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!

Life in the Time of Corona, Vol. 2

Life is so weird these days, isn’t it? I’m writing this blog post today to talk about two coronavirus-related things: the nasal swab test itself, and the blood draw test for antibodies. I recommend you to get both of these tests if at all possible!

First, I want to talk about how I got tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Erie County, NY’s Department of Health is really doing a great job with their antibody testing. They’ve had multiple locations over the past few weeks where you can get a free antibody test done. I decided to sign up for one. Why? Well…. why not? Although I knew it was unlikely I had the antibodies – I hadn’t knowingly been exposed to anyone with COVID, nor did I feel like I’d had it at any point – I figured it was a smart, responsible thing to do. Only about five percent of county residents are estimated to have the antibodies, so I knew there was a slim chance, but it’s good to help the county’s testing numbers at the very least.

The process was incredibly easy. I booked an appointment online for a Tuesday evening test at a local fire hall, so I could go right after work one day and get it done. When I arrived, everything was very well labeled and sanitized regularly for social distancing & health practices. (Of course, this being run by the county health department, I’d expect nothing less.) It was about 10 minutes from the time I walked in the door to when I walked out, including waiting in line for a short while to register. A simple blood draw (which did leave me with a nice bruise for several days, admittedly) and less than a week later, I had my results: negative for COVID-19 antibodies.

The next day, I decided to go get a COVID-19 test done. I had the day off from work and found a drive-through site in my neighborhood, no appointment required. Again, it took only about 10 minutes – the longest part was getting all the paperwork filled out. I didn’t ever have to step out of my car, and the process was pretty smooth. The test itself wasn’t bad at all – I want to make that clear. My eyes watered for a second after the nasal swab, but that was it. At this point, I’m still waiting for my results, but since I haven’t had any symptoms, I’m expecting it to be negative.

So why did I get a COVID-19 test? I had a day of stomach issues a few days prior to getting the test. In all honesty, it was likely because something in my freezer had gone bad while the power was out on a 90-degree day. I had also been pretty exhausted, but that, too can be attributed elsewhere: I’ve been filling in at a more physically-demanding job than my usual desk job, and my hours have been different, so my whole schedule is a bit out of wack. While all of this could be explained, my anxiety got into my head and worried that I might have it – and there wasn’t going to be any peace in my mind until I at least went for a test.

I went to a local urgent care facility first, but they had a whopping two hour wait to get a test! No thanks. The drive-up test was super easy and pretty much painless, and I encourage everyone to get tested if there’s even the slightest bit of your mind that says you should. Although what I was feeling was likely nothing, you can have the virus and be asymptomatic, or only have very minimal symptoms. Some places will only test you if you have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus, but others will test you regardless, so if you’re going to search for a test, be aware of this. But honestly — I’m glad I did it. It’s worth the minimal amount of time I spent to have some peace of mind, help the county’s numbers and help science.

Isn’t it better, in all things, to know than to be left wondering?

Life in the Time of Corona, Vol. 1

What a year this week has been. It’s certainly felt like a year, hasn’t it? These are strange times we’re living in, friends. Every day feels surreal.

This week started out mostly normal. I went to work on Monday like usual, but even then, everything felt so….. tentative, like no one knew exactly what was going to happen next. The last few days at work were filled with proofreading press releases and mass emails and the like. School closures came and some things started to shut down, but like I said, I went to work on Monday like any other day. When I left at 4:30 pm, I could feel how tentative things were, and made sure I brought home anything from my desk that I thought I might need.

And then everything turned sideways.

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My First Instacart Experience

I just want to start off by saying: this isĀ not a sponsored post. None of my posts are.

Okay, now that’s out of the way. When I first heard about Instacart’s recent arrival in the Buffalo area, I was intrigued, but didn’t necessarily think it was a service I’d ever use.

This week, I decided to give it a try. My husband and I both have a busy week, filled with our day jobs, plus a ton of ‘extracurricular’ stuff (side job stuff, basically). The evenings I’m free, I look forward to going home and being able to relax. I don’t terribly mind grocery shopping, but after working an eight-hour day, the last thing I want to do is go spend an hour strolling the aisles of Tops or Wegmans, then another 15ish minutes carting the stuff home and upstairs. And then you’ve still got to put everything away!

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11-Day Power Play Makes a Difference

In the course of a National Hockey League, a player will typically skate for anywhere from five to 25 minutes, with the occasional exception. Those minutes will be spread out over the 60-minute-long game, broken up into periods with a pair of 17-minute intermissions between.

Those players are professionals; they get paid to play, and train year-long to keep their bodies in top shape. When the final buzzer sounds after 60 minutes, they enjoy a meal, then go home to spend time with their families, rest, and relax.

The 11-Day Power Play was a hockey game… but it was nothing like that. This world-record breaking feat saw a group of 40 guys train for months to spend 11 straight days at the rink. Their shifts were roughly four and a half hours long, with only brief, strict 10-minute breaks for the Zamboni to resurface the ice or shovels to clean the ice every hour.

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