A Southtowns WNY Getaway

Let’s be real: the last six months have been exhausting. This is not how we were meant to be living, and it’s okay to step away and take a break for a little while. Not just okay, maybe even necessary.

That’s part of why Ryan and I took a mini-weekend trip to the Southtowns a few weeks ago for his birthday. Obviously, we played it very smart and safe amidst the ongoing coronavirus, taking all the necessary precautions, but it still felt good to just escape for a few days.

We didn’t leave NYS, so we didn’t have to deal with any travel restrictions or quarantine requirements. We headed to the Southtowns, where the COVID-19 rate is lower than at home in Erie County. And, of course, we brought along plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes and wore our face coverings.

That Friday night, we stayed at the Inn at Holiday Valley. I actually had a free night to redeem from Hotels.com, so we used that. While we enjoyed our experience, I’ll be quite frank: it wouldn’t be my first choice to stay there again. When I walked into the building to check-in, there were two staff members behind the desk. Neither of them even looked away from the computer, looked up, greeted me or anything for several minutes. One of them walked away, and the other finally greeted me before saying “I don’t know how to check you in.” Just not great customer service, in my opinion.

Our room also smelled a bit musty (perhaps an indication of the lack of traffic they’ve seen due to the pandemic). And while I understand their options are limited in terms of what they can do for breakfast service, their “to-go” package was…. a small apple juice box and a package of graham crackers. Not even cereal, or fresh fruit?

Otherwise, there were some positive components! I usually don’t like rooms that open right to the outside, but it was nice having the car parked *right* outside there. I also loved that we had a little outdoor sitting area of our own to enjoy the view of the hills and the chairlift and all that. I can imagine how nice it must be in the winter!

We got dinner to-go from John Harvard’s Brew House just down the road, and that was great. I enjoyed the BBQ chicken dinner, while Ryan had the BBQ pork. We ate in our hotel room and it was fine. I also snagged a few cupcakes from a local bakery, Cupcaked!, to celebrate Ryan’s birthday. Those were delicious – definitely a special treat.

On Saturday, we found an outdoor mini-golf course and played a few games there. It was so strange – doing something NORMAL… I honestly can’t remember the last time I went out and did something like that. We then spent the night at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, located in Celoron, right on Chautauqua Lake. That was a great experience, and I look forward to returning there someday – for a longer stay. We booked a king room with a lake view, and what a view it was! Definitely worth the extra dollars for the view, and next time I’ll splurge a little more and get a room with a balcony. (We did have a door in our room that opened, though, so we got the benefits of the fresh air!)

On Saturday night, we had dinner outside at the Carousel Bar located at the hotel. It was our first time eating out at a restaurant since March, and I felt okay about it for a number of reasons. Seating was very limited and well spaced-out. The food offerings are limited and there are no menus – so less to worry about everyone touching. They also used plastic/paper cups, plates, etc., which isn’t environmentally friendly *BUT* is definitely easier on the mind in times of COVID. Ryan and I split one of their big pretzels and then shared one of the wood-fired pizzas. It was great!

The hotel also has some nice outdoor seating, including a few fire pits. We didn’t use any of those (nor the pool) but lots of other folks did. We got breakfast to-go from the restaurant onsite, and it was expensive but definitely a “treat yourself” moment. We ate in our hotel room and it was overall a really enjoyable experience there. The hotel is right on the lake, which is so nice, and right next to a park honoring Lucille Ball. On our travels, we also stopped around Jamestown and at Lucille Ball’s childhood home.

We finally headed home on Sunday and then it was back to normalcy… or whatever sense of normal life we have nowadays. Honestly – it felt really good to get away for a few days. We couldn’t escape the thought of coronavirus, of course – having to sanitize everything, wear our face masks, etc. – but it was nice to at least not have to deal with normal responsibilities on top of pandemic responsibilities for a few days.

Our other stop over the weekend was at the Griffis Sculpture Park on our way down to Ellicottville. We only briefly stopped/drove through part of the park, but we did get to see several of the sculptures and it was neat! I’d love to go again someday and explore a bit further. We truly have so many gems in WNY and so many that are close to home, just a short drive away. At no point during the weekend were we ever more than a 90-minute drive from Buffalo, but it can feel like a whole different world. I look forward to seeing more!

My Top Ten Books of 2019

I realize we’re now over a month into 2020, but I still wanted to take a few minutes and look back on some of my favorite reads in 2019. I didn’t read as many books in 2019 as in previous years, but honestly, I’m okay with that. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality! The books I read last year really reflect the political climate of America today, and what I’ve made a priority in my life.

I can’t really pinpoint one specific book that I read last year as my “favorite,” but here are my top choices.

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Book Review: A Love Letter Life

A Love Letter Life: Pursue Creatively. Date Intentionally. Love Faithfully is a fairly new release by Jeremy & Audrey Roloff. If you watch “reality TV” at all, you’ve probably heard of the couple and, particularly, Jeremy’s family. But over the past few years, Jeremy & Audrey have branched out on their own and created the enterprises of Beating 50 Percent and Always More, to name a few.

I’ve “followed” them for a while now, and for as long as I can remember, they’ve been big on encouraging couples in their relationships with one another, so it only makes sense that it would be the subject of their (first) book!

In many ways, I admire what Jeremy and Audrey are doing. There is SO much content out there nowadays, and also – so many examples of “bad” relationships. It’s refreshing, quite frankly, to see a couple focused on their marriage, on fostering their love, and on helping others to do the same. They never claim to be experts, and they’re realistic – and authentic, for the most part. They’re not afraid to share the good times of their relationship on social media, but they’re careful to let people know that it’s not¬†always¬†sunshine and rainbows.

With that said, I was eager to dive into their book!

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In the Midst of My Invisalign Journey

As my Timehop reminded me, one year ago today, I started on my Invisalign journey with my initial consultation. After years of being told by dentists that I needed braces and should really consider them, I finally found myself in a place where I was able to do so.

For the record, it’s not that I never wanted braces, but orthodontics are, well, expensive. Not everyone can afford them and they can certainly be seen as a luxury! A few years ago, I got a price quote on Invisalign from my dentist (who only does Invisalign, not regular braces) and I was flabbergasted at the number. Turns out if you’re over a certain age (for me, it was 25), your insurance may not cover any orthodontic care.

At any rate, over the last year, I found myself financially in a position where I was able to do this, thanks to my dad’s estate after he passed away. And I decided to commit myself to it. A year ago, I had my consultation. I started my first tray on June 7, 2018.

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A Year in Review: 2018

We’re eight days in 2019, but it’s taken me this long to have the stomach to be able to sit down and think back on what was 2018. It was a hell of a year for me – and I mean that, in many ways, it was absolute hell. It was messy from start to finish and filled with loss and grief and sadness, and I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy to put a calendar year behind me.

The year didn’t start off bad. Or at least, the first three days of 2018 were fine. I went to some hockey games, supported my husband in his endeavors, and enjoyed what I hoped would be a prosperous, happy year ahead.

Then, on January 4th, 2018, my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59 – one week shy of his 60th birthday. Obviously, that threw quite a wrench into the year for myself and my family.

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