This Dance Is For Me + My Favorite Improv Songs

The first time I was asked to improvise was in a ballet class freshman year of college. I was already out of my element, a communications major in my second semester in a room filled with sophomore musical theater and acting majors. Sometimes remembering a barre warmup in front of them was more than I could handle.

My dance background in ballet, jazz and tap didn’t include any improv, so this request to just move with new music was scary. Terrifying even.

I always loved moving around to the music on the radio. I have a hard time listening to music at work because I’m constantly bobbing up and down, choreographing in my head to whatever song is on. That choreography got in the way when I tried to improv. Instead of letting go, I tried to remember every move I made, in case it turned out “good.”

By the next time I was asked to improv, I had declared my dance minor, was a junior, was used to dancing without the mirrors and even liked end-of-class partner massages. It turns out I really enjoyed improvising once the awkward factor was out of the way.

Improv Playlist | Succulents and Sunnies

The ability to move without caring what you look like or what other people think is a true skill, one that took a long time for me to develop. These days, the ease of improv – you don’t need a ballet barre or big space or the perfect song – makes it the form of dance I do most. Sneaking into the group exercise room between spin class and kickboxing at the gym for a little movement is my happy time in my post-college world. Who cares about the woman doing core or the guys jumping rope? This dance is for me.

If you’re looking for a few songs to get up and move around to, these are some of my favorites:

A Buffalo Girls’ Day Out

Brunch. Shopping. Coffee shops. Ice cream.

When Chessa of Vintage Lillies and I plan a girls’ day, we don’t mess around.

I first met Chessa in high school, where we were both in yearbook club and scholastic bowl like the nerds we are. We crossed paths a few times after graduating, but it wasn’t until we both ended up in the Buffalo Blogging Network that we really had a chance to catch up. What better way to reconnect than with a collaboration between our blogs, filled with all the best things Buffalo has to offer?

Whether you’re a Western New York native or taking a weekend trip, spending a day in the city with good company is always relaxing. Follow our footsteps for the perfect girls’ day out in Buffalo:

Stop 1: Brunch on the West Side

It’s basically impossible to have a girls’ day without brunch. Breadhive was our choice, and it was buzzing with friends and families. The decor is perfect, with a painted tin ceiling, stained glass and paneled walls. We ordered sandwiches (me from the breakfast menu and Chessa from the lunch menu), headed outside and chatted about what the rest of our day would look like.

Brunch spot perfect for: great sandwiches, cold brew + wall decor w/ humor

A post shared by Francesca Bond (@chessabond) on

While on Connecticut Street, stop by Burning Books for a beautifully curated and displayed collection on titles on feminism (this is a girls’ day after all), political activism, diversity and history.

Stop 2: Shopping on Elmwood Ave.

Elmwood Ave. is a treasure-trove of shops, with everything from secondhand scarves to upscale coasters. I’m not normally a thrift store shopper, most likely because my fashion sense is pretty basic. I’m way more comfortable upcycling furniture than repurposing clothes. Shopping with Chessa was eye-opening! We made stops at both Scoop Shop and Second Chic (which is seriously adorable).

Everything Elmwood, Fern + Arrow and Anna Grace were also stops on our shopping spree. So much for doing this girls’ day on a budget…

Buffalo Girls Day Out | Locals Guide | Succulents and Sunnies

Buffalo Girls Day Out | Locals Guide | Succulents and Sunnies

Stop 3: Coffee in Allentown

There’s so many good coffee shops in Buffalo, but we settled on Grindhaus Cafe for a post-shopping pick-me-up. We went for lemonade instead of coffee, which was delivered to us in huge mason jars. This was exactly what we needed to carry on.

Buffalo Girls Day Out | Locals Guide | Succulents and Sunnies

Stop 4: Ice Cream on Hertel Ave.

Carry on to ice cream, that is. I’ve mentioned before that Hertel Ave. is seriously the place to be for amazing ice cream. We tried Churn, and it was so darn good. I went for the De la Lloyd, a massive amount of chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, all on a waffle cone, which they make in house.

Buffalo Girls Day Out | Locals Guide | Succulents and Sunnies

In a small attempt to make ourselves feel better about eating ice cream for dinner, we walked down to Bunnie Reiss’s beautiful addition to the Buffalo public art scene at Joe’s Deli.

Our entire journey is mapped out for you here 👇

Make sure you check out Vintage Lillies for incredible street fashion, the best thrift shops, weekend getaways and groovy playlists. You can also follow Chessa on Instagram (and you definitely should!).

Tequila-Infused Coffee and a Milkshake for Dinner

Hertel Ave.’s growth into a destination of its own within Buffalo’s city limits continues to impress, and this summer 3 (yes, 3) new ice cream shops opened, among other great additions. These are among the reasons Hertel Ave. was my #1 bucket list priority this summer. So when my friend Melanie was in town last week, I suggested we head south to catch up over “dinner”:

Usually when I tweet, I expect my words to disappear into oblivion with zero recognition, so when other people clearly related, I wanted to share how amazing our meal really was. (Also, sorry for the typo. Twitter could introduce the ability to edit any time now…)

We met at Lloyd’s Taco Factory and headed straight to the bar, which had a pretty impressive list of amazing sounding cocktails (duh, what else would you expect?), along with wine and beer. Melanie went for a draft Lagunitas IPA and I chose the Gennaro’s COLDbrew, a delicious mix of cold brew coffee, tequila, cacao and Averna, topped with fresh cream and cinnamon. Cold drinks, a perfect summer night and the adorable puppy behind us on the patio made this first stop perfect.

Dinner on Hertel Ave | Buffalo | Succulents and Sunnies

With 3 new ice cream shops to choose from, heading across the street to Hertel Ave. Poutine and Cream was a difficult decision, but we’re glad that was our pick. (We’re from Lockport, so we’ve had Lake Effect since high school, and it didn’t seem fair to visit Churn after spending time at Lloyd’s. Gotta spread the love!)

Poutine and Cream has been filling my Instagram feed since opening this spring, so I had high expectations for our Freak Shake. Melanie and I split The Chocolate Mouse, described as “peanut butter-chocolate ice cream with crushed Reese’s Pieces & Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ‘ears,’ drizzled with chocolate & caramel sauce.” So yeah. There’s that.

Dinner_Hertel_Ave_1

Both shops are in perfect people-watching spots with plenty of outdoor seating for breezy summer nights. There were so many people and puppies out which highlighted how inviting this neighborhood really is. I’m crossing off this item from my summer bucket list, but I’ll definitely be back!

9 Must Haves for a Day at the Beach

Summer is short in Buffalo, so when sunny days come your way, you take advantage of them. This means always being ready to throw a few essentials into your backpack and head to the beach! These are my 9 favorite beach day essentials:

1. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen: This is my favorite sunscreen. It works, it doesn’t feel slimy and it doesn’t bother my skin. It is more expensive than your average Coppertone, but worth it! The bottles are also small enough to be TSA carry-on approved.

2. Old Navy Flip Flops: These flip flops are perfect for hot sand, rocky beaches, rinsing feet off, running to the bathroom and just about every other beach day errand. Plus, you can buy a pair for $2.50, or stock up during the $1 flip flop sale mid-summer.
Summer Beach Day Essentials | Succulents and Sunnies
3. Black Sea Followband: Wearing jewelry at the beach is dangerous – you’re asking for earrings lost to the waves and funky tan lines. However, I like accessorize just a little bit by adding this bracelet to my beach day outfit.

4. Lush Breath of Fresh Air Toner: I included this toner in my winner essentials list as well. It’s perfect for refreshing sun-drenched skin and wiping off layers of sunscreen before heading to the ice cream stand once the sun goes down.

5. Nalgene Water Bottle: Staying hydrated on the beach is hard, so a giant water bottle is a must-have. I love that plastic doesn’t sweat as much as metal water bottles and the top is big enough to fit ice cubes in.

6. Bubbles: Mom got me bubbles for Easter, and they’re a fun addition to beach day activities. Plus, they look great in pictures.
Beach Day Summer Essentials | Succulents and Sunnies
7. Knockaround Mai Tais: Knockarounds are just about everyone’s favorite beach accessory. They’re tough to break, cheap and available with polarized lenses. Plus, their new frame designs are flattering for smaller faces (like mine ✋) so you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function.

8. Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray: Buffalo might not have any salt water nearby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rock surfer girl hair. This makes wet hair look textured and helps it dry into a uniform wave.

9. A Good Magazine: If I’m spending a week on the beach (and a few hours in a plane to get there), a new book is a great accessory. If I’m visiting the local lake for an afternoon, a magazine is a better bet. I love Real Simple, Cosmo and Magnolia Journal!

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse

“I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” – Ronald Reagan

These words are incredibly true, and have been since my first horseback riding lesson at age 9. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a recent increase in the number of horse pictures. There’s kind of a lot of them. The last year, I’ve been back at the barn and it feels good.

There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as a couple of hours at the barn; not necessarily riding – sometimes that goes pretty badly – but brushing, bathing, grazing and feeding endless carrots. These hours are special and after 4 horseless years, I’m still feeling extra thankful I get to have them.

This year, I’m spending those hours with Johny. He’s possibly the happiest, sweetest, cuddliest lesson horse on the planet. Johny was the first horse I showed, and while we were never going to win a class, we both learned a lot about working as a team.

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Last weekend, Johny and I broke out the hoof polish and saddle soap for an open show. After we both got over a little bit of nerves, we had so much fun! Horse shows are kind of like dance recitals. Practice is fun, but also hard. When you get to a show, all dolled up, you do your best, but it’s not the place to make any big changes. You just get to ride and hope nothing too terrible happens. And nothing did – we couldn’t ask for anything more!

Thanks to our personal show photographer Katheryn Krawczyk for the pictures!

Love Ya Like a Sister

My sister and I are close, bonded by our love of cute coffee shops, affinity for new adventures and the misery of both not understanding what your parents are talking about and simultaneously becoming them. Despite this, Paige and I haven’t lived under the same roof in years. Some of that time, we were both in Ithaca, meeting up for Saturday morning coffee dates when we were both free. Others, we were hours apart, one of us home and the other in Ithaca.

Cody and his siblings are incredibly close, and when Cody’s brother moved to Rochester last month, we knew that we’d be gathering often, thankfully only a few Thruway exits apart. This weekend we celebrated the first of many “Siblings’ Weekend,” full of family updates, breweries, boating and ice cream sundaes.

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

While Cody’s sister and his brother’s girlfriend aren’t my sisters, they do a pretty good job of filling in when Paige hasn’t been home in a while. This weekend, my heart was so full of love and laughter, fueled by a sunset boat ride, flatbread pizzas on the patio, trail mix and Impractical Jokers. Many thanks to Patrick and Shannon for making this weekend happen. Can’t wait for next time!

4 Tips for Perfect Cold Brew

Walk into your local coffee shop or neighborhood Starbucks and you’ll likely see cold brew on the menu – and if you’re an early customer, you might even get a cup. When my sister texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that she made her own cold brew and it was both delicious and easy, I decided to try it for myself.

Is it really as easy as Paige and Instagram make it look? Paige sent me The Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee from Wellnesting, which she used to make her version. All the details on how to make cold brew are in the guide, as are a few delicious drink ideas. Here’s 4 more little details you need to know to make the perfect cold brew:

1. You can use pretty much any coffee and it will turn out just fine. Most guides online will tell you that you need to buy whole beans from your local roaster – and if that’s your thing, go for it. It’ll taste great. But if all you have is Maxwell House grounds (that’s my whole family’s go-to), that works too. The beauty of cold brew is that it makes any coffee taste delicious.

2. Use cheesecloth to strain your grounds. Trust me on this. A paper filter just doesn’t do this job. The coffee drained slowly and I managed to rip a hole straight through the filter while trying to make the coffee strain faster.

3. This stuff is strong. Like really strong. I filled a glass with ice and had 1 part cold brew with 2 parts almond milk, and I was still bouncing my legs at lunchtime. If you’re sensitive to the caffeine in coffee, be careful with your first few cold brews and experiment to find what works for you!

Cold Brew Coffee Tips | Succulents and Sunnies

4. Make more than just a single batch. Cold brew stays fresh in the fridge for a week and it’s perfect for summer – no need to turn on the coffee maker and use a million ice cubes cooling your hot coffee back down to a refreshing temperature. Plus it just tastes so good.