Monday, December 31, 2012

Seven Things I Love About the Buffalo-Niagara Area

For nearly 40 years now (it’s coming very quickly!), I’ve been a firm believer in the Buffalo-Niagara area for a number of reasons. This is my home, and on the rare occasion I thought about leaving (mostly in high school and college for education and career purposes), I always managed to come back to my senses and realize there’s really no place else for me. The following seven things are what keeps me here, and keeps me writing about the awesomeness of the Buffalo-Niagara region.
·         Four seasons – OK, yeah, I know – IT SNOWS HERE! But the beauty of the snow: eventually it goes away! I can’t imagine living with the constant threat of hurricanes or tornados. It does get cold in the winter, but springtime is glorious, summer can’t be beat and autumn is beautiful.
·         Music from two countries – I’ve been listening to “Canadian music” for nearly 30 years – and yes, there’s a difference. There are some great acts dating back to the 1980s – artists like Luba, Spoons, Parachute Club and Gowan – that I listened to that no-one I went to school with had heard of, and even today, bands like The Tragically Hip, the Headstones and Chantal Kreviaziuk have a limited following in “the States,” mostly in border towns like ours. Listen up America – there’s some cool music north of the border.
·         Foodie-ness – Chicken Wings. Sponge Candy. Beef on Weck. Just a few of the things we have to offer in Buffalo – along with numerous “Taste of” food festivals, a growing food truck market, a number of wineries in Niagara county and two popular restaurant weeks during the year.
·         Proximity – This place is close to sooooo much. Toronto – two hours (on a good traffic day). Cleveland – three hours and change. Wine trails – scattered through the Finger Lakes region and southern Ontario (about three hours at most). Pittsburgh – about four hours. NYC – hop on a plane and be there in about an hour – same with Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C. Want to take a road trip? Plenty of action to be had.
·         Gardening – We are the home of the National Garden Festival, GardenWalk Buffalo and some beautiful public gardens, like the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, the Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens and Delaware Park’s Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. As a gardener, I love seeing the color come up in the spring – of course, I hate when it leaves after first frost, but that just means it’s time to plan next year’s garden!
·         Festivals and fun all year long – winter festivals, food festivals, outdoor concerts, sporting events, fall festivals, lawn fetes, county fairs, charity events, car shows…the list of things to do in Buffalo is nearly endless! There is literally something for everyone in the Buffalo-Niagara region.
·         Sports – we take a bad rap for the Buffalo Bills (often well-deserved!) and less of one for the Buffalo Sabres (remember them? They play hockey…), but we support them because they’re part of us, as are the Buffalo Bandits (four-time indoor lacrosse CHAMPS!!), the Buffalo Bisons (now the Triple-A club for the Toronto Blue Jays) and our many local college teams. We’ve also got numerous running events (like the Turkey Trot) and special events (the Pond Hockey Challenge – when the lake freezes, that is!), plus those crazy Polar Bear plunges.
Those are just a few of the reasons I – and many others – live, sleep, eat and breathe Buffalo.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Visit to The Podge

The Podge on Main Street
paulathompsonfreelance.com
I’d been past it at least a hundred times (NOT an exaggeration!), but until 2011, I had never stopped into The Podge – probably because I thought it would be dangerous…me and all those cookie cutters…
I finally broke down and dragged my mom (with whom it would likely not be as dangerous) to the store, located at 10205 Main St. in Clarence, New York. The Podge specializes in gourmet foods, teas and coffees, kitchen gadgets and Jelly Belly jellybeans – and has a HUGE back wall full of cookie cutters! That wall alone made me feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store (not the Jelly Bellies!). All kinds of cookie cutters – large, small and tiny – as well as miniature numbers and letters and others that I can't remember. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it might not be available! (If it isn’t, check out this trick from the blog Bake at 350!)
The staff was very friendly, and I was able to get out of there without doing too much damage – just a couple of – you guessed it! – cookie cutters. Had I not been with mom, it might have been a completely different story (I was seriously looking at the olive oil bread dip mixes…). On my second visit (I stayed away for a year!), I ventured in alone...but I was too overwhelmed to buy anything - just looking takes most of an hour!
Check out The Podge’s website and Facebook page, and don’t wait as long as I did to stop in if you’re in the Buffalo area.