Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Five Things to do in January 2015

Chocolate lovers unite at The Chocolate Affair
New year, new list of things to do in Buffalo! Don’t let the weather get you down – this is Buffalo, we know how to deal with it (like this guy did!). Here are a few fun things to do in January – Happy New Year!

Check out the Hangover 150 – Ransomville Speedway hosts the 15th annual Hangover 150 on New Year’s Day, Thursday, January 1st at noon, with racing in three categories for a $500 prize. Admission is $5 per person, ages 12 and over – find out more at

Catch a Bandits game at the FNC – You’ve never been to a Bandits lacrosse game???? What are you waiting for?!?! The Bandits have two home games at the First Niagara Center in January – Saturday, January 3rd against the Edmonton Rush and Friday, January 30th against the Minnesota Swarm; both games start at 7:30 p.m. Bandits games are exciting and affordable for the entire family – see the complete schedule and learn more about the team at

Hit the ice at Canalside – It’s finally open! The Ice at Canalside is open daily (weather dependent – check out before you go!) with open skating, ice bike rentals (Fridays through Sundays only), curling and the Artisan Market (Thursdays through Sundays only).

Watch the world play at Harbor Center – The 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation U18 Women’s World Championship will get underway January 5th at Harbor Center in downtown Buffalo, with the finals taking place January 12th. Teams from the U.S., Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and Sweden will be in town for the tournament – and tickets start at just $5 for individual games. See a full schedule and get more information at

Sample brews and chocolate – Buffalo food and beverage lovers get two evens in January: Buffalo on Tap on January 17th and The Chocolate Affair on January 29th. Learn more about the craft beer festival here and the chocolate lover’s paradise here

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas flowers: Poinsettia Show at the Botanical Gardens

I love poinsettias – I think they’re absolutely beautiful.

I’m also allergic to them.

That stinks, because I can’t have them in my house without getting all congested and awful-feeling. So I do the next best thing – go to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and take pictures of them during the annual Poinsettia Show, which runs through January 4th (that’s Sunday).

Taking poinsettia pictures is perfect – all the beauty and none of the congestion. And they last all year long.

This year’s show was a lot more colorful – some of the poinsettias were “painted,” as were some of the trees (artificial, not real); the fact that the colors included purple and teal were an added bonus (and gave me sooooo many more ideas for decorating, which I really don’t need).

Enjoy these photos, or get to the Gardens before Sunday and see them for yourself.

All aboard for Hogwarts!

all photos:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy holidays…

I love Christmas – from the music to the cookies, from gifting to – especially – decorating!

Here’s a quick tour of my trees – all 11 of them!

Left - my main tree/ purple and white lights, top right - miniatures tree (mostly Hallmark)/
red and green lights, bottom right - racing minis tree/multi-color lights
top left - teal and purple tree in living room, bottom left - Coca Cola minis tree (white lights),
top right - baking tree in kitchen (white lights), bottom right - Hallmark bakers trees in kitchen
(with Temp-tations minis)

left - teal and purple tree in foyer/pink, teal and purple lights, top right -
teenie beanie tree in craft room (white lights), bottom right - sports tree in office

And the outdoors…

Of course, then it all has to come down – until next year!

Happy holidays!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Improve in the kitchen: Strawberry Santas

Thanks to the folks at Driscoll’s for contacting me with this opportunity. All experiences herein are my own.

I love strawberries…and blueberries…and raspberries…OK, berries in general. The folks at Driscoll’s offer up some of the best berries in the business – great taste, large berries and sturdy packaging that I can reuse for seedlings! A few weeks ago, I was contacted about trying out their Strawberry Santas project/recipe (it’s a little bit of both!) – find the recipe here.

credit: Driscoll's
Of course, I had to try them myself, and, as usual, this led to some kitchen improv: I couldn’t find chocolate wafer cookies, I couldn’t get blueberries and I’m not a huge fan of cream cheese. Enter peanut butter cookies left over from holiday cookie trays, blackberries and ricotta cheese.

This was attempt No. 1 – it’s not perfect, and not nearly as cute as the ones from Driscoll’s…but I will not let that stop me! I’m going to try them again!

There are some other great recipes at the Driscoll’s website – look for other ideas in future posts!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My 12 songs of Christmas

credit: Wikimedia Commons/Albertyanks
Even though I can only play it a few weeks out of the year, I love Christmas music. I have no idea how many Christmas CDs I have, but it’s a lot. Here are my 12 favorite Christmas songs (in no particular order), many of which I have on one CD or another.
  • Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen. This is probably my dad’s favorite Christmas song – every time it comes on the radio, it gets louder. Tell me you can listen to this song and not see Snoopy in your mind flying around in his airplane…you can’t, I know it!
  • Christmas Dream – Perry Como. This was my grandmother’s favorite – even though I had the 45 (that’s vinyl, kiddies!) so Grammy could listen to it, I didn’t fully appreciate it until she was gone. And, yes, I bought a Perry Como CD just to have it.
  • My Favorite Things – Lorrie Morgan. As I mentioned here, I absolutely adore Lorrie Morgan’s version of this song – Kelly Clarkson’s is pretty good too.
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Reba McEntire. Only Reba could take a holiday classic and give it an Oklahoma swing.
  • Two-Step ‘Round the Christmas Tree – Michael Martin Murphy and Suzy Bogguss. This one’s just fun.
  • Do They Know It’s Christmas? (original) – Band Aid. The original mega-collaboration for charity: I was really into Brit-pop in the ‘80s, and one of my favorites, Paul Young, opened up the song…people in the States are still going, “Who??”
  • Christmas Time – Bryan Adams. No explanation – just like it a lot.
  • What Christmas Means to Me – Paul Young. Yep, him again. This was a Stevie Wonder remake from the “A Very Special Christmas 2” CD.
  • Please Come Home for Christmas – The Eagles, Pat Benatar. Love the Eagles’ original, and of all the remakes, Pat Benatar’s is the best in my books.
  • Sleigh Ride – Debbie Gibson. Also on the “A Very Special Christmas 2” CD – lots of fun.
  • River – Sarah McLachlan. A Joni Mitchell remake, Sarah sings it beautifully.
  • Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses. “Bah Humbug, no that’s too strong ‘cause it is my favorite holiday.” Sassy ‘80s pop does Christmas – thumbs up!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Starstruck: Clint Malarchuk at Barnes & Noble

I love hockey, I love my Sabres, and I love seeing the guys I grew up watching come back to the area for any reason. One of my favorite Sabres of all time is goalie Clint Malarchuk, who was just totally cool as a player and a person – he is a cowboy, after all!

A few weeks back, my mom and I walked into Barnes & Noble because we had some time before the mall opened. “Mom, look – Clint Malarchuk’s gonna be here!” I was like a little 16-year-old hockey fan finding out her favorite player was going to be appearing – just 25 years after the fact!

In spite of a great hockey career, Malarchuk is probably most remembered, unfortunately, for a horrifying accident that took place on the ice of the Memorial Auditorium in 1989 (see more about that here). In part, that was what brought him back to Buffalo over the last few days – Malarchuk wrote and recently released a book, “A Matter of Inches,” about his life, the accident and the aftermath.

I can’t wait to read the book – and it’s pretty cool to have a personally signed copy!

Yes, he signed it "Happy Trails" - love him!!

Life complete!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sleigh Ride: Lorrie Morgan Christmas Show at Seneca Allegany

I’m a big country music fan, and I’m a really big fan of stuff from the late 80s and 90s, when I got into the genre. One of my favorites at that time was Lorrie Morgan, and one of my favorite holiday albums of all time is her Merry Christmas from London CD. So when I saw that Know How Tours had a bus trip to the Seneca Allegany Casino for a show entitled “An Enchanted Christmas with Lorrie Morgan,” that trip was booked immediately!

The show was only 75 minutes in length, but it seemed longer – it was full of great holiday music with a couple of her country hits thrown in – “Except for Monday,” “A Picture of Me Without You,” “Watch Me”  and, of course, “Something in Red” (which I was totally hoping she’d do). Her voice is still as pure and powerful as it was 20 or 25 years ago.

I was happiest to hear my favorite song from her holiday album, “My Favorite Things.” I’m not a fan of The Sound of Music, and honestly Julie Andrews' version drives me nuts, but I LOOOOOOVE Lorrie Morgan’s version. She also threw in “Tennessee Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride” and an amazing version of “Ave Maria,” then came back for an encore of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

The show was totally worth the bus trip, but we also got $20 in free slot play and a free lunch buffet. I know why I don’t do buffets more often – I ate WAAAAAAAAAAY too much! But, I wasn’t hungry the rest of the day!

Check out other upcoming shows at the Casino at


November 2014 in review

November, somewhat thankfully, was rather uneventful – which was good, because I needed to start holiday stuff! November and December are vacation-heavy months for me at work because 1) it’s easier for me to schedule time off when I’m not on the road and 2) I need time for baking and decorating.

One thing that did happen in the area in November was “Winter Storm Knife” (huh?!?!), a/k/a “Snowvember” (that’s more Buffalo-sounding!). While the folks 15 minutes away from me in Lancaster had five or six feet of snow (in less than two days!), the Amherst area got five or six inches. Yes – inches. Lake effect snow is just wacky!

Buffalo, of course, takes it all in stride – neighbors help neighbors, strangers help strangers, and we make the best of what we have:

In between cookies and decorating, I did get to see the new Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Pt. 1. To the filmmakers: You ended it THERE?!?! REALLY?!?! That’s just cruel. (Granted, I read the books and know what happens, but still…)

I also checked out the new Star Wars trailer when it was released because, you know, I had to. I’m still not sure about the Disney-takes-over-Star Wars thing, and I’m even less sure about them throwing 20+ years of awesome SW Extended Universe books out the window – it’s like Star Wars meets Sliders in a parallel galaxy far, far away. I do have two kudos though: Sith saber = cool and soccer ball droid = cute (I hope it’s as feisty as it looks!).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Two-Cents on Sports: December 4, 2014

  • Congrats to NASCAR champs Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Matt Crafton, and NHRA champs Tony Schumacher, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders-Stevens and Andrew Hines. Top kudos to Elliott, a champ in his rookie season, and Enders-Stevens, the first woman to win a Pro Stock title.
  • The Sabres are on a tear. I know a lot of fans wanted a garbage season so the team gets a top draft pick, but I just want to see them win. The team is finally playing “Ted Nolan hockey” and that makes me happy as a fan. Let’s go Buffalo!
  • Don’t forget to vote for Zemgus!
  • There are four games left for the 7-5 Bills, and December looks tough. I’m not a huge football fan, but I know our teams reflect on our moods, so right now, as the holidays approach, we should all be pretty happy! (unless you want the Sabres to lose…)
  • Anxiously awaiting more auto racing schedules to be announced. The big ones I’m waiting for are the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series and the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour. Starting to plan next year’s racing calendar!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday happenings in the Buffalo area: Ontario Winter Festival of Lights and the Botanical Gardens’ Poinsettia Show

Head north of the border for the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, taking place now through January 12th at numerous attractions in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The festival features more than 120 light displays along Niagara Parkway, turning the Niagara Parks into a Winter Wonderland. There will be a number of spectacular fireworks shows during the course of the festival – click here for dates and times. For more information on the festival, visit

The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, located at 2655 South Park Ave. in Buffalo, celebrates the holiday season with its annual Poinsettia Show, taking place now through January 4th. The Gardens warns visitors to “expect the unexpected” with a new exhibit and plenty of color. Visitors can also check out the Garden Railway Exhibit, featuring a traditional set-up and a special Thomas the Train set-up for the kids. The display is brought to you by the Botanical Gardens and the WNY Garden Railway Society.

On Saturday, December 13th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., visit Santa’s Workshop for crafts and fun – there is an additional charge for holiday themed activities and crafts and photos with Santa – or visit the Gardens affordably on Dollar Day, Sunday, December 28th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – admission is just $1 all day; as always, kids under 3 and members are free.

Admission for the Poinsettia Show, Garden Railway Exhibit and Santa’s Workshop is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $5 for kids 3 to 12, and free for Garden members and kids under 3. For more information on these events and others at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, visit

Holiday happenings in the Buffalo area: Niagara Power Vista Festival of Trees and Fatima Shrine Festival of Lights

The Niagara Power Vista Festival of Trees is going on now through January 2nd at the Niagara Power Plant Power Vista, 5777 Lewiston Rd. (Rt. 104) in Lewiston. Check out beautifully decorated trees  - decorated by area non-for-profits – and visit the nearby Niagara Discovery Center during the annual event. On December 6th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Power Vista hosts its annual Deck the Halls event, featuring crafts and entertainment, photo opportunities with Santa, a non-perishable food drive and more. Find out more at the Power Vista website.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, located at 1023 Swann Rd. in Youngstown, hosts its annual Festival of Lights now through January 4th. The light displays will be lit nightly from 5 to 9 p.m., and the Shrine will be open daily with free admission from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check out the festival from the top of the Basilica and see 75 displays and 15 acres of Christmas lights, and view the Avenue of Saints. The Fatima Shrine will also be hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses – Christmas Eve masses are scheduled for 4 p.m. and midnight, while Christmas Day masses are at 9 a.m. and noon. Find out more at