up to Illinois! Actually, it flows down from Illinois (or somewhere else, I'm not entirely sure because Leo is napping on the map). 

Proof that I made it into Illinois. I had great plans to capture every State sign as I passed it, but the truth is, many of them are placed where there is nowhere to pull over, and occasionally (like in the case of Oregon), there is no sign at all- at least not where I was driving.

Tonight I'm staying in a real dive. I won't go into the details because if you are eating, you might throw up on your keyboard and demand restitution. Originally I thought it was about 2% better than the motel in Baker City, but now I've decided that it is in fact worse. Again, I'm not going in to details, that way it will be easier to forget.

Max and Leo are OK with it though. Can you spot Leo?

Max was helping me plot tomorrow's trip with my smart phone & GPS. Now he's taking a well deserved break.

Leo's more old-school, he's all over the maps.

Travelling is exhausting for everyone.

Today's drive: 827 kms in 9 hrs.
Starting point; Grand Island, NE.
Terminus; Princeton, IL.

Audiobooks: Hull Zero Three (if you like Sci Fi, dystopian fiction, or even a good mystery, you should read this book! It was amazing!)
Albums: The ArchAndroid