Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lake Effect Ice Cream Scoop Shop

Inside the shop - I mostly forgot to take pictures!
One of my favorite things is ice cream. Not just any ice cream, of course. The best ice cream. Inspired ice cream.

No one does it better than the guys at Lake Effect. I follow them on social media and most posts makes me want to drop what I'm doing and drive to their shop. They run a great collaborative business and their recent creations keep making me think, "They did WHAT?"

For Fathers Day this year (6/15/14) they are running a special involving...hold on...Guinness Chocolate Stout ice cream. And that's just the beginning.

I've had their ice cream often from Wegmans, but had never made it out to Lockport to their Scoop Shop at 79 Canal St. This summer, I knew that had to change. I gathered a crew and we took a road trip (45 min by car is a road trip for me, ok?) for their 2014 opening night.

I had scoped out their special offerings and decided on a gourmet popsicle (a "double double" - coffee and cream - yesyesyes) and their new sundae, El Guapo.  

Here's the full description of El Guapo: "Two and one half scoops of our Silver Cloud Vanilla ice cream, rolled in cinnamon Chrusciki Bakery cinnamon and sugar butter crumbles. Then topped with our house-made cinnamon chocolate sauce, local honey and real whipped cream. The crowning piece to this sundae is a cinnamon crisp baked especially for us from our friends at Elm Street Bakery." (from Lake Effect's Facebook page)

See what I mean?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

North Park Theatre reopened

View from the back of the theatre
I think I would post more here if I structured it more like writing in a photo album. We'll see!

The North Park Theatre made it to my 2014 Buffalo Bucket List because I had been following news of its restoration and was curious to see it for myself.

I was lucky enough to be present for the first showing on opening night, and the excitement in the room was enchanting.

It was a fantastic experience and definitely a place we'll go back to often. It's an instant tradition, but still low-key enough for a regular night out. It's location on Hertel only helps...except with last-minute parking! ;-)

Closeup of stage. I can't wait to see a live show here!

Detail of ceiling

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kleinhans in Winter

A popular view of the reflecting pool - with a snowy twist
Kleinhans Music Hall is a treasure that I feel lucky to be able to enjoy. I think Kleinhans is a great option during unpleasant weather especially, because of music's ability to lift your spirits. The Buffalo Chamber Music Society, whether for that reason or another, schedules their free-of-charge "Gift to the Community" series during the colder months. See the details HERE.

If you didn't get this already from browsing the Excels on this blog, I am all about enjoying Buffalo on a minimal budget. Sponsored concerts are a great way to increase access to good art and to a cultural treasure - much like Dollar Days and First Fridays do at other institutions across the city.

The Gift to the Community series is held in the Mary Seaton room - a smaller music hall within the larger building. It is probably most famous for it's outer design that projects into the reflecting pool in the warm months. As you can see below, it's a gorgeous space well designed for sound and sight.

The architect's vision for Kleinhans Music Hall "was to create 'an architectural atmosphere…so as to tune the performers and the public alike into a proper mood of performance and receptiveness, respectively.'" (from the Kleinhans website) The whole building shows a lovely attention to detail and interesting spaces.

Kleinhans Lobby
I had never been inside the main hall, so a considerate employee let me in to see it. He didn't have any reason to say yes when I asked, but he did and I appreciate his kindness so much. At the time of writing I haven't attended a concert in the main music hall, but I hope to go back soon to see how different it looks with the lights on.

For your next affordable opportunity to visit, look no further than THIS EVENT coming up on April 3rd. "Music in Buffalo's Historic Places" is an incredible series that for some reason is pretty hard to track down (it's on my Excels if you need to find the main site later). The Kleinhans iteration is only $15 and involves all guests sitting up on stage with the musicians. It will be a unique experience and I highly recommend going!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First snow, last snow

We've had our moments with this winter, for sure. We've made some history with the Polar Vortex, and today we made history again by having two official blizzards in one season for the first time in 40+ years.

As I hope that today means the worst of winter is passed, I want to send it a little love note to wish it well on its way. You stay too long, winter, but you are breathtaking.

Here's some pictures I've been meaning to post from our first big snow this season, back in November. It was hard to choose my favorites, so I'm considering setting up an online gallery. Not today, though...not today. 

I had a little trouble with my point-and-shoot camera to get the light setting right, but I think they still show how mythical everything looked.This snowfall helped set the tone of wonder that never really went away for me this winter. I especially loved seeing familiar sights like the Rose Garden and Hoyt Lake looking completely different than I'm used to seeing them.

Sculpture on Bidwell Parkway
Looking down Lincoln Parkway
This is the Rose Garden, but not as you're used to seeing it!
Hoyt Lake, which can never look less than gorgeous
I've been a winter-hater my whole life and that was the main reason I originally didn't want to relocate to Buffalo. I still am much crabbier during the winter, but I also can't help thinking, we've got it all! Nothing in our environment stays the same for very long, and it helps me to appreciate each season more. Hopefully these pictures help get you through the final few weeks before those first flowers start poking up through the snow.

I couldn't get enough of these festive-looking berries on Elmwood near the Lexington Co Op.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Richardson Olmsted Complex

One of my favorite structures to catch sight of is the Richardson Olmsted Complex. Located next to Buffalo State, the structure is massive and imposing beyond the dreams of some European castles. It was built as a state-of-the-art insane asylum that emphasized socializing and physical activity. For a great synopsis of the building's history from 1870 on, see the Richardson Olmsted Corporation's website.

In October 2013 I was lucky enough to take a tour led by my friend Krystal. Check out her post about what it's like to be a docent for some of Buffalo's most interesting places. My friend Zan also was on the tour, and wrote about it on her blog. I'm happy to add my two cents to theirs because my grandmother was curious to hear about the building that shares her maiden name. She grew up in Lockport and has great memories of Buffalo, so I hope she'll be a guest blogger soon.

The inside was incredible, although we couldn't take pictures of it. There were huge hallways, piles of plaster on the floor, and large ribbons of peeling paint. We walked into rooms that used to be inmates' bedrooms, a room with flame marks licking across the walls, and one room that used to be a barbershop. The chairs and mirrors were all still in place under a coat of dust, as though they had been used a few months ago instead of decades.

It was amazing to see the state of the place and to imagine what it would be like when it was restored. It also helps you to see how far they have to go, with the size and the amount of damage. That was probably the most exciting part for me - thinking about coming here again every 5 years or so to see the progress and be able to say "I saw it back when..."
Below: you can't even see the whole complex in the first picture. The second picture shows the "before" for the new main entrance. Wait til you see the "after!"

Below: some close-ups of the outside. It's more impressive at close range, and even more impressive when you're in the massive interior.

Below: the old pig barn is in the middle of a Buff State parking lot! They've wanted to pave it over but it's being preserved. The whole tract of land that Buff State is on (from the RCC to the river) was a farm that the inmates worked on. The pig barn is all that's left.

Below: The South Lawn was landscaped and opened to the public this summer. As with most things, it looks it's best with some fall foliage. :-)

Below: because I do things like this, I went to see it at night as well. Breathtaking!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Welcome, 2014

My biggest lesson from 2013 and biggest goal for 2014 are the same: get involved. I have had the time of my life by volunteering and DOING things, and I look forward to even more in the future. If that rings true for you, too, keep reading for my top 10 suggestions for getting involved in 2014.

1. Buffalo has a long history of invention and good ideas. Google them, or watch one of the local TEDx events on Youtube to hear the latest ones.
2. Buffalo has many historic places and stories. Check out cool blogs like Buffalo Streets or take an active part in saving them through things like Mass Mobs and Buffalo's Young Preservationists.
3. Buffalo has a lot of good news in its future, as well as a long way to go. Keep up with new developments through places like Buffalo Rising, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and One Region Forward.

4. Join a nonprofit board of directors - but only if you're serious about giving them both your time and money. I took a training series at the United Way that covers the basic information you need to know.
5. Contribute to a local Kickstarter campaign or three - get great perks for any giving amount, and see something awesome succeed because of you.
6. Sign up for a community garden or for a local farmshare - know your farmer, or be your farmer!

7. Learn about and interact with refugees and other cultures - get to know your neighbors. An easy way to start is by talking with business owners when you visit their store.
8. Tour your own city - what are the highlights you would recommend to others, and have you been there?
9. Make a Buffalo Bucket List - it helps motivate you to explore & prioritize what to do with your weekend or dinner date.

Volunteering covers all three concepts, and has a host of benefits besides. I've spent more time researching these than I would like to admit. For starters, volunteering
-->  is completely based on your interests and passions
-->  is flexible based on your schedule
-->  makes you healthier
-->  makes you happier
-->  offers great experiences and connections

For some longer-term commitments focusing on relationships, look at places like
*  Journey's End (mentor a refugee family - introduce them to Buffalo. I can connect you!)
*  Big Brothers Big Sisters (mentor a child - gain a sibling)
*  SPCA or other pet rescue organizations (foster animals - save lives)

For the option of shorter-term commitments focusing on single events, look at places like
*  B-Team Buffalo (young professionals who organize events & volunteer together)
*  Visit Buffalo Niagara (be a Buffalo Ambassador to tourists and visitors)
*  City of Night (because cool things are cooler when you help make them happen)

I am a Manager of Volunteers by day, and an avid volunteer by night. I've found it to be incredibly rewarding, and the hardest part is not being able to say yes to every opportunity. Buffalo is the kind of place where you can Do Something, and a big reason why is because your neighbors will support it in whatever way they can. Buffalo has lots of Good Things and Bad Things happening, but the real magic is when those things become "My Things" in your head because of your investment in them.

Volunteer managers at nonprofits are generally insanely busy and often managing volunteers is only a small part of their job, or they may even be volunteering for that position. When you go to volunteer, keep these tips in mind if you want to be the Best Volunteer Ever:

-->  Give nonprofit employees lots of slack for slow response times or apparent disorganization. Even better than slack, give them encouragement.
-->  Treat volunteering as a professional commitment in all ways. If you think of it more like being at work than like being at home, you'll do great.
-->  Be sure you know what you want to do and when you can do it. Then only volunteer places that need what you can offer.

Not to belabor a point, but volunteering and otherwise investing in your community is incredibly satisfying and Buffalo is the perfect place to do it. Dive in!

Farewell, 2013

I've been seeing a lot of "Year-End" posts, and hesitated for a while about adding my own. I decided to go ahead and write this because in the brief lull between semesters I was able to do some reflecting and goal-setting.

The last several months have brought more surprises and great experiences than I could have hoped for. I was thinking of how many things I did this year that I couldn't have predicted at the beginning of the year, and I started writing them down. I have 116 on my list so far. It was a busy year!

Some of my favorites (in no order) were:
  • being a speaker at TEDxBuffalo
  • dancing at the Burmese Water Festival
  • touring the Richardson Complex
  • going on a Foodie-to-Farm tour with a new friend
  • joining the board of Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo
  • writing for The Good Neighborhood
  • speaking at the Nepali Teej Festival
  • discovering Chautauqua Institution
  • doing lots of things at the Foundry
  • seeing the downtown Buffalo New Years ball drop
  • watching canoes with Japanese lanterns cruise on Hoyt Lake one night
  • starting my MBA program part-time
  • hiking in Alleghany State Forest
  • subscribing to a farm share
  • going to lots of great restaurants
  • meeting Thein Swe - a former political prisoner and current member of the NLD serving in Myanmar's Parliament. 

Talking about this with friends, one of them suggested that I leave half of the spots blank on my 2014 Buffalo Bucket List so I could fill them in when I did something awesome during the year. That was such a brilliant suggestion that I did it right away, and you can see my 2014 list HERE, along with my 2013 list on the tab behind it.

While I can't guarantee the frequency of my posts here in 2014 (30 drafts now, oh dear), I can say that I update Facebook and Twitter daily with current local news and articles that I find interesting and you probably will, too. Give Enjoy Buffalo a follow if you haven't already, and feel free to share fun stuff with me, as well!

My favorite thing about this year was discovering just how much is available in Buffalo when you are looking for it. One thing has a way of introducing you to the next in this place ("less like a small town and more like a giant living room," as someone described it to me this fall), so that new friends and places and experiences are never far away. 

The downtown Buffalo ball drop & fireworks, saying farewell to 2013 and welcoming 2014