On the Water in October with Brookdog Fishing Co.

Last time my dad, sister and I were out on the water with Ryan of Brookdog Fishing Co. it was a beautiful 90° day on Lake Erie. He assured us there’s more to fishing in Western New York than catching smallmouth bass all summer long. We took his word for it and booked a fall fishing trip with Brookdog this year.

We met Ryan at 7 am, just as the sky was beginning to turn from grey to pink. As the sun rose, the fog lifted from the water and the trees, just beginning to change from green to brilliant yellow, lit up. If nothing else, it was a gorgeous day to be outside. Of course, simply hanging out on the water is not Ryan’s style. After a fish-filled trip last summer, we knew we’d see some rod-bending battles throughout the day.

Fishing for salmon in Devil's Hole

A bent fishing rod as fog rises over Niagara River

The original plan was to fish for salmon (among other things) in the lower Niagara River. This year’s salmon run isn’t as impressive as in years past, at least not in this Lake Ontario tributary. After a couple of beautiful early morning drifts in Devil’s Hole left us empty-handed, we headed downstream for some native species.

We weren’t disappointed, and it wasn’t just because we broke into the delicious breakfast sandwiches Ryan packed for us. Over the next five hours, Ryan coached us through catching smallmouth bass, lake trout, a gorgeous rainbow trout and a huge walleye. We also thoroughly enjoyed drifting along in the calm water, soaking in one of the last warm(ish) days of fall.

The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge as seen from the Niagara River

Holding a lake trout caught in the Lower Niagara River

After a day like this one, I’m sunburned, sore, and thinking there’s no way Paige and I will ever be able to top this Father’s Day gift.

Why I’m Dining Out for Life (and You Should Too)

There are few mottos I connect with more than Casa Azul‘s “Work hard. Be kind. Eat tacos.” That’s why I’m so excited to be partnering with the team at Casa Azul, led by Zina Lapi, for Dining Out For Life this year. Thanks to the generosity of local restaurants like Casa Azul and local corporate partners, when you dine out with me on October 1, 2019, 25% of the cost of your meal goes straight to Evergreen Health.

Dining Out For Life at Casa Azul

Chef Zina passing tacos out of the kitchen at Casa Azul

So what is Dining Out For Life, exactly? Dining Out For Life raises funds to support people affected by HIV across the country. Here in Buffalo, those funds go Evergreen Health’s initiatives, like HIV prevention and complete care for individuals living with HIV.

If you’re unfamiliar with Evergreen Health, they provide chronic illness support; HIV prevention, treatment and care; substance user healthcare; LGBQ and transgender services; and more from their locations in Buffalo and Jamestown. As you can probably imagine, it takes a lot of money to do that much good.

Dining Out For Life has raised over $1.2 million in Western New York, just one of the reasons it was named Best Food and Drink Fundraiser by Buffalo Spree this year!

Eating tacos at Casa Azul

Not that you need an excuse to eat tacos, but Dining Out For Life does happen to fall on a Tuesday! If you’re not sure what to order, let me suggest the Potato & Poblano and Carne Asada. With a classic margarita, of course! For all the details on the big day, check out the event on Facebook. I’d love to see you at Casa Azul for dinner on October 1st!

Thank you to Caitlin at Reilley Photography for squeezing this session into her incredibly busy fall schedule for me!

Eating (& Drinking) our Way Through Harrisburg

My favorite way to see a city is eating my way through it, which is exactly what we did on a trip to Harrisburg last month. Harrisburg probably isn’t on your list of must-see destinations, but, just like my trip to Tampa, these days our destinations are determined by which friend we’re missing.

It turns out that Harrisburg, which is an easy 5-hour drive from Buffalo, has more to offer than you might think. We easily filled a weekend – mostly with good food and locally crafted drinks.

After a Friday night that ended early Saturday morning, we needed a big brunch to get us ready for a day of exploring. We opted for Cafe 1500 for their mimosa carafes, rating as one of Harrisburg’s best brunches, ability to seat a group of 9, and location within walking distance of our Airbnb.

Walking into Zeroday Brewing

We happened to be in Harrisburg for the first few days of Harrisburg beer week, which meant tons of cool events at local breweries. Our first stop after breakfast tacos washed down with mimosas was Zeroday Brewing Company.

The taproom was packed and their The Office-themed trivia was in full swing, so we ordered drinks at the bar and headed outside to sip them in the sun. After the longest Buffalo winter everrrr, the sun felt incredible. I honestly could have stayed for hours soaking up those rays and listening to some of my oldest friends laugh together.

When our drinks ran dry, it was time for our next stop, also a short walk away, Millworks. What was once a lumber mill is now a bohemian downtown oasis. A brewery and restaurant, artist studios, rooftop space and eclectic event calendar make this feel like you’ve left Pennsylvania for somewhere much, much cooler.

Gose at Millworks Brewery in Harrisburg

We grabbed drinks and wandered through the works resident artists had for sale. There were earrings, cards, wall art and coasters I seriously considered bringing home, but this weekend was the epitome of experiences over things, so I kept my wallet safely closed.

By this point, we’d burned off our huevos rancheros and chicken and waffles, so we walked across the street to Broad Street Market for lunch. Just like good markets everywhere, this was a melting pot of fresh produce and every cuisine imaginable. I opted for a simple hearth-fired pizza from Knead HBG and drip coffee from Elementary Coffee Co.

Broad Street Market sign in Harrisburg

Pizza from Knead HBG in the Broad Street Market

Our last stop before a pre-dinner nap was Midtown Scholar, an independent bookstore with a reputation. Seriously. The New York Times called it “an essentially religious experience.” Let me say that this giant building, filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful books, lives up to its reputation.

Midtown Scholar's shelves of books greet visitors

We walked home, full of market goodies, books in hand and a little sunburned. Our first order of business after that nap? Dinner. Duh. We took a Lyft to SpringGate, a farm vineyard and brewery just outside the city. This was the one place we couldn’t walk to, which is pretty impressive considering we didn’t have an itinerary when we booked our Airbnb.

SpringGate is a little paradise, with beer, wine, food trucks, string lights and fire pits. It was the perfect place to hang out for a couple hours as the sun set. Their huge selection of wines, varied draft list and food truck lineup were exactly what we were looking for. My pulled chicken sandwich from Piper Belle’s BBQ sure hit the spot.

On Sunday morning, we prepared for our drive home with a classic diner breakfast from Roxy’s Cafe. It was exactly what we needed before saying goodbye and hitting the road!

Shuffle Off to Buffalo with WNYBAC

On a grey April day, the lovely staff at Western New York Book Arts Center welcomed the Buffalo Bloggers into their eclectic space. The Center is dedicated to sharing the art of “printing and book-related arts,” which to be honest I didn’t know a whole lot about. As a writer and reader, even a primarily digital one, that’s a mission I can get behind.

Nicole and Melissa, our guides for the evening, gave us plenty of time to flip through posters printed at the Center and other goodies in the first floor retail shop. If you’re not in the market for new wall decor, head for the card racks to find the right message for your special someone, mom or newly engaged friend.

Then came the good part: heading downstairs to see the printing presses in action. Nicole set up a design on the Center’s huge Vandercook 219 proof press, affectionately referred to as Olga. Us bloggers took turns printing posters that every Buffalover can get behind.

Printing on "Olga" at WNY Book Arts Center

Printing on "Olga" at WNY Book Arts Center

After laying out my very own poster out to dry, I poked through what seemed like thousands of type fonts used by artists at the center. They seem to have everything you could ever need, from itty bitty serif letters to huge ornamental pieces. And if you want to make the Richardson Olmsted Campus out of the alphabet, as one member had laid out on a table, you can do that too.

Shuffle off to Buffalo poster printed at WNY Book Arts Center

If you want to learn more about the book arts for yourself (and you should), the Center offers workshops in letterpress, screen printing and more!

Taking on Tampa Bay (for Less than $50 a Day)

There are two things that are true about traveling at 25:

  1. You don’t really have money to do it.
  2. You’re often traveling to see friends who scattered after high school and college.

As it turns out, number 2 usually really helps with number 1. My latest trip to Tampa was no exception. Melanie, who I also had the pleasure of visiting in Boston a few years ago, was the perfect Tampa Bay host and tour guide.

We had an amazing long weekend in the sun without spending a lot of money! It was everything I could have asked for to make it through the last few weeks of Buffalo’s never-ending winter.

Day 1: Downtown Tampa

We kicked off our weekend like any girls’ trip should start: with brunch. American Social offers free bottomless mimosas with any brunch entree on Saturdays, which is a deal we couldn’t pass up. The food was delicious and they were served in portions that tided us over until dinner. (And by dinner, I mean ice cream…)

After brunch, we spent our afternoon walking along The Tampa Riverwalk. This is a great way to see a pretty big chunk of downtown – without spending a penny. I wasn’t used to the 85° heat, so we stopped halfway for iced coffees and air conditioning at Kahwa Coffee.

We wandered back to The Riverwalk and made it to the light at the end of the tunnel: the gorgeous food hall, rooftop bar, event space and park that is Armature Works. With zero planning we happened to step into the line for the new rooftop bar M. Bird just as it was forming at 4 pm.

The entrance to Heights Public Market in Tampa's Armature Works

Drink at M. Bird, the rooftop bar in Tampa's Armature Works

This place was an Instagram dream, Florida style. The breezy, open air bar and lounge were paired with quick service, a cool river view and a good list of options from local breweries. After 1 drink the space was beginning to feel crowded – and we were on a budget, after all.

Walking back downstairs, we grabbed a couple of chairs in the shade to chat as families and friends enjoyed the beautiful weather around us.

Tampa happened to be hosting the NCAA Women’s Final Four the weekend I visited, so there was tons of stuff going on. We weren’t as interested in Sunday’s basketball game as we were in the free Gavin DeGraw concert Saturday night.

So, we headed back down The Riverwalk to the stage at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, which is very conveniently right along the river. We even saw a few dolphins playing in the river on our way, which was completely unexpected.

The sunset was beautiful, Gavin was great and I was dead tired after a day of walking in the sun. We headed back to Melanie’s apartment to rest for another busy day in Tampa Bay!

Day 1’s Total Cost: $48

  • Brunch at American Social: $20
  • Coffee at Kahwa Coffee: $5
  • 1 Drink at M. Bird: $7
  • 2 Drinks at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park: $9
  • Ice Cream from The Pineapple Shack Island Creamery: $7

Day 2: St. Petersburg

If a free barre class on the waterfront in the Florida sunshine is your jam, then Sunday morning Wellness at the Wharf is for you. That sounded pretty good to us, so we dragged ourselves down to Sparkman Wharf to get our ex-dancer butts kicked.

We briefly considered smoothies from one of the Wharf’s vendors for breakfast, but they were a little pricey. Instead, we walked just a few blocks to Victory Coffee for bagels and iced coffee.

After much-needed showers, we made the 30 minute drive to downtown St. Petersburg. The low buildings along Central Avenue were cute and compact. We wandered to the water before backtracking to The Mill for a late lunch. We couldn’t quite kick our smoothie craving from the morning, so our next stop was Karma Juice Bar, just a few blocks away.

Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida

Posing in front of a mural in St. Petersburg, Florida

Juice, sunglasses and a book in the sand at St. Pete Beach

We fended off the Sunday scaries with a late-afternoon trip to St. Pete beach. The public beach was busy without being overwhelming, perfect for a couple of hours of reading in the sand as the sun started to set.

My one regret from this short trip (if I had to name one) would be not doing more research about what St. Pete had to offer. There are tons of coffee shops, breweries, museums and waterfront views throughout the city that we didn’t check out, simply because we didn’t really have a plan.

Back in Tampa, we stopped in beautiful Ybor City for takeout pad Thai and people watching before calling it a night.

Day 2’s Total Cost: $46

  • Breakfast at Victory Coffee: $7
  • Lunch at The Mill: $17
  • Juice at Karma Juice Bar: $6
  • Parking at St. Pete Beach: $6
  • Dinner at Asiatic Street Food: $10

Day 3: Pool Day

Melanie headed to work, leaving me to enjoy my last day in Tampa on my own. I took the (very) long way to Ginger Beard Coffee. The incredibly kind co-owner who made my chai tea does, in fact, have a ginger beard.

Chai tea at Ginger Beard Coffee in Tampa

Knowing that I’d be headed back to the cold sooner rather than later, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool with a good book. Of course, it was only after I was showered and packed that my flight home was canceled.

The extra 12 hours in Tampa meant Melanie had time to show me one more corner of the city. We dodged raindrops in Hyde Park while waiting for a table at bartaco. A locally-brewed grapefruit IPA and fish tacos took the sting out of waking up for an early flight the next morning.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love Tampa Bay for anything more than its well above-freezing temperatures. Both Tampa and St. Pete really surprised me with their cute neighborhoods and delicious food. I couldn’t have asked for a better mix of exploring and relaxing or better weather!

Day 3’s Total Cost: $30

  • Coffee at Ginger Beard Coffee: $5
  • Dinner at bartaco: $25

9 Skincare Favorites Under $15 + 1 Worth the Splurge

If you live in Buffalo and love beauty and fashion, you’ve probably seen Becca, the bubbly personality behind Little Budget Beauty, on Instagram or at Second Chic. I’m not a makeup person, but I could look at Becca’s Instagram feed, filled with product reviews, real-life shots and full-face looks, forever. And everything she uses is completely affordable.

So when I wanted to put the Target gift card burning a hole in my pocket to good use on some budget-friendly skincare, I knew Becca would know exactly what my face needed. Plus, who turns down a Target run? Not me. Not Becca.

I usually duck in and out of the makeup aisle on my way to the home goods section during my way-too-frequent trips to Target. I’ve never been super into makeup, but that means I do have to be kind to my skin, especially in the winter, when it gets so dry I look (and feel) like a walking desert.

With hydration and affordability in mind, we got to work. It’s been a few weeks since our trip, and I’m ready to report back on the results, as well as add in a few of my all-time “little budget” favorites.

1. Lush Aqua Marina Face and Body Cleanser

$12.95 for 3.5 oz
I use this calamine powder and aloe vera cleanser allll over during the winter. It’s super gentle and still leaves my face feeling clean. My only complaint is how much the seaweed it’s wrapped in clogs the drain. 😆

2. Neutrogena Moisturizing Hydro Boost Hydrating Face Mask

$2.57 for 1
Becca disappeared down the mask aisle and came back with every single one of these that Target had in stock. When she sees this mask in the store, she buys every single one – they’re that good. She was gracious enough to let me try one, and I don’t disagree with her. The mask made my skin soooo soft and it stayed uber hydrated for days.

3. Lush Mask of Magnaminty

$14.95 for 4.4 oz
For something a little bit more cleansing, I like this mask. It has the same gentle kaolin clay base as the Aqua Marina cleanser so it’s not drying, but it does leave my skin feeling super fresh, thanks to the peppermint oil.

Lush Mask of Magnaminty & Aqua Marina | Affordable Skincare Picks

Lush Mask of Magnaminty | Affordable Skincare Picks

4. Bioré Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips

$7.99 for 6
These bad boys have been a staple since high school. There’s something so satisfying about ripping all those nasty blackheads straight out of my skin. Is this the healthiest thing for my skin? Nope. Is it necessary? Yep.

5. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner in Rose Petal

$6.99 for 12 oz
I’m really proud that I picked this one out without direct coaching from Becca. Although I did see my sister using it last time she came home… This toner is a serious game changer. It’s so refreshing and really calms my skin at the same time. I’ve been using it multiple times a day, sometimes instead of washing my face, which makes it a really nice option for the winter.

6. Garnier SkinActive Hydrating 3-in-1 Face Moisturizer with Aloe

$6.99 for 6.75 oz

Garnier SkinActive 3 in 1 Moisturizer | Affordable Skincare Picks

If I had $38 to spend on an ounce and a half of face moisturizer every few months, I would always use belif’s The True Cream Aqua Bomb. I don’t. So instead, I’m using the $7 alternative from Target. To be honest, it’s pretty darn good. I slather it on in the morning and at night, and it does a good job of keeping my face from getting raw, even during Buffalo winters.

7. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer in Fair

$8.59 for .12 oz
While my skin is really dry, it’s also super sensitive, so I can’t just put goop over my zits and hope for the best. This concealer does a good job of adding hydration without being greasy or oily. My one complaint is that this product comes in four shades that are pretty much white, whiter and whitest.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer | Affordable Skincare Picks

8. Maybelline Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder in Light

$4.39 for .7 oz
Try not to judge me, but before this shopping trip, I had been using the same mineral powder since high school. Not the same brand, or the same type. Literally the same container. I couldn’t tell you when it expired because all the packaging wore off. So anything would have been an upgrade.

Maybelline Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder | Affordable Skincare Picks

I really like this powder, which is buttery soft and does a good job of floating over my dry skin. I have not tried it without primer and probably won’t any time soon. However, this is likely a good candidate for being a stand-alone go-to during warmer months.

Becca liked this powder too (so you know it really is great) and included it in her roundup from our shopping trip as well!

9. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Oil in Caramel Cloud

$4.95 for .04 oz
You can’t go wrong with Burt’s Bees. We tried to find something a little “sexier” for blog post purposes, but all the lipsticks that claimed to be moisturizing just felt sticky. This has a touch of color and stays on my lips for at least an hour or two. It’s nothing special, but it’s a definite upgrade from my usual ChapStick.

Bonus: FIRST AID BEAUTY Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer

$28.00 for 1.7 oz
Because Becca also encourages a good splurge every once in a while, I’m adding one to my list too. This primer is the perfect base for a light foundation. It’s actually tinted enough that I can get away with wearing it alone during the summer. Plus, it smells like an actual coconut smoothie.

Craft Coffee House Should Be Your Go-To Northtowns Coffee Date

Over the last few years, the coffee date options in the Northtowns have gotten a serious upgrade. Of course, Scripts is always going to have a special place in my heart and Steamworks is winning the coffee game, hands down. If you’re a little further east, Shirt Factory is where it’s at. But until recently, there was a little bit of a hole in the coffee shop map between Clarence and Lockport. That’s where Craft Coffee House comes in.

The first time I went to Craft Coffee House, I thought I was lost. Sure, I was following my GPS, but sometimes it’s wrong… right? After driving through Pendleton for what seemed like too long, I arrived at the cutest collection of businesses, which included Craft Coffee House. That first trip included a mason jar of iced coffee that, along with the industrial bar stools, subway tile and rich blue accent wall, was totally Instagram-worthy.

Craft Toast and pour over at Craft Coffee House

Ever since, I’ve been catching glimpses of that decor (and the waffles!) on local Instagrammer Caitie Newman‘s Stories.  Feeling very inspired (and ready for caffeine), I returned a few months later, camera in hand, to meet Mary for a long overdue coffee date. We talked about traveling, work, Marie Kondo, puppies and first time home buyers programs over coffee and breakfast.

I opted for a pour over (they serve Glen Edith‘s roasts) and the simple yet sweet Craft Toast, topped with peanut butter, banana, honey and cinnamon sugar. Mary went with a toffee latte and the Old McDonald Sandwich: egg, bacon, smoked cheddar and maple syrup between two waffles. Everything was delicious; my one complaint was the use of an egg patty rather than a real egg in Mary’s breakfast sandwich.

Toffee latte at Craft Coffee House

Old McDonald Sandwich at Craft Coffee House

The lunch menu looked amazing and I seriously considered ordering a flatbread after finishing my toast. The barista was so nice during my indecisive ordering the first time around I wasn’t even embarrassed to think this. They also serve beer and wine, which would be perfect for a late Saturday brunch (they’re only open until 3 every day).

The decor is all you could want for a Sunday coffee date. I loved the crisp white subway tile and sleek accents in the summer. Somehow, the same decor manages to be so cozy during the winter too. Mary pointed out the outlets in every booth – and not under the table where you need to stretch out the hammies before attempting to plug in your laptop. This is so nice for students, freelancers and remote workers, especially in a town with so few options.

Pour over options at Craft Coffee House

During the few hours we spent chatting in a comfy booth, a steady stream of people walked in and out. Most just grabbed coffee and headed on their way, while others hung out for just as long as Mary and I did. I hope that means that Craft Coffee House is here to stay, because it’s too cute (and delicious) to miss out on!