Keep Walking, Keep Talking

Every year, 50,000 new cases of HIV are reported and at this rate, AIDS will become the worst epidemic in human history as it claims as many as 100 million lives by 2020. HIV and AIDS affect communities around the globe, including Western New York. Let’s keep walking and keep talking in our fight for a world without HIV and AIDS!

AIDS Walk Buffalo | Keep Walking Keep Talking | Succulents and Sunnies

This year is the 25th Annual AIDS Walk Buffalo. On May 6th, walkers will gather to raise both funds and awareness in a celebration of life and strength at Hoyt Lake. The walk’s goal is to raise funds that help members of our community who live with HIV or AIDS with medical care, case management, counseling, housing assistance and nutritious meals.

Interested in participating? Learn more about walking or donating on AIDS Walk Buffalo’s website: bit.ly/AIDSWalkBFLO!

AIDS Walk Buffalo | Keep Walking Keep Talking | Succulents and Sunnies

Inspiration Straight from Big Magic

I am not a genius. I have a genius.

This is a distinction that took me by storm when I was first introduced to Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Pieces of this book were required reading in Dance Composition, a class that demanded more creativity than any business course could even imagine. One thing about business classes is that they indulged my perfectionist nature. You can ace a marketing exam or put together a well-researched media strategy that will knock your professor’s socks off. Creating a work of art with your body and the landscape around you can never be “perfect.” And this scares me.

Being able to separate myself from my creative ideas was a relief. And this separation of self and “genius” was only one of the ideas that I found helpful as I created performance art throughout the semester.

Because I aim to be a lifelong creator, maybe not in dance, but in writing and photography and other pursuits I have not yet discovered, I added Big Magic to my Christmas list this year. My grandpa (who I always ask for all the books I want, because he gives the list to his local bookkeeper who will order everything on the list if it’s not already in stock) delivered, and I’ve been working on this book most days at lunch. I first mentioned the book when I named it one the things that was getting me through winter.

The differentiation between being a genius and having a genius is just the beginning. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, and a successful one at that as author of the smashing success Eat Pray Love. After this success, she gave two TED talks on what led to her critical and commercial acclaim. This book is a continuation of those TED talks, and it remains just as casual and mind blowing as TED talks tend to be. Big Magic reads like a conversation, delivering thought-provoking and reassuring passages throughout.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review | Succulents and Sunnies

I have passages starred from beginning to end, and I find myself introducing ideas from it everywhere from Instagram to Bible Study. Just 40 pages in, Gilbert reaffirms that “You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” The first piece of this statement is something that I’m finding especially true here in Buffalo. The support and collaboration in the blogging and entrepreneur communities here is something I love to see both in my social media feeds and at networking events. The second is more personal, and possibly more important. While a growing readership is always nice, I’m focusing on making my goals for this blog about regular blog posts that are me. And that’s important.

Do you struggle being “original” enough to stand out? If not, please let me know how you do it. For the rest of us, Gilbert reassures us, saying “Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” If being yourself is good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me. I also love Big Magic‘s focus on creating for your own reasons. I write this blog for me, and that’s okay, because “Your own reasons to create are reason enough.”

Gilbert offers such practical advice for fighting those periods of time when you just don’t feel creative. She talks about the practicality of working through these times doing something, anything. This is beyond helpful, as my real job becomes more and more writing-focused. Add freelance social media content and creative partnerships, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it by the time I go to write here.

This leads to another great point; creative pursuits aren’t likely to be your full time job. Even Gilbert had a full time job until after Eat Pray Love. It would be great to be an Instagram influencer who lived off freelance content creation and affiliate marketing. But my personal digital footprint is a labor of love, one that takes time and doesn’t pay. “People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

Putting in the time, writing regularly and sharing photos that are reflective of my thoughts and actions, is important, because that is all that is under my control. My success, as Gilbert points out rather directly, “[depends] upon three factors – talent, luck, and discipline – and I knew two of those three things would never be under my control.”

All of these gems, which are pushing me to work diligently on my creative pursuits, are sprinkled among personal anecdotes from the creative life Elizabeth Gilbert is living. She touches on the very real issue of depression among artists. She talks about how no work to too special to edit. There are times where writing could never describe real life, and times when writing is exactly what she needs to makes sense of reality.

While we should work and work and work towards exactly what we want, there are times when we are swept into furies of creativity. Those moments when you can’t write fast enough to get it all down, those huge waves of inspiration that come to you out of nowhere. They’re because of, Gilbert says, Big Magic. For those of us striving to live creatively, without fear or darkness, we must accept Big Magic when it comes to us, because we are not geniuses. We have geniuses.

6 Recipes to Try This Spring

Warmer weather and spring veggies have me craving new, fresh recipes. Here are 6 I’m excited to try this season!

1. One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta – Love & Lemons

There is nothing I love more than one pot pasta recipes. They’re easy and yummy. This one is filled with tomatoes, pepper, zucchini and more. In a few months, we can make this right out of the garden, but for now the grocery store will do. I’m going to make this my lunch meal prep for the week.

Update: This recipe worked great for a whole week worth of lunches! I used 2 small zucchini, a pint of cherry tomatoes and 16 ounces of whole wheat pasta with 5 1/2 cups of water. Next time, I’ll add even more spices to really jazz things up.

2. Blackened Fish Tacos with Creamy Avocado Sauce – FoodieCrush

At this time last year, my roommates and I were spring break-ing in Florida, eating fish tacos with mixed drinks at beachfront restaurants. This year, not so much. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy fish tacos at home!

3. Slow Cooker Thai Curry Chicken – Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

I’m not going to put away the slow cooker just because it’s getting warmer. I’m excited to try this recipe! I love when I can make rice and add whatever has been cooking all day with no effort on my part to make a meal.

4. Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Power Salad – Little Spice Jar

This is a great side dish or a main meal. When I made it, I used less scallions and didn’t include dates. The flavors had a chance to blend overnight and it was even better as leftovers.

5. Glowing Green “Pasta” Primavera – Oh She Glows

Everything on Oh She Glows is delicious and unlike some vegan recipes, you can’t tell it’s vegan. I always love the sauces Angela creates and this sun-dried tomato basil-hemp pesto looks amazing.

6. Southwestern Veggie Wraps – Oh My Veggies

I love wraps, I love sweet potatos and I love black beans. These wraps look like an easy dinner with enough flavor and filling to make up for the meatless-ness.

Niagara Food & Wine Expo GIVEAWAY ūüćĺ

Mark your calendars, the Niagara Food and Wine Festival is less than 3 weeks away! The Expo is a 3 day tasting event (running April 21-23) with samples of wine, beers and spirits from both around the world and local wineries. The list of exhibitors includes Aure Wines and Muskoka Lakes Winery, Goose Island Beer Company and Niagara Brewing Company, plus Alacran Tequila, Rheault Distillery and Relay Coffee Roasters.¬†Don’t worry, there’s also food samples from dozens¬†of the area’s best chefs to pair with all your drinks¬†ūüėú

If all the food and wine wasn’t enough, there is also a Tasting Stage and Entertainment Area. The most exciting feature at this year’s Expo is the addition of demonstrations by The Chef & The Dish.¬†The Chef & The Dish is “a global kitchen-to-kitchen culinary experience.” They’ve taken the traditional cooking class and turned it into a one-on-one experience with no geographical constrains, thanks to modern technology. You pick the type of cuisine you’re interested in making, and The Chef & The Dish pairs you with one of their chefs, located around the world.¬†How? All through private, one-on-one cooking classes via¬†Skype!

Niagara Food & Wine Expo | The Chef & The DISH | Succulents and Sunnies

Interested in learning more? Check out their website!

The Chef & The Dish is demonstrating their culinary experience with 4 presentations throughout the Expo, including Japanese cooking with Chef Yoshimi from Tokyo and Spanish cuisine from Chef Ana in Seville.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for: The Chef & The Dish invited me to the Expo to watch their demonstrations, and they want you to come too! Thanks to The Chef & The Dish, I’m giving away 4 tickets (2 here on the blog and 2 over on Instagram) to the Niagara Food & Wine Expo in April.

To enter the giveaway:

  1. Follow this blog using the little white box on the right side of this page.
  2. Comment on this post to let me know you’re interested!
  3. Want to double your chances of winning? Share this post on your Facebook or Twitter (let me know you did this in your comment).

A few details regarding the giveaway and Expo:

  • Your tickets will be good for 1 of the 3 days of the Expo. You can attend on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
  • No one under 19 is allowed into the event, including infants and kids.
  • This event is in Niagara Falls, Ontario, so you will have to cross the border to get to the event.
  • Feel free to enter both this giveaway and the giveaway on my Instagram!
  • I will randomly select the winner of both pairs of tickets on Friday, April 14th.

Sunday Brunching in Montr√©al

On the quick trip Paige and I recently took to Montreal (read about the whole trip in this blog post), one of our biggest priorities was finding a great brunch before leaving on Sunday morning. The biggest hurdle was how early we wanted to eat, around 9 am, so we could head home. We also needed to be able to walk from our hotel on Rue Berri.

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We landed on Le Bistro du Magasin Général du Vieux, which turned out to be a wonderful decision. The bistro serves a delicious, fresh menu with tons of both coffee and mimosa options. We also thought it was very fairly priced, especially for the prime Old Montreal location.

After we ate, an omelette for me, and an apple and brie sandwich for Paige, we browsed the beautiful collection of home goods, jewelry and scarves that the store sells. This collection is beautifully curated and I wanted to take everything home. We left full of both food and inspiration!

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: Ellicottville, NY

Cody and I took a quick trip to Ellicottville this weekend to visit Ellicottville Brewing Company and wander through a few of the small town’s shops. It was a perfect spring weekend – a little grey, but warm – perfect for a getaway to this cozy ski resort town.

Our first stop was the brewery tour at EBC. The old building is beautiful and the tour did a great job of not only explaining this history of beer and the Brewing Company, but also the building. The taproom’s bar is from the 1983 World Fair and is the second oldest bar in the area, which I found so interesting. Cody really enjoyed how knowledgeable our tour guide Kevin was on beer history and the making of beer.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

The tastings at the end of the tour were delicious: Blueberry Wheat (already one of my favorites), Juicy Juice, Mosaic Sunrise and 1/2 Baked Porter. The tasting room is part of the brewery’s addition, framed by¬†giant wooden beams and overlooking stainless steel beer tanks. We stayed for lunch and a flight, to try the beers on tap but not in the tasting room.

Ellicottville Brewing Company was the biggest reason we chose Ellicottville for our trip, and it turned out to be a good decision. We left educated and full, which was a nice combination.

We checked into our hotel and spent the next few hours watching HGTV (Fixer Upper marathon for the win!) and getting hungry enough to walk to our next meal, dinner at Villaggio. This is another place with a great atmosphere, full of rustic-eclectic decor, string lights and laughter. The Sabres game (which we actually won!) was on the big screen as we ate. There were definitely groups in Ellicottville for a Saturday night out, so I’m sure it would have been fun to stay out and visit a few of the town’s bars, but Cody and I headed back to our hotel to take advantage of the pool and hot tub.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and walked¬†back down Washington¬†Street. We poked around in ski shops, home goods stores and Watson’s Chocolates before heading home. And how can you not stop and pet the dogs at Adventure Bound every time you walk by?

While our trip was short, Ellicottville was a perfect weekend escape. With the ski slopes still covered in snow but temperatures warming, wandering around the village was a great way to spend a day!

Bienvenue à Montréal

Paige spent last week home on spring break, so we planned a quick trip to Montreal. If you live in Buffalo (or anywhere else in Upstate New York), Montreal is perfect for a long weekend getaway. While the 6 hour drive is a bit long, it’s decidedly shorter (and cheaper!) than a flight to a European city, which is what Montreal feels like.

Buffalonians know that the US dollar has a good advantage over the Canadian one at the moment. That makes right now an especially great time to visit our northern neighbors! We spent about $250 USD each for gas, food, a hotel room and a museum visit, and you could definitely spend less (or more) with a little strategic planning.

We arrived Friday afternoon after a pleasant drive and very easy border crossing. The one hiccup on this trip was the terrible condition of our Airbnb. It was a beautiful apartment and a great location, but it was about as clean as a college frat house, so that was a no-go. Sometimes Airbnb is great (like that incredible view in Costa Rica), and sometimes not so much. We packed up our bags and drove down the street to a hotel, where we were greeted by clean towels and vacuumed rugs, thank goodness. I highly recommend staying near the UQAM campus, between The Gay Village and Quartier des Spectacle, which puts you within walking distance of both downtown and Old Montreal.

By this time Friday night, all we were able to do was find a restaurant downtown and turn in early to make the most of Saturday. We were impressed by Burger Bar‘s burgers and poutine, which we paired with Guinness, because it was Saint Patrick’s Day after all!

Saturday started bright and early with a walk to Old Port to see the Clock Tower and Molson factory. We wandered through Old Montreal along Rue Notre-Dame, stopping in galleries along the way. We had planned to stop at an art museum Friday afternoon, but with the Airbnb/hotel debacle, we didn’t have time. Checking out the galleries was definitely a good (and free) substitute.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We also explored the¬†Bonsecours Market and really enjoyed the exhibit at The Fashion Museum, located inside the market. Right now the museum is featuring “Blue Spectrum,” an exploration of¬†the color blue in fashion. It only took about 20 minutes to walk through, but it was interesting and out of the cold!

For lunch we headed up a block to Rue Saint-Jacques, which definitely helped bring down the cost of a sandwich. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel to change our cold, wet socks (there was a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks, the result of Storm Stella) and admired the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica on the way.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Our next stop was Le Cafe des Chats, where we drank coffee (complete with kitty latte art) surrounded by 9 adopted cats. This is the kind of place you can spend hours, and we did. We took the time to write in our travel journals about the trip thus far, pet cats and take pictures of cats. It was great and I highly recommend adding it (or another of Montreal’s cat cafes) to any Montreal itinerary!

Next, we found our way past McGill University and up the hill to Chalet du Mont-Royal, which provides an excellent view of the entire city and the St. Lawrence river beyond it. We made it just as the sun was setting, and were glad for the extra hour of light that daylight savings time the weekend prior gave us. The snow made hiking tough, but the view was worth it!

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We walked downtown for dinner and drinks at Parma Cafe and Fiddler’s Green Pub, respectively. The Cafe was adorable, with a menu of pizza, pasta, soup and salads, along with coffee and wine. Fiddler’s Green was a relaxed Irish pub we felt right at home in, with both Guinness and local brews on tap and hockey on the flat screens. It was a welcome break from some of the more uppity restaurants we’d walked by and eaten in.

Sunday morning we had brunch at the most adorable bistro/home goods store I’ve ever laid eyes on.¬†Le Magasin General du Viex is in Old Montreal, right across the street from the science museum. Both the atmosphere and the food were top-notch. If either Paige or I had a home to decorate, we would have bought out the store. I almost did anyway! *Stay tuned, because there’s a whole blog post coming on¬†Le Magasin General du Viex.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Both Paige and I are so excited to go back to Montreal in warmer weather. There are a few things we didn’t get to do, but are definitely on the list for next time, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, Botanical Garden, Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Underground City and going into the Basilica.