Buffalo Day Off.

Nicole and I love our getaways. Its great to see different cities and to see what makes each one special. We share a mutual respect for architecture and we both love to see how different cities live. While being in Chicago we both realized that, even though being in a major city like Chicago is great, we prefer a “medium” city. For me especially, coming home to Buffalo is always a relief. I love this city for so many reasons. When we go away on vacations, we always take one extra day off to recoup before going back to work. We decided to use this day to go exploring downtown on our bikes. Ever since my step dad gave me his old Italian race bike, I have really taken a liking to biking. I bike all over now even if the car is available.

We ended up taking the tour at Buffalo’s City Hall mainly because they told us that by doing so, we would be able to get into areas that we normally wouldn’t be allowed to see, and because its free. We’ve always wanted to check out the observatory on the top floor, but its only open during business hours on week days, and with both of us having jobs, that makes it a bit difficult to get to. The tour was humorous as the guide was an older gentleman who really didn’t seem to know all that much, but he had a knack of pointing out the obvious while making it sound like he was super educated. It was amusing. City Hall was actually really interesting and the tour was, for the most part, worth it. The views from the observatory were amazing. Another thing that was surprising was that we were with an actual group of tourists and one of the girls on the tour just moved here from out of state for a job! When you’re from a city that has been on the decline for over 50 years, it’s nice to see an actual change happening as more and more people rediscover the area

After the City Hall trip, we took a rode down Main Street to the new noodle bar called “Kaydara“. I have to admit, I wasn’t excited about going to a noodle bar, but this was pretty awesome. The food took forever to come out, but it was really well prepared and fresh. I will definitely be coming back here. 

These dumplings were solid.  I forgot to take a picture of the noodles because I was too busy eating them…because they were delicious.

To end our afternoon on the town, we wanted to grab a glass of wine somewhere. Unfortunately every place we tried was not quite open yet. So we decided to go to “Caffe Aroma” near our house, a small cafe that has wine, beer, and coffee. Its a great little spot.  They had a sign out front promoting hot rum ciders which totally won us over. We were able to have those outside on this cool crisp afternoon. It was really awesome. 

To cap off the day, we stopped across the street to the new Gelato place, “Gelateria Luca.”  The woman that owns the place was there, and she offered us samples of the Gelato before making a decision. I didn’t need samples, if I see mint and chocolate, I have made my decision. Nicole had the toasted almond. It was really tasty and while sitting there, the woman gave us a sample of some Italian cookies she just pulled fresh from the oven and they were warm and delightful!  

Our day off in our city was great and was the perfect way to end our mini vacation. If you are ever coming to the Buffalo area, feel free to ask for some suggestions!

!@#?% Pole!

    Well, we had to start somewhere.  We have big plans for our backyard this summer but right now it’s in awful shape.  We have to change the pitch because the water currently rolls towards the house, and we are planning on fencing it in and covering it in old red brick.

Step #1:  Remove the rusty yellow clothes line.

Simple enough right.  Not exactly.  I anticipated a concrete base buried in the dirt, but nothing like what we ended up pulling out.  This baby was almost 3 feet long engulfed in a sloppy wet mush.  It was awful.  Nicole and I took turns digging around this massive pain in the ass, occasionally rocking it back and forth in hopes of loosening it.  Eventually I ran out of patience and pulled down on the pole as hard as I could, and of course it bent.  It seemed like it was going to be impossible for the two of us to remove this.  So I thought to myself, “What would ‘Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg do?”  That’s right, he would create a way to solve his problem using science!  In my case, physics.  I wedged some bricks under the bent pole and pulled down on the one end which lifted the massive concrete base.   I had Nicole come over and stand on the end while I pulled it out of the hole using my legs so that I wouldn’t rupture my intestines.  After about 2.5 hours, we got it out of the ground.

Next up is that gross shrub, although I’ll save that for next weekend as I am sure it will be equally as awful to remove.

Bring on the great weather!

    What a great weekend we had.  It’s amazing what warmer weather can do to your mood.  Our winter has been super mild, but it has still been cold.  Having a blast of warm weather over the weekend and for the upcoming days, is going to be great.
    On Saturday we took Izzy to the park.  We figured that a nice long walk for the dogs would tire them out, so we packed up the camera and the dogs, and headed to the park.  The park is loaded with other dogs, all on leashes of course, but its a great place to let dogs interact and do some sniffing.  Ric is used to this interaction as he gets it all the time but I wasn’t all that sure how much of this interaction Izzy gets.  She ended up being fantastic, she loved being around the other dogs and was even pleasant around other men in the park (she’s usually “iffy” when it comes to being around males).

    We have been getting the itch to work on the house, and although I need to drywall, it has still been too windy to bring drywall home on the car, so this weekend Nicole and I went to Home Depot and tackled other projects.  The cabinets in the kitchen have no handles on them and can sometimes be difficult to open. We went and picked out some new handles which ended up looking awesome.

    One other thing we had to change was the awful vanity in our bathroom.  When we originally moved in, our bathroom was nonexistent.  It was straight out of Alcatraz.  We were able to get a great deal on a new kitchen and bathroom, but for the price, we would have to make a few sacrifices in the bathroom.  The vanity he chose was clearly something that he caught a great deal on because it didn’t go well in there at all.  It was gigantic and didn’t really match anything.  It was nothing we were going to complain about, but we were going to have to add a new vanity to our list of things to get.  This weekend we found one that looked great and like doubled the space in our bathroom.

Weight Watchers: Week 1

    Last Monday, Nicole and I started Weight Watchers.  We figured that if we started it now, by the time we get married in a few months, we will look awesome.  We have tried all sorts of diets before this one, and they are all really bad.  Calorie counting sucks and it doesn’t work well.  My mom has lost a ridiculous amount of weight in the time she’s been on it, so we decided to do it.  In 6 days I had lost about 5 pounds.  I am allowed 43 points a day and sometimes its hard to even eat that much.  In addition to that I get 49 cheater points which are points that you get for the week to splurge.  I save those for beer on the weekend.  So far its super comfortable to do and sort of fun because it forces me to cook food.  There are hundreds of recipes for lunch, breakfast, dinner, and appetizers.  I figure why not blog some healthy recipes that I really love.
    Last week we made a bunch of things, the thing I liked the most was the Turkey Reuben.  This is a great, filling sandwich and it’s only 5 points!  The recipe is as follows:

Weight Watchers Turkey Reuben
Low calorie or light Rye Bread
2oz of 98% fat free turkey
Low fat Swiss cheese (we used the fat free)
Dijon mustard

Fire up a skillet or pan and spray it with some PAM spray.  While the pan is heating up, build your sandwich.  Once the sandwich is built and put together, place it on the pan until both sides are a golden brown.

Build the sandwich. 

Spray your pan or skillet with PAM.  

Brown both sides of the sandwich and melt the cheese. 

Look at these babies. 

2oz of turkey seems like a horribly small amount, but its really not.

The sandwich is 5 points, and the addition of the chips below make this lunch  8  points.

This brand of chips is awesome.  20 chips are 3 points. 

Spotify: I Am Legit

    Lets be honest.  Those of us who can navigate the internet and have a love for music have found “alternative” ways to “acquire” music.  Our mass storage devices are loaded with gigabytes, maybe even terabytes, of music.     I was never a slave to iTunes.  I could not wrap my finger around the concept of paying for music files.   At least when you used to pay for albums, weather it be cd or vinyl, you got something for what you paid for.  Something you could read, display, and collect.  I just couldn’t do it. I used to even have a problem buying cd’s.  Back when cd burners were the rage, I remember stores in the mall selling albums on CD for up to $20.00, regular price.  Why on earth would anybody pay for something that they can whip up in seconds on their home computers.  Both sides were to blame for the death of the CD industry, but I’m not blogging this to talk about the death of the record store.  You see, I may not pay for cds, or an mp3/mp4, but there is one thing I will pay for…convenience.
   Even when I “acquired” music online using other methods, you still had to load up the mp3 player, or iPod, or have your folders organized so that accessing your collection via cloud on your phone would be easy.  There was lots of effort involved.  An then (at least for me) I’d be bored of what I had loaded up within days.  Not anymore.  A few weeks back I decided to try “Spotify”.
    On Spotify’s website, you can download their software, which looks similar to iTunes.  After free signup, you get 20 hours a month for free, a trial similar to Pandora.  The difference?  You don’t have to sit around hoping that Spotify will learn what you want to hear.  You simply enter the artist, song, or album you want to listen to and listen.  Its like having all the music you can think of at your fingertips.

It’s not like “Grooveshark” where you have to sort through nonsense to get what you want.  Its that simple and it rules.  At first I was like, “20 hours should be plenty”.  It totally wasn’t.  I listen to music during my work week all day, so I was out of minutes pretty quick.  So for $4.95 a month, you can have unlimited access to Spotify on your computer.  Worth every penny.  For $9.95 you get unlimited access to Spotify on your computer, plus access to the Spotify phone app which allows you unlimited streaming away from your computer.  Unless you are in an area that has no cell coverage, you no longer need to load up an Mp3 player.  I love this service and am proud to be legit.  Highly recommend trying this out.

Local Restaurant Review: "Canvas@1206"

     One thing I always wanted living in this city was a little Jazz bar.  A place to go and get a cocktail while listening to live Jazz.  Its not a common thing here in Buffalo like it is in other cities.  I remember visiting Chicago one year and spending an evening at “Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant” eating dinner, listening to the finest local Jazz musicians, and wishing we had a place like this in Buffalo.  Although “Canvas@1206” is far from the famous “Andy’s”, it is still a breath of fresh air and another nice option for nightlife here in this city.
    We had gone on a Friday night, about two weeks back (I’m late posting this) around 7pm and it was pretty easy to get a table.  The bar and restaurant atmosphere is retro/old-school, but not in a way that gives off any impression that it’s trying too hard.  Everything is just right.  From the gold speckled bar, to the capiz chandelier lights, and jazz artist wall of fame, its an atmosphere I found myself comfortable in.

    After a Manhattan, we sat down for some dinner with our friends, Molly and Patrick.  The menu was interesting but I immediately noticed more of a “Lunch” menu than dinner.  There were not many standard entrees but more a plethora of sandwiches.  One thing that looked awesome though, was the giant crab cake.  Molly and Patrick ordered that for an appetizer, and Nicole and I ordered the Bacon Swiss dip with chips.

The Bacon Swiss dip was one of the more delicious things I’ve eaten in a while.  The chips were not standard tortilla chips, but a type of chip that I’ve never had before,  more of an air-crisp.

The giant crab cake was pretty tasty as well, but I was glad we got the dip.

    For the main course, Pat and I ordered the Fish fry.  I rarely get out to a place on Friday nights to take advantage of any fish fry options so now I had the importunity to.  We had the option to add goat cheese mashed potatoes as a side, so i jumped on that also.  Nicole ordered the pork chop with the goat mash and a vegetable.  Molly had ordered the broiled fish with Cajun seasoning.  My fish fry was pretty good.  I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.  It was cooked perfectly, the breading looked as if it were fried in clean/fresh oil, and it was decent sized.  It could have used some more seasonings though.  That was the opinion of everyone at the table.  Nicole’s pork chop and vegetables tasted like a “pork chop and vegetables”.  There wasn’t much flavor.  The goat cheese mash just tasted like plain mash potatoes.  Everything was cooked to perfection, it was just bland.

    Would I go back to Canvas@1206? Most definitely.  The quality of the food was very good and everything was cooked nicely.  The bar was fun to sit at and a great place to stop in and grab a drink.  The crowd consisted of people from all age groups. I’d love to go back when there is music playing on the stage.  This is a great addition to the city.

Canvas@1206 on Urbanspoon

Back from a busy few weeks.

   The past two weeks have been pretty crazy with work and lots of birthday’s, plus the insanity of trying to get our house in “ok” condition for guests, mid remodel.  Ive been tearing apart the foyer, rewiring everything and getting ready to drywall it, so it’s been a constant battle against the dust from the plaster.
   My parents spent the weekend here for my mother’s birthday.  It’s always fun when they come down because we do so many cool things.  My stepfather and I have a love for beer so every time he comes down we try to plan a stop somewhere for a tasty brew.  A bar in my neighborhood had a Dogfish Head Tap takeover this weekend so we were able to get down there for lunch and have a pint.  We caught the Sabres game on Friday night at the arena and watched the Sabres beat Boston for the second time in a row.  On Saturday night we went to one of the better restaurants in Buffalo, “Prospero”.  Nicole and I had eaten here last year and we were both in agreement that this was perhaps one of the best restaurants in the city.  It was amazing Italian food.  My stepfather wanted to bring us out to dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday, so I could not think of a better place.  I was able to get reservations three weeks in advance but even with this much of an advance, we could only get in at 8pm.  On Saturday, we got a call from the restaurant reminding us that they had a prefixed menu on Saturdays.  I totally didn’t know anything about this and it was not on their website.  Sightly annoyed I had to inform my mom that we were not going to get Italian.  Don’t get me wrong, the specials on the menu were still good, but it was sort of a bummer that we wanted Italian food and we were told the day of the dinner that we couldn’t get it.  Its not like I would have been able to get reservations anywhere else with that short of notice.
    I took an afternoon nap Saturday, while Nicole and my Mom put back some wine and called “Prospero”.  I’m not sure exactly what they talked about, but the place was going to make my mom a pasta dish, just for her!  The restaurant is a class act, I highly recommend trying to get reservations there if you can.
   Now that everything has slowed down, I should be able to get more posts up.  I have some things I want to talk about this week, including a new Jazz Bar in Buffalo that we went to and my review of “Spotify”, a new service that I am in love with.  That’s right, what has two thumbs and is legitimately paying for music?  This guy.

Some Random weekend pics..
Center ice Friday Night, my mom’s xmas present for Henry.

Sunday afternoon Mikkeller IPA’s at the Monk.  That’s right, one of those IPA’s is Nicole’s :).

I’m not Irish….but if i were, I’d fancy this shirt.

    Time for a cheap plug.  St. Patrick’s day is approaching with it’s parades, drunken escapades, and yes, witty t-shirts.  I have been doing shirts for over 5 years now, and every year I mean to do a St. Patrick’s day shirt, but I totally forget.  This year, I have not!  Nicole had a pretty cool idea using the “Mad Lib” format with the shirt.  I got pretty excited at the idea, but I probably should have looked at a Mad Lib again before jumping the gun.  I haven’t seen one since i was a kid, so what I pictured in my head was totally off, causing me to royally waste a screen.  I’m an idiot.

    So I design the shirt with my flawed mental image of a Mad Lib, make the screen, do the print, and send a picture of it to Nicole.  At this point, I’m pretty excited about the new shirt.  She texts me back saying that it looks cool however its not what she had in mind.  She explained to me that a Mad Lib would have the “Verb” under the blank line.  Of course it would….how would you fill in the blank line with something already in it…dammit! So I had to go back and make some corrections so that my new shirt would make sense.

So here it is! Get it for St. Patrick’s day festivities!

Project: Curtains

    Nicole and I took off Monday because neither of us felt like working after the Royal Rumble party.  What a perfect day to complete a project.  A few weeks ago, Nicole had ordered some fabric online for some curtains she was planning on making for the second floor landing.  Curtains can be really expensive depending on what you want, we figured we would make them ourselves and get exactly what we want for a fraction of the cost.

We ran to Target and picked up a curtain rod for the window on the second landing.  Slowly, we are starting to bring life to different areas in the house.

This is the fabric that Nicole picked up online.

We needed a big space to spread the fabric out so we moved the couch and made our measurements marking the floor with white tape so that it was easy to identify the marks for cutting.

You don’t have to be a sewing master to make these, we picked up two rolls of hemming tape.  Its simple to use, you just stick one end to the fabric, fold it over and iron the area for 20 seconds.  It went pretty smooth for Nicole who can get angry quickly.  I was amazed that she didn’t throw the iron through the window.  She didn’t get angry once.

After we finished the first curtain, the second wasn’t nearly as tough because we sort of had a system down.

Simple curtain clips from Target.


Cantina Loco! Meh.

There’s been a buzz about a new mexican style restaurant opening in Allentown here in Buffalo, NY.  Nicole had been reading up on the place months before it had even opened and had been pretty excited about it.  Friday night, we got together with some friends had decided to give it a try.

The outside of the building looked great; including the fantastic vintage sign they put up outside.  It really is different than anything else on the street. I love it when these empty spaces come alive from the exciting makeovers they get when a business moves in.  It’s nice to see change beginning to happen throughout different neighborhoods.

If you are going on a weekend night, prepare for absolutely no parking and a series of one way streets that make things even  more difficult and obnoxious.  Luckily after traveling around the block several times, I was actually able to find something somewhat close to the restaurant.  I had dropped the ladies off at the restaurant prior to my parking adventure, so they were inside at the table.  That’s right…”ladies”.

The inside was packed with people of all ages and it was insanely loud.  We got a table that was a few feet from the packed bar (about 4 people deep) so occasionally we’d get bumped into.  As an experiment, our friend sitting at the end of the table (we were there with 5 people, so our table was a regular 4 top with an extra chair stuck on the end) tilted her head backward and it came to rest on a young man standing at the bar.  That’s how close the dining area is to the bar.  I did my best to ignore that and took a look at the menu.

The owner of this restaurant also owns another restaurant in the city that is known for great sushi and incredible inventive menu items.  This menu was small, simple, and surprisingly boring.  I’m not saying that the menu options didn’t look appetizing, it was easy to find something that I was going to eat, but I think with the amount of build up this restaurant had, we were all just expecting something a little more.  I ordered a beer, and Nicole went with a “Smoked Margarita.”  Her drink was pretty amazing and had a really awesome smokey flavor from the smoked salt they used on the glass.  A pretty impressive drink.

We started off with “Nachos Locos”, an attractive presentation of 2 cheeses, Pork, Onion, Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Pablano cream.  The nachos were pretty tasty although the chips were too thin for the load which made it difficult to pick up any toppings.  Other than this, they tasted great.  Nicole was a big fan of them.

After the nachos, I ordered the Steak and Cheese Burrito.  It consisted of grilled steak, cheese, rice and pinto beans.   The steak was seasoned well and very tender.  I’ve had steak burritos at other places, and the steak ends up being tough making the whole experience pretty awful.  This was pretty good.

Not a fan of the open burrito.  Finish the job.  Close my burrito.  The shell was semi toasted which made it impossible to finish wrapping it.  You ended up having to eat this “burrito” like a floppy, sloppy taco.

Nicole ordered the “Carnita”, which was pork, avocado, lettuce, cheese, cilantro, onion, and lime.  Hers was pretty tasty, the ingredients were incredibly fresh, and she enjoyed it.  After a taste, I think that I liked hers better than mine. Our other friends ordered the Bean and Cheese burrito, Chicken burrito, Fish taco and Koreatown taco.  Everyone pretty much said the same thing, it was good, but nothing blew anyone away. 

The over-all experience was average for me.  The insanely loud atmosphere was tough to deal with.  It made it impossible to have a conversation without screaming while the person you’re talking to leans in, aiming their one ear at you while tilting their head.  We were there on a Friday night though, and maybe stopping in for lunch or during the week would have manageable noise levels.  The burritos were tasty, but I don’t necessarily know if they would be something I would seek out.  We live in the city of Buffalo, a city with an unbelievable amount of food options.  I’m not going to tell you that Cantina Loco is bad, because its not.  But its not excellent, its average.  If you’re in the area and looking for great Mexican food, look elsewhere.  If you’re looking for a hip restaurant with plenty of nightlife, this may be your place.

Cantina Loco on Urbanspoon

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