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!

2019: A Year of Intention

Well, I haven’t touched this blog in over four months, but with the beginning of 2020, I’m back and ready to look back at the year that was. 2019 was a big and largely great year for me, and it’s fun to look back now and think about all that happened.

Here are some of my highlights!

January

  • Saw Cameron Esposito at Helium Comedy Club (I am by no means a big comedy fan, it is very hard to get me to laugh, but it was a great night out with my husband, and how can you not love her focus on feminism, social justice and LGBTQ issues?
  • Did color commentary for a Jr. Sabres hockey game for just the second time ever.

February

  • Used a sewing machine for literally the first in my life.
  • Planned & executed a pre-game hockey ceremony to honor the “graduating” players from the Jr. Sabres. It went off without a hitch, everyone loved it and I look forward to doing it again!
  • Filled in on color commentary for the Jr. Sabres again!
  • Wrote a piece for VP that I’m super proud of regarding broadcasting of women’s hockey & how people speak about women’s hockey.
  • Went to Lumagination at the Botanical Gardens. It was magical.

March

  • Welcomed nephew #5 into the world!

April

  • PUPPY YOGA.
  • Covered the NCAA Division-I Frozen Four. My first Frozen Four ever, and a pretty neat (if chaotic) experience. I’m really glad I got the chance to do this, especially with it being in Buffalo.
  • Was named OJHL Volunteer of the Year for my work with the Jr. Sabres. So grateful to work with such a fantastic team! (Technically this happened in March, but I went up to Oakville to receive the award in April.)

May

  • Our Texas trip, which was incredible! So many good things to point out about this trip, including that it was my first time flying, ever. Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas. Hockey fun, baseball, family time, tourist things, sightseeing, lots of great food. I can’t wait to go back again soon, hopefully in 2021. (I’d better start saving.)
  • Went to a holistic wellness retreat about 40 minutes from Buffalo, which I won the chance to attend through my work/health insurance. It was super neat and a great experience – two days filled with essential oils, massage chairs, exercise time, nature, reflexology, meditation, yoga & more.
  • Saw The Art of the Brick exhibit at the Museum of Science. Definitely neat, if it ever comes to your city… check it out!

June

  • Went to a wedding in East Aurora that Ryan was asked to DJ, for a former Griffs hockey player. Although I didn’t really know either the bride or groom at all, it was a super fun night.

July

  • Celebrated three years of marriage.
  • Got to celebrate the marriage of two good friends.
  • Got to see my sister & nephews for a short little visit.

August

  • Flew to Charlotte (only my fifth flight ever, first solo flight, etc.) and then drove about 1,000 miles across the state of North Carolina as I spent a wonderful week with my sister & nephews. Explored Raleigh, Greensboro & Charlotte solo, plus had lots of fun around Greensboro, Winston-Salem @ camping with the family.
  • Saw the Jonas Brothers in concert.
  • Went to DC/Baltimore with Ryan for our friends’ wedding, an Orioles game and some tourist-y fun.

September

  • Went to PLAY/GROUND in Medina after missing it in 2018. It was really neat to see how a bunch of artists transformed a former school and there were so many unique installations.
  • Got surprised by the Jr. Sabres with an on-ice ceremony on home ice to receive my ring for being OJHL Volunteer of the Year.

October

  • Road trip to Georgetown to work a Raiders/Jr. Sabres game. Ryan did his usual PA/DJ, while I ran the scoreboard, did the online scoring & manned the penalty boxes.

November

  • Turned 29, which means that in 2020, I’ll be some significant age.
  • Officially joined Canisius hockey as a features writer!

December

  • Spent parts of a few wonderful days with my sister & nephews while they were in town for the holidays. They’re growing up so fast and it’s always so good to see them.
  • Covered the first regular-season outdoor game in NWHL history.
  • Filled in on color commentary for Canisius hockey for the first time.
  • Focused on really getting some good rest!
  • Did more radio talk about the NWHL.
  • Welcomed nephew #6 into the world!

Travel: A Week in North Carolina

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My (likely) final trip of the 2019 calendar year is now behind me, after a wonderful week spent down in North Carolina with my sister and nephews. I’m really glad I was able to make this trip happen; they moved from Buffalo in 2016, and this was my first time going down to visit them. It was also quite an adventure considering I went alone, got on a plane (for just the second trip of my life) and drove 800+ miles around the state (more driving than I do in a month typically.)

Here’s a rundown of my trip and some recommendations I have along the way!

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Travel: Washington, DC & Baltimore, MD

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took an extended weekend trip to Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD! We really went for a wedding just outside of Baltimore, but decided to drive down a little early and spend a day in DC as well. Why not make the most of the time we had and see some of the sights, too, right?

So there we were – 3 AM on a Thursday and hitting the road in our rental car. It was an early start, but really allowed us to maximize the time we had and make the most of the trip.

To no surprise, our first stop of the day was: breakfast – at Cracker Barrel, of course. We stopped in Muncy, PA, about halfway through the drive, for a quick (but delicious) bite to eat. Then it was back on the road!

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Our Texas Travels: San Antonio, TX

The last leg of our trip was a short time in San Antonio before we headed back toward Austin and eventually, Buffalo. Our hotel in San Antonio was wonderful, and I’m sad that we didn’t get to spend more time there! The Hotel Contessa was such a beautiful place to stay. I especially loved the exposed brick wall in the room, which gave it an eclectic feel! Everything was very comfortable; we paid to valet the car, and also ordered room service breakfast the next morning. While on vacation, sometimes you’ve just got to treat yourself.

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