In mid-March, I turned 37 years old.  Eeeek, I’m officially in my late thirties!  You know it’s bad when your dad calls you to wish you a happy birthday and he sounds depressed at how old you are!  Thanks, Dad!  🙂  I worked on my actual birthday, but decided to take the Friday and Monday off the following week, giving me a nice long weekend.  When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I used to throw myself these week long “birthday extravaganzas” but haven’t done that in years.  Until now.  Firstly, I wanted to have “birthday nachos,” so voila!











To some, these nachos may appear sad and unimaginative, but not to me!  They were everything I dreamed that they would be!  Then, Tom surprised me with some delicious pastries.  Note the reuse of the 3 and 7 candles, hehe.










So what’s a girl to do to celebrate a week long birthday extravaganza?  Why, go to Rochester, NY, of course!  Why Rochester, you ask?  I don’t know…perhaps the TOY HALL OF FAME at the Museum of Play?!?!?!  Eh?  So everything started off fine, we went and had a Cracker Barrel breakfast near our house.  No pictures because…it’s Cracker Barrel…big deal!  🙂  This place is a very occasional guilty pleasure indulgence of ours, especially if we’re starting a weekend trip.  I don’t know why, it’s a bit of a weird tradition with us!  Then we returned to the house and were lollygagging around as usual and left for our trip a bit later than anticipated.  No biggie, eh?  Well not so far (oooooh, am I foreshadowing here?).

Alrighty!  Our first stop was the Catamount People’s Museum in Catskill, NY.  It was very overcast by the time we got to Catskill, and the particular place we were going to was in a part of town that  had clearly seen better days.  I sort of had the heebie jeebies.  Now, I fully realize that I get the heebie jeebies a lot when I go on the road, but this doesn’t mean that I dislike where I am, or don’t want to explore it in further detail, I just get a slight hinky vibe.  But then a total stranger stopped me in the street and very enthusiastically complimented the duct tape handbag that I made myself.  So Jolie and Catskill?  We’re cool!  🙂







So ladies and gentlemen!  I present to you, the Catamount People’s Museum!!!









What is it, you ask?  It’s almost like a big tent, but it’s made by a local artist out of scrap wood and it houses all sorts of local information.  And it’s shaped like a cat!  Duh!  I’m a big fan of projects that are made from found materials, so I’m all for this!  Here’s the inside!








It was starting to rain a bit and was a bit chilly, so we just explored a tiny bit before getting back to the car.  Apparently Uncle Sam lived here.  And Martin Van Buren got married here.  And this curiosity was built, right between buildings!

















Well this was a fun stop, but we had to get back on the road, there were lots of fun things to see on our way to Rochester.  We were going to see the metal T-rex, a car on a smokestack, a North American martyrs shrine, a rock with Kirk Douglas’s picture on it, houses that looked like mushrooms, the world’s smallest church…we had to get going!  Or did we?

There is a John Lennon quote that is used way-too-often, in my opinion.  That quote, of course is:  “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  So while I was busy making other plans, life sort of took over.  I now present to you the dark side of road trips.  Now I’ve gone on a lot of road trips and I will honestly tell you that there are many frustrating/creepy/downright scary things that happen on these trips.  When you’re given the gift of hindsight, these dark moments are often the ones most noteworthy of future storytelling.  So let me tell you a story.

We got back into the car and after starting it, realized that there was a strange light on the dashboard.  One check of the manual gave us a cryptic description along the lines of:  “This could be minor.  Or the car could blow up momentarily.  Drive with caution.”  Fantastic.  Although it breaks my father’s heart, I’m not much of a car person, so I couldn’t really assess anything.  The car seemed fine.  But the last thing I wanted to do was drive it to an unfamiliar place and have it break down somewhere.  Our only choice was to drive it home and get my car instead.  If we didn’t have the other car, I suppose we would have rented one.  Sigh.  Problem was, we were about an hour and a half into our journey.  Double sigh.  So we took Tom’s car back home, called and made an appointment to get the car fixed the morning following our return home.  Fast forward:  the car was fine, just a very minor issue…whew!

However we lost three hours of driving with this little issue.  Grrrr!  So now it’s about 4 pm and we don’t have much more time to drive in daylight.  We’re both very easygoing people, but this was indeed frustrating.  But you know what?  It could have been worse.  It’s also best to focus on a solution than to focus on the problem.  We’d have to see the rock with Kirk Douglas’s picture on it another time!  Now our focus would solely be to get our butts to Rochester in a timely manner!

We did manage to stop at Teddy’s in Rome, NY for some delicious Italian-American food.







The locally known dish around here is called “Chicken Riggies.”  According to wikipedia chicken riggies are:  “a pasta-based dish usually consisting of chicken, rigatoni and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce, although many variations exist.”  Sounds pretty tasty, but I wasn’t really in the mood for pasta.  I tried to talk Tom into ordering it, but was greeted to a chorus of chirping crickets.  We saw other people ordering it and it looked really good!  Perhaps another time!  I can’t say enough good things about this restaurant.  It was a later hour than most people should be eating dinner, but the place was packed and the staff was incredibly friendly.  Here we are in Teddy’s.  Note the road-weary expressions on our faces!








I ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich and Tom had a veal marsala dish.  Both were absolutely mouthwatering!  Yum!!!!!







We will so be back one day!!!  And we’ll have to try the chicken riggies!  But in the meantime, we had to get to Rochester!  By the time we got to our hotel, we were semi-delirious!  But our room had one of those Sleep Number beds!  All Radisson hotels have these, which is really cool.  Be forewarned, though, take the time to make sure you’ve adjusted it to your most ideal setting, otherwise it can be very uncomfortable.  READ THE MANUAL!!  🙂  I’ve slept on one of these before and didn’t take the time to adjust it properly and had a horrible night’s sleep.  This time, I adjusted it properly, despite my insane tiredness.  I always thought that I liked a firm mattress, but compared to the Sleep Number bed’s firmest setting, what I actually like is more comparable to a giant sack of soft feathers!






Ahhhhhhh!  That’s better!  So after a wonderful night’s sleep, we were ready to face the day in Rochester!  We decided to hit the local Wegmans grocery store for a bit of breakfast.  Although we both love food, we could never bear to have three huge meals a day, so often we’ll get some yogurt, fruit and nuts for breakfast when we’re on a trip.  I had never been to Wegmans before, but I had heard of them.  I highly recommend this store to anyone visiting the Upstate New York area.  They are of a very high quality.  And of course, Tom was delighted with their beer selection.  We returned on our way home the next day and got some beer.  Hehe.








So what was our next destination?  The Strong National Museum of Play of course!!!







Funny story.  We went to park in the museum’s lot and a security guard came up to us and told us that we couldn’t park there.  We confirmed with him that this was parking for the museum.  He didn’t seem to believe that we were going to the museum, because we didn’t have children.  That was curious.  Don’t adults go to this museum without children?  I realize that there are many interactive things for children here, but there is also a huge toy hall of fame.  Tom and I have rabidly passionate memories of the toys we played with as children and I particularly am interested in the way children play from a scholarly perspective.  Tom and I are actually toying with the idea of writing a paper on play for the Pop Culture Association.  But back to the museum, it should be a fun place for everyone.  Not just children.  The entrance was really neat.  There was a huge carousel and a diner right in the museum!  And Tom spent a good long while just photographing the aquarium.  Oh, Tom!  🙂










We had tickets to go into the butterfly garden and on the way there, what would we happen to see but a Sesame Street display?  Oh hell yes!!!













Note who is in three of four of these pictures?  Note who is not?  Poor Tom was a bit too old when Sesame Street came out.  I mean, he appreciates it, but by the time it was out and popular, he was more of a “big kid.”  I, on the other hand, was the exact target demographic for this show.  When I was a toddler and a young child, I was absolutely obsessed with this show!  By the time I was two, I could count to ten in English, French and Spanish and it was all because of Sesame Street.  I thought all of the muppets were so cool when I was about three or four.  I loved clips like this when I was little: 

I have a story that makes Tom very sad.  When I was three years old, I had this talking Ernie doll.  You could pull the string on his back and he’d talk.  But once when my family took a vacation to the mean streets of Minneapolis, someone actually stole my Ernie doll!  I still remember someone from the hotel desk coming up to our room to help us look for Ernie, but no luck.  When we got back to Canada, my mom took me to Zellers department store to get a new Ernie.  But he didn’t talk.  I still remember my mom and the saleslady talking to me in the singsongy voices that adults use to talk to little children:  “Look!  It’s a new Ernie!!!”  But I just put my head on my mom’s leg and cried.  Sad, eh?  Then my neighbours felt sorry for me and bought me a Bert to go along with my new Ernie, but…they just weren’t the same!  Tom still buys me Ernies all the time, but…they’re just not the same!  😉

But I digress!!!  OK, so next we headed to the butterfly garden, where Tom got to express his photography loving self!  We go to butterfly gardens whenever we get the chance, because Tom loves photographing them.

















Whew!  That place was hot!  Well, they keep it really warm for the butterflies.  I was grateful to put my sweater back on when we got back out the main part of the museum.  The main floor consisted of a lot of lovely little displays and a lot of child-centered hands on activities.  Here are some of the displays.



















Ha!  I always wanted those X-Ray Spex.  Why, I’ll never know.  The desire to see under people’s clothing is kind of weird, isn’t it.  I mean, where would I be using these?  I’m giving the thumbs up at the Silly Putty display because this was something that was banned from our household after I was playing with it and got it permanently stuck in the high pile shag carpet in my bedroom.  Yes, the carpet was sky blue in colour!  🙂

Next, we went upstairs and were awestruck at the Toy Hall of Fame (sighs dreamily)







I won’t offer any commentary, I’ll just give you the chance to bask in the breathtaking beauty.






















But wait!  There’s more!!!  We then moved onto the electronic toy section.  Feast your eyes on this!  All I can say is that DigDug may or may not have been played on this day.




























Tom initially couldn’t relate to all of these electronic toys, seeing as they were more common when I was a kid.  We did have a riveting game of Pong against one another, and I figured that we’d move onto the next room.  But then, just as we were about to leave, Tom got very excited about something he saw ahead:

He actually exclaimed: “BATTLE CHESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Ummm, okay!  LOL.  I have no words!  🙂






So while we were finished with electronic games, we were far from finished.  There were still tons of toy displays to enjoy!  Check this out!

























But there was oh-so-much more than I’m showing you here!  There were aisles and aisles of display cases full of retro toys!  This was so much fun, I highly recommend this museum to anyone and everyone!  We were getting a bit hungry and decided to make our way out of the museum, but not until we went through the room with the uneven floors, lol.







Where do you think we went for lunch?  Burger King?  Wrong!  Pizza Hut?  Not a chance!  Nick Tahou Hots?  Damn straight!







Home of the “garbage plate,” of course!  What’s a garbage plate, you ask?  Wellllllll, it’s a cool creamy pasta salad on a plate with home fries, they then put your choice of various protein on top of this and cover it with a meaty chili sort of sauce.  It sounds weird, but oh man was this good!  And this filled us up so much that we weren’t hungry for pretty much the rest of the day.









After this, we wanted to explore the downtown area BUT we wanted to avoid the St. Patricks Day crowds.  Yeah, good luck with that!  🙂  Actually the people we saw weren’t at all bothersome, just one person was obnoxious to us directly, but sometimes the sheer volume of partiers is a bit too much.  It makes it difficult to find a place to park, a place to eat, a place to walk…you get the picture.  We found a cool farmers market and then decided to chill at Barnes and Noble/Starbucks near our hotel and return to the downtown area that evening.














Ha!  That last picture amused me because look at how high that table is!  I always figure that if there’s a sign up, that means that this was a real problem at one time.  Who would put their feet up on a table that is that high?  Yikes!  OK, so after chilling out for a bit, we went for a really nice walk downtown.  They have some great walking trails that frame the city and various bodies of water.
















This was such a lovely walk!  I wish we could have walked longer but eventually the sun was starting to set and I didn’t want us to get stuck on some random trail in an unfamiliar city.  We’d have to turn around and check out something else.  The last picture in this group is of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  We had intended on checking out this place, because I heard that it is great, but we were sooooooooooooooooo full from lunch still!  Perhaps another time.  Apparently there are always motorcycles and biker dudes out in front and some claim that they’re fake and meant to create a sort of “ambiance.”  Who knows?

We decided to drive a bit north and walk around the Ontario Beach Park, which was right on Lake Ontario.  Right across the lake is, of course, my home country, Canada!!!  😀  This was a really nice walk as well.  Even if it was filled with drunken groups of teenagers, lol.  Been there, done that!  I can’t judge!
















This spot was really pretty and the sky was stunning on this particular night!  OK, so now what?  We still weren’t hungry, but decided to check out the cool retro sign for Donuts Delite.  Somehow our rubber arms were twisted and we walked out with a small bag carrying two tasty donuts.  Sigh.







At this point, it wasn’t necessarily hunger we were feeling, but more of a desire to get a “small bite to eat” because we knew what would happen otherwise.  We’d get hungry at some crazy hour and it would be too late to eat, blah blah blah.  So I strongarmed Tom into going to Rohrbach’s Brewing Company because they were serving Beef on Weck, which is more of a Buffalo specialty, but one that I felt I needed to try RIGHT NOW!!!  It’s basically a steak sandwich that has meat that is sliced very thin, has an au jus dip and is served on a neat roll that is called “kummelweck” or “kimmelweck.”  It was like a nice soft kaiser that was topped with caraway seeds and salt.  Yum!  Tom had a tasty looking Buffalo chicken salad, that he barely touched.  We both thought that it was delicious, but he was just too full from lunch still.  Bummer!







Nice place!  So the lesson learned from Day one of our trip was:  Garbage Plates are very filling!  I’m bummed that I didn’t know about these when I was a footlong sub eating teenager.  To get that much filling food for that cheap would have made me very happy!  🙂  So stay tuned to the next part of this blog – our drive home.  I’ll give you a teaser subtitle:  Tom and Jolie Lost!  (even with a GPS!)  Hehe.  I’ll post soon!  🙂