Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Will the Real Fig Newton Please Stand Up?

About five or six years ago, my mother gave me a fig tree sapling. I planted it with little expectations. My thumb is not green and I'm pretty sure I live in the wrong climate where figs will flourish. But the tree grew and grew. It bore fruit for the first time two summers ago. By fruit, I mean one or two figs ripened to edible. The rest stayed small, hard, green and ignored by the birds and even our ravenous Maryland black squirrel. Last summer, the harvest was little better; we had a two handfuls of edible figs. The birds and squirrels still weren't biting.

My fig tree must like it here if this summer's crop is an indication. This year we've had a bumper crop. In the last week alone, at least sixty figs have made it from the tree into my kitchen. Countless others have been eaten or shared before making it all the way to the fridge. And there are probably that many more yet to ripen on the tree. They are so sweet and delicious. The kids love them right off the tree.
The birds and squirrels don't know what they are missing.

But what do you do with that many figs? Why, you make Newtons, of course!

I searched the web and found a few recipes to choose from. I made some personal adjustments to the recipes I found. With great pleasure, I give you the Real Newton:

The Real Newton Filling:

1 pound fresh figs, remove stems and then dice
1/2 cup water
Soak the diced figs in water for one hour. Then add

1/2 cup sugar

And cook over medium heat until it takes on a thin jam-like consistency. Set aside.

The Real Newton Batter:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the above ingredients together with hand mixer. Then mix in dry ingredients.

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix well then refrigerate for one hour.

My batter was in the fridge for about three hours because dinner, baseball practice and a last minute trip to the pool were also on the schedule tonight. But the batter was just fine even after the extra time in the fridge.

After the batter has chilled and the fig filling is ready, knead the dough about five or six times on a floured surface. 

Divide the dough in halves. Roll one half in a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the fig filling over this layer.

Roll the remaining half of dough on the floured surface. Carefully place the rolled out dough on top of the filling layer. This is tricky because the dough is thin (about 1/4 inch) and hard to handle without tearing. 

After a few failed attempts, I folded my top layer dough over in about four folds while on the floured surface, laid the folded dough on one end of the filling layer and unfolded it until it covered the whole newton in the pan. It's not exactly uniform or pretty but what did you's made with my hands not a calibrated machine!

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Lift by edges of parchment paper out of pan. Let cool then cut in squares. Devour.

My sons said they were better than the commercial Fig Newtons. Now I recognize that they don't really consider the commercial Fig Newtons a true treat. They are less than cookies in their minds. But then the boys added that these fig newtons might be the best thing I have ever baked. That is high praise.

Recipe notes: If you don't have a fig tree, you can still make these. Other recipes I found allowed for 1 lb. dried figs but then increase soaking water amount to 1 cup.

Also, other recipes called for milk or cream. I met in the middle and used half and half. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just the Dog and Me

Today was the easiest back to school day in our history. Everybody was up and at 'em on time. Backpacks were organized and packed a few weeks ahead of time. Lunches were made the night before, ready and waiting in the fridge. New shoes had been purchased recently and were broken in just enough. Even the traditional first day of school photo shoot went smoothly. No nerves to muck things up, as we may have sensed in prior years.   Both boys were excited for the day ahead.

The dog and I will be waiting to hear all about it this afternoon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back To School Fragments

This is the last Friday of our summer 2012. 
  • I know my boys had a full summer break. I reminded them earlier this week that this was their last week of summer and offered them the last chance to do anything they had hoped to do this summer but hadn't done yet. Day trip to DC? A visit to one of the local lake "beaches"? Sleep outside in the backyard? They declined these and came up with no real alternatives. Actually, their alternative was to have as much unscheduled time as possible. They know what the next nine months hold for them as far as demands on their free time. So this week has been theirs to do as they wish. 

  • And that is very real and shouldn't be squandered. When was the last time you had several days of uninterrupted time do whatever struck your fancy? I've let my kids have as much as possible around the few doctors appointments and mandatory back to school errands I have managed to squeeze into this week.
  • My son's middle school has a new principal this year. We went to his back to school night last night. Let me just say that I am thrilled so far with the new principal. If first impressions are true, we have a dynamic, professional, effective principal in our midst. He has already implemented some very needed changes to the overall running of our school. He conveyed his vision of excellence for our students and teachers. He set the bar high for performance and behavior. And he seemed nice and fun to boot. I hope I am right.
  • Both of my boys will have teachers this year that look like I could be their mother. I could be there mother in an alternative universe where I had children at an age too young to be trusted with children of my own.  Actually, if chronology is all we are concerned with, yes I could mathematically be their mother. This is not a comment on my expectation of the effectiveness of these teachers or the knowledge and skills of these able young women. It is a comment on how young new professionals look to me. I suppose my face looked as clean scrubbed when I showed up for my first day (and several subsequent years) of work with my newly earned CPA license all those years ago. 

  • I have one niece who just graduated in the spring with her education degree and is in a Master's program this fall. She is beginning her teaching career as young and fresh faced as my sons' new teachers. I am sure if I walked into her classroom with my 12-year-old, I would have the same reaction. But I know my niece and her lifelong desire to teach and her love of kids. She will make a great teacher. I can only assume these young women are cut from a similar cloth and my kids will be in their very energetic, capable hands.
  • At back to school night, the new principal asked the parents to complete the following sentence, "This year I will make history at our school by..." These unfinished sentences were found on half sheets of paper scattered tabletop around the cafetorium. (I love that word...found only in public schools.) We parents were asked to write our projected historical contributions and slip them into bins as we exited the cafetorium (there it is again.)  For the record, I despise open-ended sentences that require me to commit to something in the future (think...In five years, I will be....I don't know!) 

  • Anyway, the easy answer would have been to write something like "streaking" because this was to be written anonymously. And if you want to make history at least briefly, streaking is a quick and inexpensive (depending on how costly indecent exposure convictions run in your area) way to do it. But I knew that's not what he was looking for and my son was reading over my shoulder. So I committed in writing to be heavily involved in my son's education and to be a source of support for him and his teachers. That may not sound like the makings of history; it's what I always do.  But it will be a much more welcomed contribution than my streaking.
  • Happy Back to School!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

45 And Countin' em Down

Last week I threw out the idea that I was considering a personal challenge to further expand on my list of 45 Things I Know Right Now and blog about each list item. I have a few cheerleaders out there saying I should do it.

One reason to do this would be to infuse some direction and commitment to my blog. My blog has always been a place of unpredictability and surprise. You can't expect to see me routinely participating in weekly blog games or having my own predictable structure. Apparently, I don't have the discipline for such routine. Frequently, I surprise myself by what and when I post. But that spontaneity has turned into an act of floundering. The structure of knowing I have at least 45 topics to tackle may help to cure my case of the blogger blues.

Another key impetus is for me to personally explore those sweeping statements I made. My list simmered in my head over a few days and was boiled down to the top 45 right before I published. By taking on each list item individually, I can fully understand why each was thrown into the pot. For example, I know I said
1. Family relationships can be the most challenging and gratifying ones -high stakes but grand rewards.
But what do I really mean by that? I need to get deeper into that and all the others statements to make sure my list is complete and accurate. My husband paid me a great compliment after he read the list. He said he really thought I captured a fair representation of myself and how I try to live my life, which could be support for
25. Honesty and integrity are the most important traits of healthy relationships...with yourself and others. 
As I take on this challenge, I better be careful though not to become the object of my own proclamation that
33.  An unexamined life is not worth living (credited to Socrates) but an overanalyzed one without change or action is tiresome (credited to me). 
So through this process, I will do my exploration with the goal of amending my list and my life if needed changes are discovered along the way. And I will be sure to remember that
17. There is humor in everything.
Otherwise, no one (including me) will want to keep up with this exercise.

With that, I have convinced myself to take my personal challenge. I do need to set some parameters though. To be clear, I will NOT be doing all 45 items within 45 days. I can't blog on a daily basis and I know it. I'll loosely set a 45 week deadline. I can work within that.

And I won't be addressing the list in numerical order. I will stick with my tried and true approach to blogging of unpredictability and surprise and blog what's on my mind at the time. So I'll be jumping all around my list. Don't you worry; it will be my own little mess to keep up with what numbers I have and haven't addressed. You won't have to do a thing to keep it straight.

Just so you know, I'll likely tackle the easier topics first. Which proves my point of

25. Many things you don't want to do are precisely the things that you should do.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Schooled - A Bicycle Built for Who?

I usually reserve my Sunday Schooled posts for things that I have learned from my kids or have otherwise learned from the humbling school of parenting experience. Today's post is not about something I learned from my kids but about something I learned from the world. And you could learn a little something here too.

Today we learn about penny-farthings.

Penny-farthings or high wheel bicycles are what you might think of as the old-fashioned, original bicycles popular in the late 1800s. Their name comes respectively from the British coins of differing sizes, big penny in the front, little farthing in the back. In America, we might have called them "quarter-dimes" but that doesn't have a nice ring to it at all, even if you do say it with a British accent.

Although their popularity was curbed by the invention of the safety bike (similar to current models today) in the 1880s, penny-farthings can still be found. There are associations, groups and all sorts of fanciful folks around the world intent on keeping the heritage of high wheel bicyling alive. Just yesterday, my quaint little town hosted the

As one of the events in the weekend long Tour de Frederick, The Frederick Clustered Spires High Wheel Race involved a half-mile circuit course through our historic downtown. Riders looped their antiquated looking contraptions around the city blocks to the thrill of the gathering crowd. It is what I would call a spectacle. And it was spectacular.

Apparently, penny-farthings riders are not only unique in their mode of transporation, but also in their fashion sense. Riders wore knickers, lederhosen, argyle socks, jockey silks, and business attire. One female rider finished off her look with black pumps. And yes, there was one rider with a handlebar mustache.

Penny-farthings were a bit dangerous. Way back in the Victorian Era, high wheel riders were falling headfirst over the big penny wheel, many times to their death. Thus the phrase "taking a header" was coined. Cobblestones are unforgiving to those who don't wear helmets.

Seeing high wheelers perched atop their machines can only make you smile. Most public events today are centered around serious competition. I am sure that these high wheelers have grand standards for themselves in their endeavors, but I suspect they all have a very healthy sense of humor to go along with their sense of adventure. I think the word whimsy has to be found somewhere nearby when you talk about high wheelers.

Unknown Mami

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Fragments - I'm Back

I think I am getting my blogging groove back a bit. I lost my vim for it during the past year. Blogging, or at least my blogging, seemed like such a nonsense thing to do while such serious life issues were occurring.
I told my sister-in-law, Anna's mom, that given what had happened, my blog didn't matter in comparison.  In her unbelievably grounded way, she quickly responded that given what happened, my blog mattered even more. Sure it's just a blog, but it is a part of me and what I do and how I express myself and how I share with my boys and family. Life must march on and to shut down a good albeit tiny part of it would be a further tragedy.

Anna really liked my blog. She asked me once during the past year why I had all but stopped blogging. I think she knew why. My blogger voice was lodged in the back of my throat, caught on a sob. I worried if I let a little bit out, I wouldn't be able to control the flood of emotion that would spring forth. I mealy-mouthed an answer for her about being busy and not feeling very creative. It was true that I wasn't feeling creative and I was really busy praying and worrying about her.
Friday Fragments may seem an odd place to state all this. But it's a place to throw myself out to the internet masses and say "I'm back!" or at least say "I am back for today."  For Anna.
So here's what going on in my own little fragmented world:

  • 10 days until my boys start back to school. It's an easy sound bite for stay-at-home moms to say they can't wait for that day. But I am not ready and would be fine if it didn't happen. They could stay home with me and be my little ignoramuses, as my Oma used to say. I have really enjoyed being with them this summer. The start of another school year is as monumental to me as a birthday. It symbolizes transition. This particular transition is very bittersweet. You can ask me how I feel after school has been in session for about two weeks. I will be enjoying it to the fullest. But I really will miss my kids.

  • My oldest son and I are helping one of his fellow Scouts on his Eagle project tomorrow. We will be removing an invasive species, Japanese Barberry, from the Catoctin moutains. This stuff is the kudzu of the northeast. This will be hard work given the heat and the sharp spines on barberry branches. But we are so happy to be helping this Scout move one step closer toward Eagle.

  • Both of my boys participated in sleepovers last night. Helios stayed over at a friend's house while Leonardo hosted one of his friends here. Just for the record, I am not a fan of sleepovers. There is very little sleep involved and the next day everyone pays for it in crankiness. I do remember my sleepover days with fondness though. I'll allow them as a right of passage. But not too often.

  • My husband did get me a little something to open for my birthday yesterday. Even though I picked out my own early birthday present gift, he surprised me with two pendants. He has a knack for selecting necklaces for me that I always love and that always garner notice and comments from others. Because of him, I have collected enough necklaces to wear a different every day for at least two weeks. Today I will be wearing my new gemmed sunflower pendant and the next day my new silver heart locket. I think this is my first locket in my life. How do you get tiny pictures in those things?

  • As a way of keeping my blogging groove going, I am considering taking on the personal blog challenge of posting on each of the 45 topics I set forth yesterday. I would expand on each of the statements I made in my list of "45 Things I Know Right Now". Historically, I have stunk (or is it stinked or stank) at blog challenges and other blogger games. But people can change. What do you think, should I go for it? Does anyone care to hear my deeper thoughts about the things on my list? Or is that a bad idea and I've said too much already?
Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Party in My Head

When you are a kid, birthdays are all about the party, the cake and the gifts. It's my birthday week but I am definitely not a kid. Even so, I'm still all about the cake and the gifts, but not so much about the party. Dinner out with the family is my idea of a birthday celebration. It doesn't have to be fancy, just good food and a good time is all I require.

About the gifts, I'm pretty easy to please actually and bought my own early birthday present a few weeks ago...a Nook. I suppose the family will get me a little something to open, because I don't mind that, just a little something. But I am blessed and have more than I need. And I really do feel like it is the thought that matters most.

And cake.

Speaking of thought, I've been thinking a lot lately. Since this is somewhat of a milestone birthday for me, I thought I would write a list of what the past X number of years has taught me. Taking stock is a good thing and I'd like to see where I am at this cusp in my life. Given it's my birthday, I thought I should make a list as long as I am old. For an organized, order-freak like me, this is really like a party in my head.

I started my list and needed it to manageable. Making a list as long as I am old was a daunting task at first. I initially made a list of categories in which my principles might fall. The categories reflect the stage of life where I find myself...middle age.  Ewww. By definition, I am early middle age. I'm not going to agree to that label. I don't feel middle aged, early or otherwise. I feel just like, no I feel even better for the most part, than I felt a few decades ago. But a few decades ago, I wasn't really even thinking about how I felt. I guess if you toss about phrases like "a few decades ago" in reference to yourself, you must be at least middle aged. Pooh.

Anyway, my categories were Marriage, Parenting, Family, Spirituality and Self. I started listing what I have learned and come to believe in my number of years on this earth. A funny thing happened. Many of the items on my list crossed categories. One thing that I thought about marriage was equally applicable to parenting. Principles I hold true for my self are just as true when I hold them up in the realm of dealing with family. So I dispensed with the categories and just made my list and smiled when I noticed the crossovers.

On the eve of the beginning of the second half of my life (isn't that what mid-life is?), I bring forth this list of life principles, truths really, that I try to live by. Some of these are ideals which I fall short of many times. Some of these are beliefs that work for me alone. Some of these will work for everyone. I just hope I am passing the universal ones along to my children.

45 Things I Know Right Now

  1. Family relationships can be the most challenging and gratifying ones -high stakes but grand rewards.
  2. The relationships and people in your life are there for your spiritual growth. Treat them with the respect you would give to a spiritual teacher.
  3. Parenting is a parent's primary role; all else is secondary. That may mean going to work everyday or reading to your child or taking care of yourself. Do them all with the well-being of your child in mind.
  4. There is an ebb and flow in parenting. Sometimes you are on duty, other times you are merely on call. Take up your hobbies when you are on call, not when you are on duty.
  5. Marriage requires fun, focus, flexibility and forgiveness.
  6. Quality family time together, known in our house as Forced Family Fun, is mandatory and will continue to be so, especially through the teen years.
  7. It's better to eat real butter, sugar and fats than to eat all the fake stuff.
  8. The one skill to develop that will positively impact EVERY aspect of your life is listening.
  9. Equal parenting does not mean parents do everything 50/50. It means each parent executes their role 100% and yes, the roles are different.
  10. When in doubt, hug.
  11. Men and women truly do think differently about most everything. To operate under a different assumption is crazy.
  12. The amount of screen time (TV, computers, handheld games and phones) spent is inversely proportional to the amount of creativity and self-reliance a person exhibits.
  13. No one but you can make you happy.
  14. You can't make someone change.
  15. Be kind to everyone; we all are carrying some load.
  16. If you can't be kind, kindly remove yourself.
  17. There is humor in everything.
  18. Even if it seems irreverent, the humor may be what gets you through.
  19. Regardless of appearances to the contrary, everyone has challenges in life. How you deal with your challenges dictates how significant they become to you.
  20. There is great joy and satisfaction in giving and doing for others.
  21. Dogs really are better than cats.
  22. There is a difference between happiness and having fun. Our culture emphasizes having fun. The current generations are devolving in the ability to cultivate their own happiness and contentedness.
  23. Tell the people you love that you do.
  24. When doubt persists, hug harder and longer.
  25. Honesty and integrity are the most important traits of healthy relationships...with yourself and others.
  26. In most cases, it's better to be happy than right. If happy and right can't peacefully coexist within you, reconsider why you think you are right.
  27. Always send thank you notes.
  28. Many things you don't want to do are precisely the things that you should do.
  29. Own your mistakes. They lose their power when you embrace them.
  30. Breathe deeply and consciously.
  31. Be quiet sometimes.
  32. We are not meant to understand or control everything.
  33. An unexamined life is not worth living (credited to Socrates) but an overanalyzed one without change or action is tiresome (credited to me).
  34. Marketing to kids is wrong and sabotages parental credibility and responsibility.
  35. Pick your friends wisely. You don't need an ever expanding group of friends, just some really good quality ones. Any more are just distractions.
  36. It's good to be alone sometime.
  37. God is.
  38. If you want something kept private, don't write it down (credited to my Oma circa 1970s). To make it more current, if you want something kept private, don't write it down, take a picture of it, text it, say it to a voicemail, put it on the internet or do it where there may be cameras which is pretty much everywhere these days.
  39. Sometimes all you need is to get outside for a while.
  40. The Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount pretty much cover it.
  41. Yoga without the attention to breath is just a bunch of weird body postures and parlor tricks.
  42. Make your house the ones that your kids and their friends want to hang out in. Make it appealing to them not because you are excessively permissive and are checked out but that your house is fun and the whole family is checked in. The good kids and the kids who need it most will flock to your house.
  43. If you don't invest your time, contribute your money or exercise your right to vote, please don't complain.
  44. Forty-five is the new age you want to be.
  45. Take pictures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's Your Perspective?

Perspective is a funny thing. The position from which you view something drastically effects the way you judge that thing. We could be talking about half-full glasses or political issues. But since I feel like keeping things light, I'm talking Niagara Falls. Plus, I haven't shown you all our vacation photos yet.

On the American Falls side, there is a viewing platform high atop an observation tower that sits 282 feet above the Niagara Gorge.

That's about 28 stories if you were inside a high-rise. But you are not, you are outside on a cement platform which you can hang your head right over and see this.

That's the Maid of the Mist way down there. We felt like giants capable of crushing that tiny boat.

But once we made our own way down to the boat, we didn't feel quite so powerful anymore.

In fact, we felt quite helpless at the mercy of thousands of gallons of rushing water making its way from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

And at the mercy of the boat captian who I am sure was highly competent and had made this particular short but technically difficult trip many times without incident. And was hopefully still sober at 10:00 a.m.

I was surprised to learn that the average depth of the water below the falls is about 170 feet which is as deep as the banks are high. I was even happier to learn that after we got off the boat. Such power above and below and all around puts lots of things in perspective.

Once we were put back in our insignificant place by the majesty of the falls, we decided that we still needed to take it all in from a different the dark.

Niagara at night may be even prettier than by day.

The good people of Canada light up the falls at night, using some of the millions of kilowatts generated by the falling water.

And if you are lucky like we were on our visit, the full moon provides even more perspective.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Butterfly Effect

So much can happen in a year.

Four generations of monarch butterflies come and go within one year.

One year ago, our family was left breathless from the wholly unexpected diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in our beloved Anna. From the moment of diagnosis forward, Anna touched thousands of lives through her hope, faith and grace. I say thousands and I mean that number. Her Caring Bridge page as of this writing has a rising count of over 89,000 visits. Because of Anna, hundreds of people registered this year for Be the Match through drives sponsored in Anna's honor. Countless others were inspired to register at home through the online registry and home test kit. At least two of those new registrations have resulted in bone marrow matches for patients in need. Because of Anna, hundreds of people have donated thousands and thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life . Because of Anna, the youth program at Anna's local church of choice will benefit from the thousands and thousands of dollars donated to Anna's Memorial Fund. Because of Anna, countless relationships with family and friends have been renewed, restored and resurrected.

The Butterfly Effect is mathematical theory in which changes in one place have dramatic impact on larger and later states. Like the flap of a butterfly wing setting off a hurricane. Or a singular girl with cancer rallying thousands to dramatic life changes.

In this year while we held our breath, Anna did this all from a hospital bed, setting foot outside a hospital for only 18 days during the nine months of her hospitalization. Many of the people touched by Anna's story never even met her. They followed her story on Caring Bridge. Her story there was not strictly one of blood tests, chemo treatments and surgeries, although those events were the stage for her story. The more intricate plot of her story was the one of positivity and hope. Even in the face of the unbelievable, Anna believed that she would prevail. And she did. Anna was cancer-free, something she was very insistent that we all know.

The fourth generation monarch butterfly is the only one that makes the infamous migration. This southern migration can take up to seven months.

In the three months since Anna's passing, we still have not fully exhaled. It takes time to learn to breathe deeply again and release nine months of bated breath.

Just over three months ago, we, Anna's family, met on a mountaintop in East Tennessee to celebrate her life. It was private, with Anna's most loved gathered together in family and fellowship, just the way Anna wanted it.

There are six cousins now more deeply connected by their shared love and loss of Anna.

The older cousins contributed their voices in scripture, reading select verses that described Anna's character traits of

fighting spirit

Anna possessed these traits in her life before AML.
AML only served to magnify them for the rest of us to see in her.
And to look for in ourselves.

There was music and laughter and prayer, just the way Anna wanted it.

The younger cousins, my boys, participated by releasing 17 monarch butterflies at the end of the service, one for each year of Anna's life.

The butterflies emerged one by one from their accordion-folded hibernation.

Some took their time and lingered, not quite ready to go on their way.

Some emerged quickly and were off into the tall trees before we could follow their path.

Some did what butterflies do...sought out color.

And they made us smile when little else could.

Because of Anna, I won't see a monarch again without my heart fluttering a bit.

Two of the monarchs couldn't fly away that day. They stayed with us and now reside on our walls as a constant connection to Anna.  Each time I look, I try to breathe a bit deeper.

I understand Anna's story about as much as I understand how a fourth generation monarch knows it is the one to make the arduous migration. There are things that I am not meant to grasp. But I do understand that like the migrating monarch, Anna's story does not end after her journey. Migrating monarchs and Anna set change in motion. Neverminding great personal cost, they start new generations of beauty, hope and change.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chasing Rainbows, Niagara Style

Rainbows lack practicality. They serve only to give us brief moments of awe and appreciation if we take the time to notice. In that way, they are much like vacations. We spent much of our vacation chasing rainbows, not in the pursuit of the impossible but in the touristy, Niagara Falls way.

We visited on a beautiful sunny day. The only humidity in the air was that being produced by the Falls themselves: the infamous mist. On sunny days at Niagara when you are positioned at just the precise angle, you perceive a phenomenon emerging from the mist: a rainbow.

If the grandeur of the Falls alone isn't enough to stop you in your flipflops,

the added bonus of a rainbow should do it.

Not impressed yet? How about a double rainbow!

I found out that you don't have to be positioned at just the precise angle to be party to the rainbow phenomenon at Niagara, as you can see from the selected images I've shown here. The day we were there, you could walk along the American Falls overlook and follow the rainbow all morning.

Just so you know, I took around 150 pictures our first morning at the Falls and I estimate 100 of them included rainbows. I may have gone a bit overboard. Count yourself lucky to only have to see 3 of the 100 shots. Even I was getting a wee bit tired of the things around shot 98. As a photographer slightly obsessed with light, the challenge of shooting the visible light spectrum and capturing the most vibrant rainbow was nearly too much for my family to handle. They actually deserted me at one point because I wouldn't move forward from my vantage point. They apparently wanted to see more of the Falls.

Rainbows at Niagara make you do crazy things. Take this young man for instance proposing to his sweet young love right in front of us and several hundred other tourists at the base of the American Falls. He was crazy in love and I am sure the rainbow pushed him right over the edge. Or he had been planning this for months and the rainbow made it just that much more perfect. You decide.

I'm glad she said, "Yes!" or we may have witnessed a suicidal, man-in-a-barrel stunt over the Falls. I imagine this is the last thing a man in a barrel might see right before his life flashes before his eyes.

I wonder if my hypothetical barrel rider would have noticed that faint rainbow he was about to pass through? 

I wasn't prepared for the awe inspiring views the Falls offer. I had been there once in high school but my memories of that trip are as foggy and socked in as that winter day in the mid 80s. That's me on the upper right in the back. And that's a big honking slab of ice on the far lower right. Who goes to Niagara in winter??

That day in the 80s (years not temp) was not the best Falls viewing day, being rainy and oh so cold. We were only in the area for a few hours and had to take in whatever sights we could. That day, visibility was limited to a few feet and the only real sense of the grandeur just beyond the mist was the thundering sound of the rushing water. It sounded immense.

And speaking of thunder, the sound of approximately 750,000 gallons of water per second rushing over a 170 foot drop is well...thundering. That's about 1.4 million 2-liter bottles of Canada Dry Ginger Ale per second being spilled over those of you who need a practical example to relate.

And while we are on the subject of Canada, I must admit that the Canadian Falls are in all ways prettier than the American Falls. The Canadians claim the largest section, by water volume and height, of the Falls. The Horseshoe Falls are on Canadian soil. Ninety percent of Niagara's water volume plummets over the Canadian Falls. More water equals more ooohs and awe!

We stood right next to the base of Horseshoe Falls. That's us in the yellow.

We know that this is on the Canadian side not only because of the yellow ponchos but we remember this picture was taken shortly after the cavity search administered upon entering the Canadian border......
Just kidding!

Seriously, if it were the American side, we'd all be in blue.

Another thing that makes the Canadian side better is that they get a full view the American Falls from their side of the river. We only see the Canadian Falls at an odd angle from American soil.

That's the Canadian view of American Falls in the background. As an aside, there is so much water flowing over these falls that the Canadians actually bottle it, as Helios expertly displays above, and sell it for 5 loonies. So as to not lose out on any tourist commerce, the Americans also sell Falls water on our side for $5.00 in U.S currency. I like the Canadian term, loonies, for their dollars. If our economy keeps following its recent course, maybe we should adopt the term as well for our dollars. When numbers get too far into the trillions, it all seems loony to me.

But I can forget about all sorts of unpleasant things and find awe and appreciation, when I think back on our family Niagara vacation and our very real pursuit of rainbows.