Celebrating Buffalo Gardens

Celebrating Buffalo Gardens

I missed Garden Walk Buffalo this year. Again. It seems that every year on that weekend, something comes up. This year was no different, so I decided to write this post celebrating Buffalo gardens. I mean, I’m out and about all the time anyway. I have always been blown away by the gardens that Buffalonians create. Of course, I have to include the homes in my photos too, because you know I love my Buffalo homes!

Let’s Get Started

I guess the reason I’m doing this post is to show you that even if you missed the garden walk, you can still see some great stuff across the city. And boy did I see a lot of great gardens.

Now, keep in mind that I didn’t head straight for the Garden Walk addresses. All I did was walk around the city for a few hours. You won’t believe how many gorgeous gardens I saw! You can do the same!

This post is turning into a true pictorial. Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Take a look.

Sometimes it’s the window boxes.

Sometimes it’s the lions and their planters.

So pretty!

Fantastic!

Love this house, and the gardens – ooh la la!

Cute!

Again with the window boxes! Beautiful!

Because it’s gorgeous, and I like Sycamore trees!

Sweet!

Chapin bliss!

Wow!

This is fabulous on Bidwell. It’s things like this that make neighborhoods so great!

So much beauty everywhere here.

One of Tim’s favs!

Just lovely!

Pretty in pink!

Love this.

Bet the bees love this place!

When I saw this out of the corner of my eye, I thought it was a cat! Cute!

What could be better?!

I could never put something like this together!

I want to go back for apples when they’re ready! Pie anyone?

This one is all about the pots!

Love the bike!

So pretty!

A symphony of plants!

There are so many of these hydrangea trees (hydrangea paniculata) in the city right now! Must be the “in” thing!

Makes me want to go up and sit on the porch!

This perfection!

One of the Best in the City

I have to showcase this home at the triangle of Bidwell, Potomac and Argyle Park. This is simply amazing.

Love these painted garden posts!

Sweeeeeet!

Imagine taking a walk here every day.

Secret garden out back…the sphere is a water feature that sounds like a tiny babbling brook.

My Impressions

Look, I know that not all of these gardens are the gardens of the Buffalo Garden Walk, or any of the Buffalo area’s many garden walks. This is merely a representation of what you can see everyday walking around Buffalo. Not kidding. These weren’t even half of the photos I took in roughly four hours of hiking around the city. It was very difficult to decide which to include! I will mention that the Elmwood Village was just chock full of amazing gardens this year!

Special kudos to the owners of the home at the entrance to Argyle Park. Your home is absolutely stunning! The perfect amount of flowers to greens. The perfect amount of whimsy too. Your sign says to grow something spectacular. You certainly did that.

Also love the way you welcome people to sit, relax and enjoy your little slice of paradise! Thank you for that.

Listen, nothing transforms a neighborhood like great gardens. It adds to the quality of life in a neighborhood as much as beautiful homes, public art and architecturally beautiful buildings. Green spaces and flowers add a tranquility that we all need in this fast paced world. And there is no end to the creativity a garden inspires in people!

Think I’ll go out a couple more times to see some of the other garden walk areas I missed! Like Amherst, the East Side, Snyder-Cleve Hill, Hamburg, Ken-Ton, Lancaster, and North Buffalo just to name a few.

Take a walk or a drive. Do it soon. Before all of the gardens become overgrown and give way to fall. We live in a beautiful city. Go see it!

Get the Book! There are tons of bonus photos in the book – click the link to see!

The books make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!).  Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!

The creativity at Garden Walk Buffalo is beyond compare. Check out photos of the Garden Walk Buffalo gardens by scrolling through their facebook page. Enjoy!

City Living – Orton Place + St. Johns Place

City Living – Orton Place + St. Johns Place

On a bike ride several weeks ago, a friend mentioned to me that the area around Orton Place was used as a place for traveling circuses! It’s such a densely populated area that I couldn’t believe it.

Of course, you know I went home that day and immediately looked it up to find out more. And he was right! This area of what is now Allentown was used when the circus came to town! As a matter of fact, shortly before the area was sectioned off and developed, PT Barnum brought Jumbo the elephant here from London. This was in the mid-1880s. Wow! Who would’ve guessed?

I decided to take a closer look and I decided to include St. Johns Place too because, well, there’s something about this street that I really like. Giant old city homes, many of which are the Queen Anne or the Shingle Style, each one with a story to tell.

Let’s Start There

At this first one, on the south side of St. Johns Place is this amazing Shingle Style home. I really wish I’d run into the owners here because I’ve admired the colors of this home for a long time, and I wanted the chance to tell them. It’s so Allentown, isn’t it? Most people pick two, maybe three colors when they paint their homes. These people chose four colors, and each one is spot on. And the paint job itself is unique. Just look at that chimney too. Love the whole house.

Twins

Next are a set of twins. And these are fantastic. I’ve never actually seen twins that are this ornate. They’re essentially the same, but with different paint jobs, windows, and finishes. But the same. Look at the upper balcony on the driveway side of the one home (they both have it, but it can only be seen in the one photo). Spectacular. And the pebbled dash on the triangular parts of the peaks. That’s also the same on both homes.

Next, I come to this. You see why I love this street so much? The triple windows in the peak, and the details around them are fantastic, and very unique. The second floor window is also one that makes this Victorian Era home a standout on the block.

In 1900, this home was listed by Gurney & Overturf for sale for $7,200. The ad stated that the property was worth $13,000, and that it was a bargain at that price. In 1900, the median family income in the United States was roughly $450 a year. So you had to be doing pretty well to live on this block. And it shows.

And this, below. Look at the bay window near the peak. Very unusual. I’ve only seen this a handful of times, and these are original. The home itself could use a little attention, but with a clean-up and the right paint, it could be beautiful!

Moving Right Along

This home, below, was built in 1887 for Howard and Jennie D. Bryant. Howard was a writer for the Buffalo Evening News. By 1900, it appears that Howard had passed away, but Jennie still lived in the home with William McNiven, Jennie’s daughter with Howard, Jeannette, and William’s daughter, Agnes.

The home was the victim of arson in or around 2002, but has since been brought back to, and possibly even better than, it’s original state. It is now a two family home, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This home is stunning.

And These

These three are all similar Queen Anne style homes. On this street especially, I’m noticing how the use of color makes a big difference to a home.

And with that, I’m at the corner of Orton at this Stick Style home. This home reminds me of the Humphrey House in North Tonawanda, but it might be just the colors. But, what a Victorian beauty this home is! The corner lot is perfect for this home too. Really shows it off nicely!

I can’t help but think about what a bit of paint could do here. This home could be magnificent.

Orton Place

As I round the corner, I immediately see this home. I’ve always wondered about it. It’s so different from all the others. Alas, no one was around at this home either. There’s a twin to the lion on the other side of the driveway. Love them.

It’s here (on the corner of Hudson) that I ran into Beth. She was doing some yard work for a neighbor. We chatted for a few minutes, and she directed me to a home a few houses away on Hudson to see the amazing gardens. It’s next door to her own home, and her own lovely gardens. Beth’s is the green one, below. I love it that she was modest about her own gorgeous gardens. Might have to head over to Hudson sometime soon…Beth, thanks for the heads up, and for being willing to chat about the neighborhood!

Back to Orton Place

This is where we start to get into some real beauties (as if we haven’t already!). Love the pop of orange on this front door!

This one, below, was owned by one of the developers of Orton Place, Tellico Johnson, who was related to some of Buffalo’s earliest residents. It’s an absolutely lovely home. I could see myself having tea on the upper balcony in the mornings…

These Three

Again, note how paint and paint colors really affect the way you see a home.

Mike & Calvin

It’s at this next home that I met Mike and Calvin. That’s Mike on the porch. Calvin was camera shy. Not to be confused with regular shy, because he definitely wasn’t that. I took up entirely too much of their time, but I thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Mike owns the home, and Calvin is an old friend who was visiting. Mike told me of how he first moved into the Allentown area over in Day’s Park. He ‘s been in this home on Orton Place about 20 years or so and has witnessed first hand the changes the neighborhood has gone through. All of Allentown really. It could be pretty rough here back in the 70s and 80s. He’s happy here though, and that’s good to see.

Very friendly guys. Mike, your home is wonderful. Thank you both for taking the time to talk to me. It was very Buffalo of you!

Moving Right Along

Next door to Mike is this amazing home. It was built in 1885 for Dr. Thomas H. Callahan. In 1890 it was featured in “Scientific American Architects and Builders Edition”. One of only four homes in Buffalo to receive that distinction.

Below is a photo of how the home appeared in 1890. Stunning. Note the finial at the top of the bell shaped roof of the turret. Also, the trim at the front of the porch which forms an oval, and at the sides, arches. Love that.

Photo Credit: “Scientific American Architects and Builders Edition” – January 1890

And here is the home today. Once again, paint makes all the difference. It completely changes the look of the house! Back in the 1890s, perhaps this was a more staid neighborhood. The bold color choices here fit right in with the Allentown of today. Note the original balustrade on the second floor porch. Unusual and lovely. We’ve lost the oval and the arches. Wouldn’t it be great to see those brought back?

And this one, below. This home was built in 1887 for Sydney Lake, who was the leader of the Plymouth Methodist Church (now The Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Porter Ave). A few things to note here. The curved gable window and the sunburst trim surrounding it and the other window in the rear gable. Also there is colored glass in the windows on the second and third floors. Love the art in the garden, and also the stained glass ‘additions’ to the second floor windows. Wish the owners would have been around when I went by, would love to know more about those. It’s a beautiful home!

These next few are among the best kept on the street. All have their own beautiful details to marvel at.

The trim around the windows is noteworthy!

Note the private porch on the right. And the underground parking on the left. Love this one!

Love, love, love the colors! And that garage!

Let’s Hop Over to Pennsylvania Street for a Second

At this point I’m going to veer off the title streets again and include a couple of things I want to tell you about. The first, is this building, below. I’ve had actual daydreams about this place. Right across from Kleinhans Music Hall. Perfect location for a funky little jazz club that serves delicious homemade pub food, and has all the best music. Before and after concerts at Kleinhans, of course. And that upper patio for outdoor seating! Or how about a good old fashioned honky-tonk piano bar? (Mike and Calvin, there’s a good use of that word! Haha! ) Or a breakfast and lunch place for the neighborhood?

Dear owners, could you please sell it to me for zero dollars, so that I may make one of these daydreams come true? Seriously though, I love old buildings like this one. I wonder what it was to begin with, who spent time here, and what were they like? It’s Bellini’s Bistro right now and their menu looks fantastic. Think I’m going out to dinner soon…

And this house is kitty corner from the bistro. So beautiful! Oh, and note the arches in the porch…lovely.

Back to St. Johns Place

Now let’s head back to St. Johns Place to check out the north side of the street.

Love the details on the peak!

I’d love to see this one, below, get just a little attention. It’s got such great bones! The five ribbon (?) windows in the peak, the arched window on the second floor, and the details between the other two windows on the second floor, and the shingles! This home is amazing!

There’s some work being done here, and I can tell, it’s going to be fabulous when it’s finished. Looking forward to seeing those upper windows at completion! Love the little patio on the second floor too. Looks like an original window to the right of that. I think that because of the way the window opens out from the bottom. And the new paint job is showing off the dentil molding. Wow!

Next is this beauty. My favorite parts? Those upper windows, the simplicity of the porch. And the entryway. It’s very welcoming. Complete with rocker to come in and sit a spell.

The paint makes a huge difference for this home. Love the under the porch detail.

All I can say about this one, below, is wow! Just perfect in every way! The paint colors are spot on, and the execution is flawless. Doesn’t get much better than this!

Grassroots Garden WNY

This is where we come to a sweet little community garden. Love this! And right next door I met Jenny, who is one of the volunteers at this garden. What a little oasis this is! And fruitful too! Without even trying, I saw beets, greens, lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, and a bunch of other things! Sweet!

Below is Jenny in front of her own home. She was picking red currants from the bush in front of her house. Apparently, this is the largest yield she’s ever gotten from this bush. She eats them with her oatmeal in the morning, and also will make jam this summer too! Nice!

Jenny and I chatted about the neighborhood. She loves it here, I think she said she’s been here eighteen years (?). You don’t stay that long unless you like it! Love your house, Jenny. Especially the paint colors and that upper window; so many panes! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Appreciate it.

Buffalo Harmony House

And now we reach the last home on the street. And what an interesting home it is! It was designed by H.H. Little, who I first discussed on the blog over on Norwood Ave. It was built for Dr. and Mrs. Hubbard A. Foster and they moved in sometime in 1887. They lived there with their daughter Florence. Eventually Florence married and had a son, they lived in the home as well.

After the Fosters moved out, the Boocock family moved in. William Boocock was a clergyman with First Presbyterian Church. By 1930, the house was owned by Sarah Doxey, and was a two family home.

What is it Now?

It became a boarding house shortly after that, went through several owners, and was left empty for several years. Holly Holdaway bought the home, and along with Daniel Culross, lovingly restored it into the Buffalo Harmony House Historic Bed & Breakfast.

I first met Holly in 2018 when they were just opening up the B & B. She gave me a tour of the home, and it is fantastic! I took tons of photos, which I, of course, lost. (This was before my blogging days so it was before I was forced to be a little more organized about my photos.) Anyway, I spoke to Holly again the other day when she confirmed the B & B has made it through the pandemic and as a matter of fact, they will be expanding this fall. They’ll be opening a lounge with a full bar in the basement level of the home. Look for signage to come!

The stained glass transom window just inside the home inspired the theme of the B&B, and the names of the guest rooms. The Bluejay Billet, Cardinal Canton, Hummingbird Haven, Sparrow Suite, and Robin Room. Sweet. And I believe the floors have been redone since I was there, and they look fantastic.

Listen, I don’t often do this, but Holly and Dan have put their hearts and souls into this place. So have other owners of B & Bs in the area. If you’ve got friends or family coming to town, why not suggest they stay at one of our locally owned B & Bs? This one’s fantastic!

My Impressions

Wow! All of this from a bike ride and a friend telling me about this area being used for traveling circuses before the homes were built! These two streets are seemingly sleepy little streets. But there’s a lot of history here, and there’s a lot going on now. Symphony Circle and Kleinhans Music Hall is just around the bend, and in the other direction, but just as close is the hustle and bustle of Allen Street! There, you’ll find bars, restaurants, shops and galleries galore.

And just like every neighborhood I visit, there are amazing homes. And people. It’s always about the people in the end. I met several on these two streets. Jenny, Beth, Calvin, Mike and Holly (again). It was really nice meeting you all, and I hope to see each of you again soon.

Historic Allentown has always been, and always will be, one of Buffalo’s most popular areas. To live, to eat, to see a play, to visit a gallery, to party. And Orton Place and St. Johns Place are among the best streets in the neighborhood. Take a walk. Go see them. You’ll love what you see.

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They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!).  Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!

City Living – Norwood Ave

City Living – Norwood Ave

A couple of weeks ago, Tim (my husband) and I headed over to a friend’s house on Norwood Ave on the spur of the moment to say hello. Well, she (Lori) wasn’t home. As we walked away from her house, we noticed several homes along the street that are fantastic. I thought, “Why haven’t I written about this street?” So here we are.

Norwood is a long street that runs from Summer all the way to Lafayette Ave. Because of the length of the street, I’m only going to cover Lori’s block, which is between Summer and Bryant.

Let’s Begin at Bryant

We started on the West Side of the street at Bryant. I took this particular hike with Tim and David, our grandson, who is about to turn 12. These are the first homes we see.

Then we came to this, below. This is when I pointed out the three columns at the corners of the porch, and what was (and I guess still is) a Palladian window, with the woodwork surrounding it. When I told David that the glass in the center window would have originally been rounded at the top, he said, “Oh, I see what you mean. So we’re looking for details like that!” Yes, exactly.

As we walked, we talked about architectural detail. The woodwork surrounding windows. Whether the glass is leaded, what sidelights are that flank the front doors. Whether a front door was painted or not etc. I love the windows at the top of this home, below, and the French doors on the upper porch. Would be great to throw those open in the summer for a nice breeze!

Of course, I also mentioned to David that you can’t notice these things when you’re driving.

This is the first one that really made us take notice. David admired the scrollwork in the pediment and above the recessed windows in the peak of the house. I pointed out the leaded glass in the window just to the right of the front entry. This is a beautiful home.

Check out the shingles above and below the windows, which are different from the rest of the home.

Next…

We came upon this home, below, across from Lori’s house. And, lo and behold, Lori was coming down the driveway, wondering what in the world we were doing taking pictures on her street. Haha! Urban hiking, of course!

She was apparently on her way out, and caught sight of us, did a double take, and realized it was us, acting like tourists on her street! We chatted for a few minutes, and she promised to hook me up with a neighbor or two, including her mother and step-father, who own the house she lives in.

Take a look at this amazing home. That peak! Those windows! That sweet diamond! The owner has been in this home over 40 years and has done a great job maintaining it! Love it!

And This

Next, we come to this, below. This is one of three on this block designed by architect H. H. Little. He was a well-known architect in Buffalo from 1878 until his death in 1917. Little’s own home was on this block and we’ll come to it soon. But this home was built in 1894 for John Kronenberg, who was the Secretary and Treasurer of Machwirth Bros. Company. It was built as a single family home, but is now three apartments.

And it is spectacular! All the details! David said he thought it had “too much going on”. He might be right that there are a lot of different colors going on, but they’re well chosen and executed well. Very eye catching! To say nothing of the headless, handless mannequin on the upper porch…what is that about? Probably better that we don’t know. Haha! With that one exception, H.H. Little would be happy with the fate of this home.

If there is “too much” going on with the last house, perhaps it is the opposite going on right next door, below.

The Next H. H. Little on Norwood

This home was built in 1898 for F. Behn and Carl Behn, who owned Buffalo Refrigeration Company. It was built as a two-family home with identical floor plans for the first and second floors. There are a lot of lovely details here, the bay window on the second floor with its curved glass, all the woodwork around the windows and at the peak. Very pretty.

Election Fraud?

Next, we come to the home of William Gaertner, below, who ran for Delaware District Councilman in 1939, and lost. By the end of the year, he was indicted for making false affidavits designating himself as a candidate, to which he pleaded innocent. Apparently he produced a list for his staff, and had them each take turns writing in two or three names at a time, including contact info, on the affidavit. They had no idea they were doing anything illegal. (?) By January, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. It’s unclear what his sentence ended up being, but more than likely, he paid a fine if it was reduced to a misdemeanor. Oh Buffalo.

Anyways, William Gaertner’s former house is gorgeous, although I look forward to seeing it without the plastic surrounding the porch. Assuming it’ll be removed soon. I really like the canopy (is that the right word?) around the inside of the porch. Gives the home a classic look.

And these. They all have their own look and great details.

This one, below, appears to be going through extensive renovations. I believe I heard there was a fire here a while back. Alas, no one was there to talk to when we went by. This is one to watch though.

And one of my personal favorites. Just look at that upstairs room on the left and that super narrow window at that same corner of the house. Sweet! Not to mention the sun room on the front. Those windows appear to be original, and the front entry is just fantastic! The landscaping. Everything looks perfect here. The colors are spot on, the trim is done correctly. I love everything about this home.

The Third H. H. Little

Another favorite. This one, below is the home of H. H. Little. Designed by him, for him. My favorite part? The metal cresting along the roof line ending in a curlicue at two of the peaks. I’ve never seen anything like it. It shows Little’s whimsical side. I also secretly envy this type of recessed patio on the front peak. I would sleep out there in the summer! And I wonder if, and how, the owner uses the patio on the second floor corner? It’s such a private little spot.

The first floor is also red medina sandstone that’s been painted over. I wish it wasn’t painted, but this is definitely a cool house. It’s alway interesting to see what an architect builds for himself.

I’ve heard stories that the elderly gentleman who lives here now, used to drive a Pierce Arrow well after 2000. Now, that would have been a sight to see!

Society Woman…

This next one has a bit of a sad story.

The home was once occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Charles N. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was a partner in an insurance firm, and very well-to-do. His wife, Florence, was the daughter of former Buffalo mayor, General William F. Rogers. Both Charles and Florence moved in high Buffalo society. After Charles’s death Florence continued to entertain and was frequently written up in the society pages.

On January 1, 1932, Florence left her home, above, for a walk before dinner. She never returned. She was last seen at the foot of Porter Avenue near the canal. Police searched for almost three months, before her body was found near the end of March in the canal. What a terrible end for anyone! And for her family, a daughter and son-in-law.

I don’t usually like to talk about sad stories like this in my posts, but this was so strange and unexpected, that I had to include it.

AM&A’s Connection?

This next home is another favorite (I have many on this street). I heard from a neighbor that this home was owned by the Adam family from AM&A’s. There is some evidence to corroborate, but it’s not definitive. I am, however, willing to say that the home was probably owned at one time by Robert B. Adam, or his son of the same name.

The home sold in 2020, and was listed as a single family home. But after perusing the photos in the listing, there are at least two apartments, possibly more, in this house. From the sweet wrought iron gate, to the little patio above the carport, to the two dormers in the roof with their amazing windows, this home is fantastic. I wonder, however, if the room in the front with it’s leaded glass windows was always enclosed, or was this a porch at one time. No matter, this home has it all!

Bob & Susan’s Home

This is when we met Bob & Susan. What a home they’ve got! They’ve been in this house since 1976, and boy have they maintained it well. That door! So perfect! The leaded glass, the curved leaded glass and all the other details, including the red Medina Sandstone front. I’ve noticed several on the street that used sandstone. This home is fantastic.

Bob told a story that I have to share! One year on Christmas Eve, at about 10pm there was a knock at their door. Bob and Susan assumed it was a family member but when they opened the door, it was a man who introduced himself. He told them his grandmother used to live in the home, and he had with him a box filled with old photographs of the home, some framed! He gave them to Bob and Susan. Merry Christmas! What a gift. Who wouldn’t love for this to happen to them?! I sure would.

Lucky

This is where we met Lucky and his owner Paul. Paul says he lives on the other side of Richmond, but walks Norwood with Lucky because it’s such a great street. Love it. Lucky was, perhaps the calmest, most relaxed dog I’ve ever met. That’s my kind of dog!

And these

So pretty!

Technically on Summer, I’ve heard this used to be the Elmwood Music School, and is now a B&B. I hope they serve the breakfasts on the patio over the garage!

Crossing the Street

We see this. Just gorgeous! Very well done.

And these.

Nichols School on Norwood?

Yes, that’s right. This is the first permanent home of the Nichols School, below! Originally an all boys college prep school, this is where the Nichols School was located in 1892, until it’s present location was completed on Amherst Street, in 1910. Incidentally, the school was almost closed for good, when John Albright spearheaded the saving of the school, and donated part of the present grounds.

The original front porch was enclosed and additions were added to the second floor, to finally arrive at the look of the present home. Which I believe has at least four units, possibly five. How do you like the look?

Then there are these.

When I saw this house, below, I couldn’t help but notice the carriage house in the back. Now, this is a carriage house I’d like to live in!

This home below is part of a growing trend that I’ve noticed. Starting to see more homes painted black (along with the use of black trim paint). I like it. I like it a lot!

This green one, below, has so much to like. Both dormers are great, but the one on the right, how it leads right down to the bay window on the second floor. Almost all the windows are original, including the 9 and 1’s in that dormer! Awesome.

Lori’s House. No, Linda and Kevin’s House

Now we come to Lori’s house. More correctly, Linda and Kevin’s house. And I don’t know where to begin. This home is monumental!

I’ll just start with the current owners, Lori’s Mother, Linda, and Step-Father, Kevin bought the home in 2004. There are four apartments in all. Lori moved into the second floor front apartment five years later. And Tony (now Lori’s husband) moved in a while after that.

How about those porches? Perfect! Great spot for a wedding.

Lori & Tony taking their vows!

Or Halloween, or Christmas. Or just a casual dinner with friends in the summer. If you live in the area, you know what I mean. Wink, wink.

Anyhoo. I sat down with Linda and Kevin last week to talk about the house.

The Diamond Connection

Lance Diamond was a long time resident at this home. As a matter of fact, he lived in all four apartments at one time or another. He lived here when some, or all of the Goo Goo Dolls lived here. They became friends, which apparently Lance did with everyone. Robby Takac was a regular visitor to the house to see Lance until his death in 2015.

Lance Diamond, baby! Photo credit: unknown

While Linda and Kevin were telling me about Lance, they talked about the many meals they shared together, and about just hanging out with him on the porch. It’s obvious they both miss him very much. Goes to show that homes are always about the people who live in them.

Last spring, Robby asked Linda and Kevin to host a band on their porch during Porchfest in honor of Lance. Perfect porch for it. They agreed, but the pandemic hit, and Porchfest was cancelled. This year, maybe? Time will tell.

Kevin, Linda – you’ve got a fantastic home.

Moving Right Along

This next home shares a driveway with Kevin and Linda’s house. It’s really gorgeous too.

This home, below, was apparently in really, really rough shape. Flippers bought it, and did what they do. Looks like a brand new house. Wish I knew what it looked like before.

And oh my gosh, this sweet thing. I love the new paint job here! Very bold, and it’s so cheerful. My favorite part? The wrought iron on the two front windows – it makes the whole house make sense. H. H. Little would approve of this bit of whimsy.

And these. Aren’t they lovely?

Blown Away Again on Norwood

Just as I started to think things were winding down, we came across this. And it’s signed Tingley/Ogre 2012! In Buffalo street art, it doesn’t get any better than this. They are two of the most talented artists in Buffalo. So, what a find! And it’s been here since 2012? Never noticed it before.

I guess that’s because I’m usually in a car on this street. Here’s a case for urban hiking. Love this.

But, actually, it’s not quite what it appears to be. When I spoke with Newell Nussbaumer, founder of Buffalo Rising, and owner of the garage that is really a house, he explained that the original painting on the garage door was in fact done by Chuck Tingley and Ogre (Matthew Grote). And that garage door was damaged by a car, so Newell and his wife, Amelia took the door down and hung it inside their home. They then had the replacement door painted with what you see here (above) by mural artists Vinny Alejandro and Mark Madden. It is inspired by Danish mid-century modern pottery. Awesome.

Love their persistence. Most people would have just put up a new door and left it with the surround that belonged to the first mural. But Newell and Amelia wanted their yard to bring beauty and joy to their neighbors, so they had the new door painted as well.

A Little Background on the ‘Garage’ House and Yard

The home is a converted garage, or more precisely, a carriage house. It was where some of the neighbors kept their carriages (this is a late 1800s neighborhood remember). They would ride their horses over, hitch them up to their carriage and go on their way. I’m sure in some cases, their drivers did all of this, as we already know this street was home to some of Buffalo’s wealthier residents.

Then the building became a livery, and later still, a taxi company called The Norwood Garage. Wow! What a history!

Newell explained that his mother originally told him about the place coming up for sale. A friend of hers converted it into a home, and when Newell went to see it, he liked it well enough to make the decision to buy it that same day. And he wasn’t even looking for a house! Brave.

A Shared Driveway and Yard

Living in a home behind another home is something that I would say most people would be unwilling to do. Newell and Amelia’s home has a shared yard with three other homes. The people who live here share and share alike. Newell talked about how they watch out for each other, they keep an eye on each others’ homes if someone is not around. They all take care of the place together in a casual sort of way.

The home that shares a driveway with Newell & Amelia’s home

A lot of people wouldn’t care for this type of arrangement. But Newell says it works very well. In my opinion, this is what city living is about. People being true neighbors. Working together for the common good, and being there for each other. Newell referred to it as a sort of safety net. I like that.

These next two photos are the other two homes that share a yard with the ‘garage’ house. They’re twins, with minor differences.

Then we saw this! At this point it took every ounce of strength I had to not walk up the driveway to see what exactly was going on in there. Later, Newell filled me in on this one too. It’s in part of their shared yard, and was painted by Mark Madden. It’s the face of Elektra, a Tesla-inspired electrified sculpture. Cool!

Next time, Newell, I’m going in. Haha!

A Couple More

This home, below, is very much like a lot of the homes on this street. That is to say, a Victorian era, or Queen Anne, or shingle style home. It could be grand again. Look closely at the details. The double columns at the back of the porch, the scroll work under the eaves, the shingles…if they’re not damaged. The right paint could make all the difference in the world for this house. Let’s keep an eye on this one.

My Impressions

Where to begin with my impressions of Norwood Ave? I have to say that this street blew me away. The homes, the history, the people! Nichols School! Lucky and Paul! Bob and Susan. Lori, Linda and Kevin. Newell and Amelia! And Lance Diamond, a Buffalo Icon!

I mentioned earlier that Lance made friends with everyone. He made friends with me many years ago as I headed up the sidewalk to meet Lori on her porch. He was sitting on the little stoop just up from the sidewalk. I didn’t know who he was, although I had heard of him. He introduced himself, and told me that any friend of Lori’s was a friend of his.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve said that to me about Lori. She’s good people. She is without a doubt, the absolute salt of the earth. And so are Linda and Kevin. 100 percent. Happy to be considered their friend, and have been for a long time. True Buffalo people.

And being a regular reader of Buffalo Rising for many years now, it was really fun to talk to Newell about his house and his neighborhood. Thank you for that Newell. You’re true Buffalo people too.

Norwood is a long street, I’ve only shown you about one third of it. And I apologize if your home didn’t make it in to the post. There were so many homes! Buffalo’s Garden Walk began on this street – the other end. If you can, you should come see this street. The whole street. It’s truly amazing. And so are the people.

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City Living – The Medical Corridor

City Living – The Medical Corridor

Several months ago, a family member was in Buffalo General Hospital over on High Street in the Medical Campus. For about the one hundredth time, I admired Kevin Guest House as I drove by. But this time I noticed all the other homes around it. I thought, what the heck? How have they survived? I mean, in this little corner of Buffalo, smack dab in the middle of the medical corridor, there are not a lot of homes left. It’s all hospitals, medical labs, the medical school, parking lots and more like it. Buffalo General Hospital, Oishei Children’s Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute are all within view of these homes.

This little block intrigues me. Several houses still stand in the middle of all of this development. It’s time I learned a bit more about them. Come hike with me.

Let’s Get Started with Kevin Guest House

Through the years I’ve wondered about the origins of this house. Who built it? Who’s lived here? What were they like? You know, my usual thoughts as I hike around the city looking at different homes and buildings. So I bought a book about it through the Kevin Guest House website. Very interesting and easy read.

Kevin Guest House

The home was built in 1869 for Jacob B. Fisher, who was a brewer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my reading about Buffalo, it’s that back in the day brewers did very well here. And I think they are again. Just sayin’.

The Speyser Family

In 1904, the home was purchased by Theophil Speyser, a cabinetmaker, for himself and his family. Speyser and his wife, Ernestine, had three children, Louis, Clara and Mathilda, who all lived in the home. Theophil opened a coffin and furniture making company and also purchased a coffin factory. He incorporated in 1906 under the name Buffalo Trunk Manufacturing. The factory building at 127-130 Cherry Street (now Evergreen Lofts) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Cool.

Mathilda married Louis Beer and the home stayed in the Speyser/Beer family until 1971. Interior photos of the home are available at the Kevin Guest House website.

Who Was Kevin?

Kevin Garvey was born in 1958 in Sharon, PA, to Cyril and Claudia Garvey. Kevin was one of eight children, and his family gave him the nickname Heart. Just after his sixth grade year, in July 1970, Kevin arrived at Roswell Park for treatment of Leukemia. Kevin was, by all accounts (in the book), an example and model to everyone who knew him. He never lost his faith in God throughout the 18 months he lived with the disease.

Kevin Garvey. Photo courtesy of Kevin Guest House website

On January 14, 1972, Kevin passed away.

His family soon after founded the Kevin Guest House, a hospitality house for patients and their families who have to travel long distances for medical treatment in one of Buffalo’s hospitals and treatment centers. Through the years, it has grown to a campus of four houses. The family remains somewhat involved in Kevin Guest House today.

A Source of Inspiration

In my humble opinion, Kevin’s family were (and still are) models and examples to everyone as well. The good work they have done across the country and right here in Buffalo is a testament to the love they have for their son and brother.

Incidentally, Kevin Guest House was the inspiration for the first Ronald McDonald House, which was in Philadelphia, and has served as a model for many others across the country as well. Another Buffalo first – by guests of ours back in 1972. Amazing people if you ask me. To take a loss so great, and turn it into something that has helped countless people through the years. Simply incredible.

This home, part of the campus is for bone marrow transplant patients and their families. The carriage house behind it has apartments above also to be used by patients and their families.

766 Ellicott Street

This home too, is part of the Kevin Guest House campus. It is called the Russel J. Salvatore Hospitality House on Kevin Campus. Schroeder, Joseph & Associates sold the property to Kevin Guest House in order that they may expand their services to more families in need.

As of 2016, Kevin Guest House was serving roughly 1200 families every year, but 400 more were being turned away. This home is already going a long way toward helping these families. To date, in 2020, 2,000 families have been sheltered during their time of need.

Being a history nerd, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the history of this home. This beautiful Second Empire home was built for Albert Ziegler, who was also a brewer.

Zeigler’s story is well known in Buffalo brewing circles. When his brewery on Genesee Street burned to the ground, it was resurrected on Washington Street as the Phoenix Brewery. Ziegler named it for the Egyptian mythological figure that rose from the ashes. That second building has now been redeveloped by Sinatra & Company as residential units.

The home was eventually owned by August Feine, who was a talented craftsman working with iron. He embellished the home in several places with his hand forged ironwork. This home is magnificent!

Moving Right Along

As I move down the block and turn onto High Street I see this building.

I wonder what’s going on inside, looks like construction. So I called Ciminelli Real Estate and spoke to Denise Juron-Borgese, Vice-President of Development & Planning, who tells me that the building was aquired by Ciminelli during their work on the Conventus Building across the street and adjacent to Oishei Children’s Hospital. It was used as a sort of headquarters during construction.

Ciminelli has no immediate plans for 33 High Street at this time. I’m no expert, but I would guess there’s a lot of potential here.

Denise and I also had a very interesting discussion about the Conventus Building. Look for a post about it in the new year. Thank you, Denise.

The Homes Along Washington Street

As I turn left on Washington Street, I see the UB Jacobs School of Medicine on the right. But what I’m interested in are the homes on the left. They appear to be from the 1850’s and are beautiful to my eye, with lots of little details that you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you were just driving by. And they’ve got quite a bit of wrought iron, which makes me wonder if August Feine did some iron work for his neighbors back in the day. This is not your run of the mill ironwork. Some of it is exquisite.

The homes are owned by the Medical Campus (927-937 Washington Street LLC). Word on the street has it that there are asbestos issues that will need to be taken care of, but when I was there the other day, new roofs were being put on all of them, so that’s a good sign. Nice to know we won’t be losing them.

The St. Jude Center

As I continue east on Carlton Street, I come upon the St. Jude Center.

I have never heard of it. I have, however, passed it many times though, on the northwest corner of Carlton and Ellicott Streets.

So, here’s what I’ve learned since then.

The St. Jude Center was started by Msgr. Edward J. Ulaszeski in 1969, in response to the need for better pastoral care for people experiencing the pain and suffering of illnesses, by either themselves or a family member. It is easy to see why the center is located where it is, in the heart of Buffalo’s medical campus.

The director now, Fr. Richard Augustyn, tells me that when he came here to work as a chaplain at Buffalo General Hospital, in 1975, the neighborhood was so rough that they had police escorts for emergency visits to the hospital. One block away! He also tells me that the neighborhood has done a one-eighty. It’s now very safe. Patrolled regularly by police. I know I feel safe when I’m in the area.

The Center serves the community in several ways. Fr. Richard is a full time chaplain at Buff Gen. The center offers mass twice a day on weekdays, twice a day on the weekends. And mass every day at Buff Gen too. This is in addition to the regular chaplain duties of offering emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

There are several programs offered in the St. Jude Center as well, including bereavement programs, prosthetic support, and wellness support. They also train all chaplains who work at the hospitals in the medical corridor.

The Home Itself

The home is an old Victorian era house with a carriage house behind. The City of Buffalo lists the house as being built in 1890, but Fr. Richard tells me it was built in 1856 for the Hock family, who lived in the home while running the Victoria Hotel Bed & Breakfast out of it. Interesting story.

The home sat abandoned for quite some time and was pretty rough when Msgr. Ulaszeski bought it in 1969 for the St. Jude Center. A lot of the interior details are still there, although most of the woodwork has been painted. Fr. Richard graciously invited me into his home for some photos.

Check out these chandeliers, which were there when Msgr. Ulaszeski purchased the home, although I’m pretty sure they don’t date to 1856. They are different from any other lighting fixtures I have ever seen! Note that the home is decorated for Christmas, so the ornaments are not normally on the one fixture.

And the living room. This archway and pocket doors are the only woodwork that is not currently painted. And this chandelier (below) was added by Fr. Richard. There are five marble fireplaces intact in the home.

The Carriage House

The day I went to see Fr. Richard was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I attended mass at the Shrine to St. Jude which is in the old carriage house, and we met immediately following the mass.

Now, I’ve been to mass in more churches and chapels than I can count, and literally all over the world. I wouldn’t say that I’ve traveled extensively, but I have traveled. And when I travel, I still attend mass. So I’ve been in some really different churches. Like the church in Puerto Rico that didn’t have any windows, just hurricane shutters which are almost always thrown open.

But I have to say that this chapel is different from anything I’ve ever seen. I first walked through the brand new, modern vestibule, which, I admit seems out of place here. But immediately, I saw these doors, and forgot all about that. Note the carriage kicks at the bottom on either side of the door frame. These would prevent carriages from losing wheels if they bumped the door frames. I love it that they’re still there.

And one from the inside.

That Feeling…

When I walked into the chapel I immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. If you read my blog, it was akin to the feeling I get at Corpus Christi Church. There were more people there than I expected (don’t worry they’re following all the Covid rules), one of them said hello to me from her pew and another smiled at me through her mask. I felt comfortable immediately. I don’t know if it’s the lighting in there, or the immediate acceptance of the people when I walked in, but I got a good feeling in this chapel.

Take a look. Note the openings in the upper wall, covered now with wrought iron, this was the hay loft. The brick work on the walls here has been repaired over and over. But it’s beautiful. Through the wrought iron doors is where the Sanctuary Lamp and the Tabernacle are kept. It is where the horses were stabled. I absolutely love the humbleness of this chapel. It’s very real.

More Wrought Iron!

And the wrought iron. It’s everywhere on this property. It is so beautiful and so appropriate here. It just works.

A Quick Story

While I perused the St. Jude Center website I noticed they have a Hungarian mass on Sundays. When I asked Fr. Richard about it, he told me a little story.

A woman he knows through his work at Buffalo General seemed a little down in the dumps, and when Fr. Richard asked her about it, she told him that her home parish church was closing. She is a first generation Hungarian immigrant, and would miss her Hungarian language mass every Sunday. Fr. Richard told the woman to invite her priest in to St. Jude’s on Sunday for mass. As he says, he “squeezed them in” between the 8:45am and the 11:15am masses. And so, the 10am Hungarian mass was born at St. Jude’s.

When, sadly, the Hungarian speaking priest passed away, Fr. Richard learned to say the mass in Hungarian so the congregation could continue with their Hungarian masses. When I expressed amazement that he would do this, Fr. Richard downplayed it. He explained that he doesn’t say his homilies in Hungarian, and that he cannot speak Hungarian. He merely learned to say the mass in that language. Still. It was an awesome thing for him to do.

I have a feeling a lot of things like this Hungarian Mass story goes on here at St. Jude’s.

My Impressions

First of all, I don’t think I have ever seen so much incredible wrought iron within one city block! So beautiful! I still wonder about the August Feine thing. Whether he did wrought iron for his neighbors…I guess we’ll never know.

The homes are gorgeous and historic. Wish I could have seen this block a hundred years ago, when there were more homes just like these. And wish I could meet the people who lived in them. To hear their stories.

But I remain grateful that these few still stand, for a glimpse of the past in our midst.

Seen on the back the the St. Jude Center sign. It’s a framed icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Sweet! You’re not going to notice that when you’re driving!

Secondly, I want to convey to you how blown away I was by both the Kevin Guest House story, and the story of the St. Jude Center. Here are two awe-inspiring entities, sitting quietly in an unlikely, but very fitting, setting. As the medical corridor grows up around them, they remain. Continuing their quiet, but oh so important work. Forever tied to the medical community, and the people they both serve.

Humble is the word that comes to mind. And when people are humble, they often achieve great things for their fellow human beings. This is happening here in Buffalo, on this little block in the middle of the Medical Corridor.

Next time you’re in the area, take a closer look.

And if you can, and you’re looking for a way to give back, or pay it forward this holiday season, I bet they’d both appreciate a donation. 😉

Gratitude

*Special thanks to Fr. Richard Augustyn, The St. Jude Center; Denise Juron-Borgese, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.; and Betsy Stone, Kevin Guest House.

p.s. Somebody at the St. Jude Center is a Bill’s fan! Go Bills!

How to Celebrate the Holidays in Buffalo, 2020

How to Celebrate the Holidays in Buffalo, 2020

A year ago, I wrote a post about Holiday Traditions. Here I am a year later writing about how to celebrate the holidays in 2020. What a difference a year makes. 2020 has been challenging to say the least. It’s been downright awful for some people, and that can make the looming holidays seem like they’re going to be another challenge to ‘get through’ this year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can face another ‘zoom’ holiday.

So, in preparation for today’s post I went back and re-read last year’s post. Some of my ideas back then still apply in this pandemic year of social distancing. Some, obviously, do not. Take, for instance, the idea to invite friends over for weeknight parties. Who would have thought that something as simple as that would be considered taboo just one year later? Are people still doing it? Sure they are. Should they? Hmmmmm….not so much.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

And just one year ago, I encouraged everyone to invite family and friends over to cook and/or bake together. This year, I’ve got other ideas about that. And inviting a casual friend that might otherwise be alone for the holidays? Not a good idea.

So what is there to do? Lots. There are a lot of great ideas for ‘social distance’ celebrating with just the people in your “bubble”, or your close circle. Some are my ideas, some I’ve heard about from other people. Some of these ideas are Buffalo specific, but most you can do from anywhere. Let’s take a look.

The Holiday Baking/Cooking Thing

The other day on social media, I saw a post by an acquaintance of mine saying that she had made 242 perogies, and that the first 16 people to comment would get a bag of perogies delivered to their door the next day, with the stipulation that they would then pay it forward. The timing was right, so sure enough, the next day, she showed up at my house, with a bag of perogies, and the request to ‘pay it forward’. Which I will do.

That got me thinking about this holiday season, and how we cannot get together with family and friends to cook and/or bake this year. But why does that have to stop us? I mean, would it be more fun to do it with loved ones? Yes, of course. But, my plan is to bake alone this year, but for other people. I’m going to put on some Christmas music, fire up the oven, and go to town, baking some of my Mother’s best cookie recipes. Mom’s cookies are legendary in my family. Recently one of my sons was asked what his favorite holiday cookie is. His answer? “Anything baked by Grandma Mika.” Good answer.

Mom poses with her “Rocks” cookies. Filled with fall spices, raisins and walnuts, (spoiler alert) they do not taste like rocks.

Mom baked with recipes, but she also made up her own. I remember her showing up at my house one day saying she had an idea for a new cookie and had brought some over for us to test taste. When I tried the cookie, it practically melted in my mouth. She had a gift, my mother.

Paying It Forward

And now, I’m sad to say I have my Mother’s handwritten recipe book. When considering what to do to ‘pay it forward’ for the perogies I received, I will be consulting the book. I don’t share my mother’s gift for baking, but using her recipes gives me the best possible chance to show love to the people I pay it forward to.

Here’s my idea for you. You don’t need to receive perogies from someone to be able to pay it forward. We all have something to be thankful for. No matter how insignificant it may seem. Without all the parties, gift exchanges and running around shopping for extended family and friends, we have time this year to do stuff like this. Do it alone, or with the few people in your “bubble”. Whatever works.

And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be homemade baked goods, or enough for 16 people! Could be two people. Could be bakery bought cookies. Make a pot roast or a spaghetti dinner for a neighbor. Or bake a cake. Or anything your heart desires. Pay it forward your way! You decide.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Come to think of it. This doesn’t have to be a cooking/baking thing. If you knit or crochet, and can make scarves or hats, do that! Deliver them to the city mission. Contact your church, synagogue or mosque and ask if they know a family in need, (they usually do) and send them some anonymous gift certificates, or gently used clothing. Whatever you can do. Just pay it forward.

Thank you Ann, for the perogies, and for the inspiration.

Doing something like this, that takes a little planning and effort on your part, will get you into the holiday spirit!

Send Out Cards This Year

Since we have so much time at home during Covid, why not send out holiday cards this year? No matter what you’re celebrating: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice…wouldn’t it be a great idea to spread some cheer?

Sending out cards for the holidays has fallen out of fashion. I myself sent out cards much longer than a lot of my friends and family. But even I stopped quite a few years ago. What better year to pick it back up again? At a time when we cannot easily go see friends and family, to me it makes sense to spread some holiday cheer by sending greeting cards.

I know the postal service sometimes gets a bad rap, but look at it this way, what other delivery service will pick up right from your home, and send an envelope clear across the country for you, for 55 cents? It might not be what we used to pay, but it’s still a good deal. And it’s a small price to pay to make someone happy.

Also, be thoughtful about it. Along with your family, be sure to send cards to people you think might be surprised to receive one from you. Or someone you know who has lost a loved one this year. Or someone who lives alone, or is lonely (not necessarily the same person). If you have the time, personalize it by writing a note inside.

You get what I mean here. Send out some holiday cheer in the form of greeting cards. It’ll get you in the holiday spirit. And you might just make someone’s day!

Get Outside

This is one that still applies from last year. If you can, get outside into the fresh (cold!) air. Take a walk, or an urban hike. If you have kids, take them with you! Bundle up, of course, and stay out only as long as it’s safe. But do it. And do it often. You’ll feel better, less stressed, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Where to go? Just about anywhere you want. Not sure? Here are a few suggestions.

Right in Your Own Neighborhood

Walk out your front door, make a left (or a right) at the sidewalk and follow it all the way around the block until you’re back to your house. Sounds crazy, but it could be that simple! The point is, that it doesn’t have to be complicated. I have several different walks in my neighborhood that I take regularly. Which one I take depends on how much time I have, which way the wind is blowing (some routes are more windy than others) and how much snow is on the ground!

Aoife on one of our walks, 2019

Be sure to head out occasionally in the early evening when everyone’s lights are on. People have really gone all out this year with their displays. It’ll lift your spirits to see what some people have done! You’ll be amazed!

Or Someone Else’s Neighborhood

Do like I sometimes do. Drive to a neighborhood that interests you, and take an urban hike. Pick one of Olmsted’s parkways, Lincoln, Chapin, Bidwell, Richmond or Porter. Or check out the Parkside neighborhood. The Darwin Martin House is not the only impressive home in that area. There are lots more! Check out Tillinghast Place (one of my favorites!).

Or explore any street in the Elmwood Village too! While you’re there, do some holiday shopping at one of our locally owned shops. Or try one of the residential parks over in Allentown and beyond. Arlington Park, Days Park or Johnson Park.

The point is to get out and do a little urban exploration. You’ll fall in love with our city!

The Waterfront

Or for a change of scenery, head over to the waterfront. I do this all the time. Park near the Swannie House and walk past the Edward M. Cotter, and make your way along the Buffalo River all the way to the lookout at the Erie Basin Marina. Climb the lookout – the views are gorgeous – even in the winter! Head back and get some wings to-go at Swannie House. Yum! (Support our local businesses!) Or if you prefer, head home for some hot cocoa and cookies. Either will hit the spot after a winter walk. During the holidays though, plan for the after party, especially if you’ve got kids. It’ll extend the adventure and make it more memorable.

I’ve heard that some places in Buffalo are selling Tom & Jerry drinks to-go this year. Another thing to be thankful for!

Hit A Park During the Holidays

Live near a park? Even if you don’t, head out to one of Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks, and walk. Park behind the Art Gallery at Delaware Park for instance, and walk around Hoyt Lake. You won’t get lost. There’s a paved path for some of it and a well trodden path for some of it, but if you keep the lake in view, you can’t get lost. This is one of my go to walks during summer and winter alike. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there. And you’ll see plenty of other folks out too! Don’t forget the after party!

A couple of years ago, my sister and I headed over to Delaware Park the morning after getting about 14 inches of snow overnight. It was early, it hadn’t yet been plowed and was it ever gorgeous! The sun wasn’t even shining, but the snow! It looked so beautiful, and peaceful! If you can time one of these walks just after a snowfall, or during a calm snowfall, the whole world will feel different. Quieter, more insulated…peaceful. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

Plan Ahead for Your Holiday Walks

Plan ahead for a few walks during the holidays, and get creative with the after parties. Get the crock pot going before you go out, and come home to the wonderful smells and tastes that await! Got kids? Finish off the day with one of your family’s favorite board games! Make the game an event! Talk it up to the kids, and they’ll get excited!

Get Creative this Holiday Season

Go Christmas caroling. Seriously. Get the people in your “bubble” to do it with you. You don’t have to get very close to the homes you visit. Get creative by traveling to people’s homes that you know could use a pick me up! Maybe they’ve lost a loved one this year, or have been sick. Maybe you happen to know they’re feeling lonely. Super easy to do, and you could bring some of those cookies to drop off while you’re there! Again, you might just make someone’s day!

Watch some Christmas movies! Now, this sounds like something that we’ve always done to get in the spirit. But this year, make it an event. Cook a special meal to eat while watching. Maybe homemade pizzas with everyone helping and using their favorite toppings. Or make cookies to eat, and cocoa to drink during the movie. Watch the classics, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. And ‘new’ classics too! Elf, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, This Christmas and A Christmas Story. Or whatever your favorites are! Your choice!

Check this Out!

I know a family who, during quarantine last spring, started their own family Olympics! They got really creative and made up silly events and competed with each other! I believe there were upwards of 30 events in all! They did it over several weeks. I, along with many others, followed their progress on social media, including closing ceremonies etc. It was fun to watch, and must have been a blast for them!

The video below is from the Telesco Family Quarantine Olympics – The following quote is the intro to this particular event from facebook.

“Event #2 – Whipped Cream Flip Challenge. The rules: Spray whipped cream on your hand. Flip it up and catch it in your mouth. Top two move on to finals. In the finals, you must flip it up, do a 360 and then catch it. After 4 attempts, if there is a tie, it goes to sudden death in a regular (non-spinning) flip.” I love it.

See how much fun we all could be having with this?! Haha! Now, you don’t have to video your own Olympics and share to social media. But why not plan your own? I thought this was a really creative way to break up the monotony of quarantine. Add a holiday theme, and you might just have fun with it!

Wrap it Up!

Now, I could continue with ideas like getting all of your neighbors to go out on their front steps at 6pm on Christmas Eve to ring bells together to celebrate separately-together this year. Or having a family board game night tournament style (this is not just for kids – keep it to your “bubble” though) with prizes for the winners etc. But I think you get the idea!

Any one of these would surely get you into the holiday spirit.

My Impressions

Sometimes, getting creative can mean stepping back and relaxing a bit. Staying away from the hustle and bustle of the season. Keeping it simple.

The other day I saw someone on TV make an old fashioned paper chain to decorate for Christmas. Always looking for things to do with my grandkids, the next time one of them was over, I pulled out the construction paper, some scissors, and a glue stick. My granddaughter Aoife, my daughter-in-law Kristen and I cut and glued for an hour. Okay, Kristen did almost all of it (thank you!). But Aoife is only three.

But even at three, we were able to convey to her that we were doing something important to get ready for Christmas! When our tree goes up mid-month, as is our tradition, that chain will go on it. And I’ll make it a big deal that Aoife made it, and that it makes our tree perfect this year. I can picture her now, bursting with pride!

That’s what it’s all about if you have kids. YOU have the power to make or break this holiday season for them. Kids will pick up on whatever attitude you project. You will too. If you keep positive with the simple things, this year could turn out to make some of the best holiday memories ever!

It’s The Simple Things

Take some walks in some of Buffalo’s parks. Give to others in a simple way. Have family fun nights. Send greeting cards. Drive around to see the Christmas lights (Buffalo has really gone above and beyond this year!). You get the idea, and most of you are more creative than I am, so have fun with it!

Focus on the positive, even if you have to keep re-focusing on it (I know sometimes I do!). We are all human, and need interaction with others. Perhaps in Buffalo, we have a little more of this than in other cities, in keeping with our ‘Friendliest City in America’ status. But we are creative and can figure out ways to be social while maintaining social distance and staying safe through these unprecedented times. We got this, Buffalo.

Do us all a favor and share your creative holiday ideas in the comments below!

*Special thanks to the Telesco family for allowing me to share that super fun video!

Top Five Things to be Grateful for in Buffalo, 2020

Top Five Things to be Grateful for in Buffalo, 2020

Every year in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I get thinking about all that I am grateful for.  This year is no different.  I know, I know.  It’s 2020.  What is there to be thankful for this year? 

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a grateful person. I tend to put my energy towards positive things, and I think being grateful is one of them. It works for me. And studies are starting to show that it works for most. Even people who seek counseling for mental issues. Regularly listing the things you are grateful for, writing thank you letters, or writing in a gratitude journal is becoming more and more common these days. And it’s working.

‘Much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and the things we do have.’ * – Joshua Brown, Joel Long

The idea here is that if we spend more time thinking about things we are grateful for, we’ll spend less time on negative thoughts, thereby improving our general outlook on life. Makes sense. It’s a practice though. It takes time to reverse your way of thinking. But over time you get better at looking for the good, or the silver lining as it were, eventually changing your way of thinking to a much more positive thought process.

Chestnut Ridge Park, in the fall.

So, let’s give it a whirl. Let’s be positive in this pandemic year that’s been fraught with problems for everyone. Here’s my list of things we, as Buffalonians, can be thankful for.

Number Five – Location, Location, Location

I know I’ve said this before and I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but I can’t leave this off the list! We take it for granted, but not that many people can walk out their doors and see what we have the ability to see within just a few minutes. Okay, twenty. Haha. We’re the twenty minute city, remember? We can get just about anywhere we need to go within a twenty minute drive. But really, it would probably take less than that for any of us to get to some sort of water in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. It doesn’t have to be Lake Erie, or the Niagara River. There are a lot of other smaller lakes, creeks etc. to see.

And the views are spectacular!

Being near the water, even in winter (bundle up!), calms us. It’s been studied over and over again. If you haven’t taken the time to go and be near the water in or around Buffalo, whether it be Lake Erie or Ontario, the Buffalo River, the Niagara River or any one of our smaller lakes, streams, or creeks, please make the time to go. You don’t even need to get out of your car and make it an active thing. Just spend time there. Look at it. And breathe. I think you’ll agree, it’s something to be grateful for.

Number Four – Our Parks & Parkways

I’ve talked about our parkways quite a bit in my posts. Great urban hiking spots! And I did write a post about Delaware Park quite a while ago. Our parks are magnificent! They really are! And there are more than our Olmsted Parks, not that we would need more, because the Olmsted Parks are enviable to be sure!

They are Delaware Park, MLK Park, Front Park, Riverside Park, Cazenovia Park and South Park. All amazing in their own way! If you get to any of these on a regular basis, then you know that they are all something to be grateful for! And they’re something that we do tend to take for granted. They’re just always there.

But imagine Buffalo without them. If those city leaders back in the day had passed on building a park and parkway system, we’d have just the one park. Probably Delaware Park. And while it’s pretty spectacular, I like it that there are more than one. It gives more of us the chance to get to them regularly.

And the parkways! How glorious to have these to walk through in all four seasons! They are beautiful. It’s as simple as that! I am grateful for our parks and parkway system.

Number Three – Architecture

Seriously, our architecture is second to none! Okay, maybe not the best in the world, but Buffalo has truly become an architecture destination! We’ve got examples of the best and the brightest architects in the country. H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Minoru Yamasaki. We’ve even got an incredible hotel designed by the first woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune! She was a Buffalonian!

Take a look at these.

We’ve also got incredible homes! We’ve got numerous examples of incredible architects who designed some pretty amazing homes here in the Queen City! Frank Lloyd Wright, Green & Wicks, Essenwein & Johnson, and more! Take a look at some of them.

I am grateful to have all the beautiful architecture that we regularly enjoy here in Buffalo! Without all that to look at on my urban hikes, what would I do with my time?

Number Two – Food

Yes, food. Buffalonians know how good the food is here. We’ve always known. Just ask our ex-pats. When people leave Buffalo, they miss the food! And the world is taking notice! Not for the first time, (2015 was the first) Buffalo was put on National Geographics list of best city’s to eat in, specifically for our chicken wings. We are ranked third in the world. As a side note, the second place city, Chennai, India, was named for it’s equivalent of the Buffalo wing! In my opinion, that means we get the number two spot as well! Ha!

Photo courtesy of Bar Bill Tavern

But we are much, much more than chicken wings. We have amazing ethnic food as well. About a year ago, I toured some people from Indianapolis around Buffalo and one of them was from the Dominican Republic. They asked if they could find authentic Dominican food in Buffalo. I did a quick google search, and found La Casa de Sabores, on Letchworth Street over on the West Side. They went after the tour and texted me later to tell me that it was some of the most authentic Dominican food they’ve eaten in the country! Not surprised.

Buffalo has to be on some list somewhere, for authentic ethnic food. We’ve got the West Side Bazaar, the Broadway Market and many Mom & Pop restaurants serving up authentic food from all over the world! Greek, Soul Food, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Polish, Italian, French. The list goes on and on.

And we are not just all about the meat anymore either! Several vegan and plant-based restaurants have opened up in the past few years, and they are thriving! Even meat eaters go there, because the creative chefs are killing it!

And our pizza? Forget about it! Buffalo’s pizza is the best! I’ve had pizza all over this country, and none can even compare to Buffalo pizza. The pepperoni cups…just sayin.

Let’s suffice it to say that that the variety of amazing food available in Buffalo is truly something to be grateful for!

And…Number One – the People!

The number one reason to be thankful in Buffalo, in 2020, is….drumroll please! (Picture Clark Griswold on the front lawn about to plug in the Christmas lights!)

Us! Yep! That’s right. Us.

We were voted America’s Friendliest City by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2018. Why? Because we smile at each other and say “hello” when passing on the street. It’s sound hokey, but it’s true. I can attest to it. I always say hello, every time I pass someone. Here in Buffalo, most smile and say hello back. Not all, but most. Some even strike up a conversation. Some of those conversations result in making friends. I am not kidding. To me, that’s a small-town, friendly kind of thing. But that’s Buffalo. Friendly.

But we are also resilient. Strong. Tough. We are loyal, steadfast and true. To the end.

Just look at our history. (You know I couldn’t do a post without history!) The village of Buffalo was burned to the ground in 1813 and only four structures survived. The people rebuilt. We came back stronger than ever, and grew to be the eighth largest city in the country by 1900.

We suffered after World War II. Businesses left the area. We became a major part of the Rust Belt cities who lost their steel industries, which were major employers here in Buffalo.

But the people. Brilliant, innovative, inventive, creative, steadfast people stayed and helped see us through the tough times. Buffalo is now emerging stronger and more community-minded than ever. Because of the people. Us. And that’s right, we say ‘hello’ to each other on the streets.

For us, I am grateful!

My Impressions

Whether it be massive job losses, a crippling blizzard, or the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Buffalo support each other. That’s what we do, when someone in Buffalo needs something, we step up and take care of them. And we will prevail this time too, throughout the Covid crisis. Because of us. The people of Buffalo.

Look, we have so much to be thankful for, living here in Buffalo. So much more than I have mentioned here. The arts. Our galleries. Our theaters. Outdoor concerts. The Bills. The Sabres. The list could go on and on.

But the only thing that really matters is people. Human beings helping each other to thrive. That’s what really matters in the end. Like in 1813, if we lost everything tomorrow, we, in Buffalo would rebuild. And come back better than ever. We are Buffalo strong. We got this.

That’s what I am grateful for in Buffalo, in 2020.

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