6 Winter Self Care Rituals I Can’t Live Without

It’s that time of year when the air hurts your face and you can’t get through the pile of snow at the end of your driveway without stepping (pretty hard) on the gas. I would never trade a year without a winter for Buffalo’s summer and fall. However, making it through these chilly months (which usually lack any meaningful amount of sunshine) takes a lot of purposeful self care.

Everyone’s idea of taking care of their body and mind is different; as long as it works for you, just about anything can be called self care. And, as much as Instagram will tell you otherwise, it doesn’t have to happen on Sunday. Keep reading for my favorite ways to stay happy and healthy through Buffalo’s never-ending winter.

1. New Places

Our summers are usually filled with weekend trips to Rochester, Boston and the Finger Lakes. Our quick trips usually fizzle out sometime after our annual weekend in Allegany State Park in October. That doesn’t mean we’re not still exploring new places. Winter is a wonderful time to get to know your own city. Coffee shops, breweries and museums are all great places to spend a couple of hours. Honestly, even trading our weekly trip to Aldi for Wegmans or Whole Foods cheers me up.

Fresh coffee from Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

2. Exercise

Getting up to go to the gym before work seems like an impossible task some mornings. Especially when it’s literally 0° outside. But a regular workout schedule makes me feel so much better, mentally and physically.

3. A Skincare Routine

Taking care of my body helps me survive the winter. This means eating healthy, working out and helping my skin survive the moistureless air. Lots of natural cleansers, masks and lotions are my best friend this time of year.

4. Reading

While I’m the first to talk about how great social media is, it also makes you sad. And impacts your self-esteem. And affects your physical health. So when you cut down your social media use, what do you do with all of your free time? Read!

Good books for wintertime reading

I have a Barnes & Noble gift card burning a hole in my purse that I’m saving for a late-winter Saturday when I’m so sick of being stuck inside I might just lose it. Last year I loved Bel Canto and Born a Crime. This year, I’m looking forward to picking up Becoming, Educated and a few cheesy romance novels.

5. Horseback Riding

Most girls outgrow the pony thing, but not me. There’s just something about brushing a horse (and giving it treats, kisses and ear rubs) that makes everything okay.

6. Setting Goals

My resolutions don’t usually last past February, but a few intentional, manageable goals help me stay positive in the winter. Staying on top of my to-do list, whether it’s keeping the house clean or publishing a blog post every week, motivates me to keep working toward the bigger stuff, even when it gets dark at 5 pm.

The Complete Guide to 48 Hours in Ithaca, NY

I spent four amazing years at Ithaca College, which means I also spent the majority of those four years (and a summer) in Ithaca, NY and haven’t stopped telling people about it since. It’s been a while since my last weekend in Ith and I’m seriously missing the small city at the foot of Cayuga Lake.

Every few months, someone asks me what there is to do in Ithaca because it’s close enough to Buffalo that a weekend trip is totally doable. There are plenty of Airbnbs and hotel rooms (as long as you’re not trying to go during graduation or family weekend – check the Cornell and Ithaca College calendars!), and the number of parks and public spaces make for an affordable getaway.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Buttermilk Falls State Park

It’s to the point that I have a giant message that I copy and paste into conversations with friends. There’s a lot on that list, but it’s probably not the most organized way to share all of Ithaca’s must-dos. In its place, I created a 48-hour itinerary for my ideal weekend in Ithaca.

This is by no means a complete collection of everything Ithaca has to offer. It’s also best completed during the summer or fall when it’s not -5°, windy and sleeting. Hopefully, I’ll be following this exact schedule for my next trip to the Finger Lakes later this year!

Friday

Taking a half day on Friday means getting to Ithaca early enough on Friday to fit in a few fun things before calling it a night. Coming from Buffalo, I like taking the Thruway to Exit 41 for Waterloo/Clyde and heading down Route 89 along Cayuga Lake. This way, you have to pass Taughannock Falls State Park before getting to Ithaca.

Park in the lot on the right side of the road and head to the trail to stretch your legs. Take the Gorge Trail for a quick walk (less than a mile) to the base of the falls. You can also start the weekend off strong with the South Rim Trail to the North Rim Trail, which together are just over 3 miles. This route will take you up and around the falls. You’ll also pass the overlook (you can drive there using Taughannock Park Road instead) on this trail for that Instagram-famous view of the falls.

Hopefully, you’ve worked up an appetite by now and are ready for burritos and margaritas at Viva Taqueria. Order from the counter (walk in the front door and turn right) and take your haul (make sure you add chips and salsa) to one of the tables outside to watch as people enjoy dinner at the row of restaurants along Aurora Street. If the weather isn’t as nice, ask the hostess for a table on the full-service side of the restaurant.

After dinner, window shop your way through the Commons and make your way down either West State Street or West Green Street to end up at Liquid State Brewing Company. Liquid State is a newcomer and I haven’t tried it yet, which is why it’s a high priority on my weekend itinerary.

Saturday

I love starting the weekend at Carriage House Cafe in Collegetown. Carriage House was, in fact, once a carriage house; it’s been restored beautifully into a cute, cozy and delicious brunch spot. Like a lot of restaurants in Ithaca, the menu depends on what’s in season.

Since you’re already in Collegetown, head to Cornell University for some Ivy League vibes. Here, you can simply drive through campus and take in the beautiful architecture and views of Ithaca and the surrounding hills. Walk around McGraw Tower (the Cornell Chimes ring three times a day) and duck into Uris Library.

These beautiful structures will look familiar to Buffalonians because they were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, whose namesake designed the buildings within the Richardson Olmstead Complex. Within Uris Library is the A. D. White Library, which gives off serious Harry Potter vibes.

If you’re into art museums, check out the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art next. There’s a little bit of everything here, from African artifacts to modern mixed-media. Even if art isn’t your thing, the view of Cayuga Lake from the top floor is gorgeous.

When the weather’s nice, skip the museum and head straight to the Cornell Botanic Gardens for a nice walk. Start in the gardens surrounding the Nevin Welcome Center before heading to either the Mundy Wildflower Garden or Beebe Lake Loop Trail.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cornell Botanic Gardens

By now, you’re probably ready for lunch (which, because it’s Saturday in Ithaca will technically be brunch at most restaurants), so drive to Avaga, a farm to table southwestern restaurant in an old train station near Cornell. Go for the frittata; the black bean burger is good too. If you’d rather, check out Agava for dinner. Start with guac and order a couple of wood-fired flatbreads before live music starts.

Get over your mimosa-induced slump with an afternoon pick me up at Gimme! Coffee. I personally think this is the best coffee in Ithaca and their Cayuga Street location is my favorite. Sit inside or out with your coffee, or take it to go and wander down quaint Cascadilla Street until you get to Cascadilla Gorge. This pretty trail is short, making it a nice post-lunch walk.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Drive to the Upper Park Entrance of Robert H. Treman State Park and take the Rim Trail to Lucifer Falls. Cross the bridge and walk back up to the parking lot on the Gorge Trail. You could substitute this hike for Buttermilk Falls State Park just across Route 13. If you want to see falls without any walking (there’s a good reason the tour guides at Ithaca College tell you about “Itha-calves”), check out Ithaca Falls Natural Area at the end of Falls Street.

For dinner, head to Ithaca Beer Co. If you’re done with nature (or the weather isn’t great) come to the taproom early for a brewery tour before dinner. They’re fun, informational and indoors. There are lots of seasonal ingredients grown nearby on this menu too. Pizza’s a good bet, and so is the burger with fries (made better by the house-made ketchup). I’m partial to pairing them with a Flower Power and Apricot Wheat, but I’ve never had a bad brew here.

Another great dinner option is Coltivare, a farm to table restaurant that’s part of Tompkins Cortland Community College’s culinary program. It’s the priciest option in this itinerary, but I think it’s worth it.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Ithaca Beer Co.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Sunset at Stewart Park

After dinner, head to Stewart Park, right on the southern end of Cayuga Lake. It’s my favorite place to watch the sun set over the hills.

Sunday

Depending on whether or not you’re still full from all the food you ate on Saturday, eat breakfast on Sunday morning at either Waffle Frolic or Collegetown Bagels, both located in the Commons.

During the school year, the line for Waffle Frolic can reach out the door. It’s worth the wait. Your imagination is the limit here, where you can top four different kinds of waffles with everything from bacon and eggs to Nutella and locally-made ice cream.

Collegetown Bagels has, you guessed it, awesome bagels. My go-to CTB breakfast is the pizza bagel on a sesame seed bagel. There’s nothing better after a busy Saturday or late night. There’s also a Collegetown location. That one is open late, so if you want dessert Saturday night, it’s a good option!

For your morning caffeine, walk to Press Cafe in Press Bay Alley. This row of shops was once home to the Ithaca Journal’s offices and printers. The back side of this airy cafe’s building is where you’ll find the “Ithaca is Amusing” mural you may have seen on Instagram.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

A weekend in Ithaca isn’t complete without a trip to the farmers’ market. Stock up on fresh fruits, veggies and flowers along with a good part of Ithaca’s population. Sunday hours start later in the spring and end earlier in the fall, so make sure you check the hours before driving down to Steamboat Landing.

Before you head home, make a quick stop at Purity Ice Cream. One of my favorite features here is the ability to split a single scoop between two flavors. The old-timey feel and homemade ice cream cannot be missed. Unless you plan to stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery, which is another delicious option.

Cozy Corners at Hotel Henry

Hotel Henry opened at the Richardson Olmsted Complex almost two years ago, but I didn’t have the chance to explore until a few months ago. I met Andrea just inside the impressive glass entrance for an early morning photo shoot on a grey day perfect for exploring.

The Complex as a whole and the building that houses the hotel have a long, complicated, emotional history. Hotel Henry has been beautifully restored and is now home to wedding receptions, Sunday brunch and weekend retreats.

Andrea and I took advantage of the beautiful nooks and crannies throughout the first few floors of the hotel for some cozy photos. I’m pretty happy behind the camera, but letting someone else be the photographer for the day is outside my comfort zone. Andrea was so easy to work with and we had a great time, helped by delicious coffee from Henry’s adorable espresso counter.

Check out some of my favorite shots from the morning:

Cozy photo session at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

hotel-henry-cozy-2-min

Cozy photo session at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, NY

Cozy Date Night at Black Button Distilling

Cody and I are really bad at date night. We go out with friends, and always celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with dinner, but when it comes to trying something new together “just because,” we stink.

But it’s a new year and time to try new things. Plus, it’s January in Buffalo and the winter blues are a very real thing. So we ventured out to spend Saturday night at Black Button Distilling‘s Buffalo Cocktail Bar and Bottle Shop. Black Button has the coziest bar inside the Apartments @ the Hub, with a patio for fruity summertime cocktails. Inside, the big windows let in lots of light, even on a late afternoon in January. The tall tables are made out of well-worn wood from bourbon barrels.

Date night at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

A NYS Farm Distillery

We started with a drink from the bar, choosing from a long list of seasonal cocktails and local craft beers. Because Black Button Distilling is a NYS Farm Distillery, they can only serve New York-made products at their distillery, which is near Rochester’s Public Market.

Their Buffalo bar isn’t bound by the same rules, but supporting local business is part of their DNA (over 90% of their spirits’ ingredients are grown or produced in NYS) so their draft list was filled with Buffalo brews. I had a Bespoke Bourbon Cream-based cocktail (more on that later) and Cody opted for a White Bronco IPA from Lewiston’s Brickyard Brewing Company.

Craft beer on draft at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

We probably could have been content sipping drinks and nibbling on the meat and cheese board other couples were enjoying, but because this was date night, we opted for Black Button’s Hands-On Seasonal Cocktail Class. We started with a tasting of the distillery’s flagship spirits: Citrus Forward Gin, Straight Bourbon, Apple Pie Moonshine and Bourbon Cream.

Spirits tasting at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

Apple Pie Moonshine from Black Button Distilling

Every one was incredibly smooth. As a bit of a lightweight, I only finished the two I really enjoyed: Apple Pie Moonshine, made from cider fresh-pressed from Lynoaken apples (grown in Medina!), whiskey, cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar, and Bourbon Cream, a mix of Black Button’s bourbon and farm-fresh cream.

Seasonal Cocktail: Cereal Party

This cocktail tastes like a coffee milkshake and to be honest, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe a little more complicated than pouring a beer from the kegerator, but definitely easy enough to make at home. Crafting this cocktail was the most fun part of our date night, partly because our Black Button Ambassador loved helping us figure out what, exactly, we were supposed to be doing.

We started with the Bespoke Bourbon Cream, adding cold brew coffee (also from Rochester) and house-made nutmeg simple syrup before topping with nutmeg and its namesake ingredient, Lucky Charm marshmallows (!).

Cocktail class at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

Making Cereal Party at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

This concoction went down soooo smoothly and it’s definitely easy enough that I’ll be making it again at home. We sipped our cocktails and tasted some of Black Button Distilling’s other delicious (non-alcoholic) products, including Bourbon Bacon Ketchup and Apple Pie Moonshine BBQ Sauce. Both were incredible and would make really good gifts, no matter if your significant other or friends are more beer drinker or liquor lover.

Apple Pie Moonshine BBQ Sauce from Black Button Distilling

Black Button Distilling’s Swan Street location is conveniently near a lot of other cool places to spend a few hours with your favorite person, which makes a cocktail class a great way to start a downtown date night!

I received a cocktail class at Black Button’s Buffalo Cocktail Bar and Bottle Shop in exchange for a review on Succulents and Sunnies. The thoughts I share here are always my own!

4 Birthday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Buffalo Gal

Girls from Buffalo love Buffalo. They love exploring Buffalo, plastering their walls with Buffalove and supporting local makers. There’s no better time to indulge your favorite Buffalo gal with all things Buffalo than her birthday! Need a few ideas? I’ve got you covered.

1. Half Hoop Pin Earrings from Peg’s Hardware

Walk through almost any Buffalo boutique or market and you’ll find a crowd around Peg’s Hardware’s delicate jewelry. These hoops are just different enough to make a statement, while still being totally acceptable for everyday outfits.

Half Hoop Pin Earrings from Peg's Hardware | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

You can find these, and other beautiful jewelry, in their Etsy shop.

2. An Overnight Stay at Hotel Henry

If your Buffalo gal prefers experiences over things, treat her to a night at Hotel Henry (or any one of Buffalo’s beautiful historic hotels). Lots of local hotels, Hotel Henry included, are offering great deals on all-inclusive packages for the winter and spring, which make for a perfect birthday staycation.

Once you arrive at Hotel Henry, there are so many great ways to fill a weekend within walking distance: the Burchfield Penney, Albright Knox, Delaware Park, and shops and restaurants in the Elmwood Village. Make it a romantic weekend; make it a girls’ weekend; make it a family weekend.

Check out Hotel Henry’s current offers on their website.

3. Let’s Go Buffalo Pennant from Oxford Pennant

If your favorite Buffalo gal is a Bills, Sabres, Bulls, Bandits, Beauts or Bisons fan, she needs this pennant. It’s going to look so good on her wall (and her Instagram).

Let's Go Buffalo Pennant | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

Shop all of Oxford Pennant’s flags, banners and pennants online.

4. A Mug from Ritual Clay Company

Drinking morning coffee (from, say, Goodrich, Public or Steamworks) out of a handmade mug feels so special. This Rochester-based potter creates gorgeous, thick-walled mugs that are sure to set your girl up for a good day.

Ritual Clay Company Mug | Goodrich Coffee | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

If my experience is any indication, this gift arrives at your front door with lightning speed (just a day or two after ordering), making it a good option if you’re short on time.

Browse mugs and more on Ritual Clay Company’s website.

The Dreamiest Brunch in Buffalo

Buffalo is a small enough city that when a new restaurant opens, especially a photo-worthy one, you hear about it. More than a year after Rowhouse‘s opening in 2017, people are still talking about (and taking pictures of) it.

I had yet to stop in until this weekend, when a friend from high school home for the holidays mentioned she wanted to try one of the “best spots” Buffalo had to offer. We opted for brunch rather than pastries from the case, because we had a lot of catching up to do. Plus, who could not want to spend as much time as possible in this beautiful space, still decorated for Christmas?

Eating upstairs at Rowhouse in Allentown, Buffalo, NY

A Historic Home

One of my favorite things about Buffalo is how old it is. The power and wealth concentrated in this city at the turn of the century fascinates me. Buffalo’s residents and visitors are still benefiting from the architecture, art and advancements these families left behind.

Rowhouse takes its name from its home in a trio of row houses along Delaware Ave. called Midway Plaisance. This block of homes is unique in Buffalo, a city of sprawling mansions and even larger lawns. Just blocks away, the heart of Allentown is filled with stately homes and Millionaire’s Row, also on Delaware Ave., is a short drive away. However, as Buffalo’s downtown grew north, wealthy families opted for a style of building seen in other crowded cities in the late 1800s: the row house.

Row houses along Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, NY

The beautiful restaurant, cafe and bar calls three of the 11 remaining row houses home. The heart of Rowhouse was built for Dr. Bernard Bartow, a co-founder of Children’s Hospital, and converted into commercial space almost a century ago. Arches that mirror the massive front door open into the buildings on either side, which now house a cafe, lunch counter and cocktail bar.

I can’t imagine this building as the home it was built to be, because it is so good at being a cozy restaurant and event space.

A Seasonal Menu

We settled into a small table on the second floor and ordered lattes to enjoy while deciding on food. On a cold day filled with flurries, the brunch menu of stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods made with local ingredients sounded delicious.

Latte at Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

We both settled with the quiche of the day, which came out of the kitchen spotted with sweet potatoes, onions and Brussels sprouts. It was just the right amount of food to go with our conversation on everything from engagement rings to health insurance, and all the things 20-something millennials worry about in between.

Of course, a latte with brunch didn’t quite feel like enough caffeine for a trip to Target on the Saturday after Christmas, so I ordered a drip coffee from the cafe to go. The dark roast blend was delicious and provided the perfect prop for a few more pictures.

Coffee at the counter at Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

Pastries stacked at Rowhouse's cafe

Cocktail lounge at Rowhouse in Allentown, Buffalo, NY

LIC’s Breweries are Worth the Lyft from Manhattan

Every other year my dad’s family spends Thanksgiving in New York City, the huge metropolis both of my dad’s siblings call home. Hanging out with my cousins, catching up with aunts and uncles and reading the paper with my grandparents is a wonderful way to spend a long weekend. Every visit, we see a little bit more of what New York has to offer, from My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center (wayyy funnier than I expected) to the New York Transit Museum (trains are cool no matter how old you are). We almost never venture from Manhattan or Brooklyn, because the neighborhoods where my family lives have so much to offer.

This visit, we wanted to check out a couple of breweries, something Cody and I almost always do when traveling. As it turns out, nothing in Manhattan looked quite like the small taproom we usually gravitate towards. Of course, Brooklyn has a ton of options, but public transportation in the pouring rain after dark didn’t seem like that much fun. Long Island City was just a $7 Lyft ride over the Queensboro Bridge, so that’s where we ended up.

Big aLICe Brewing

The businesses of Long Island City really like incorporating LIC into their names. This brewery did it well though, changing the spelling of Allis, the distinct generator their name is inspired by, to use the initials.

Just like good breweries everywhere, Big aLICe is in a nondescript industrial building. The bright green door opens into a small, cozy taproom with a little bit of a view of their brewing equipment. The atmosphere would remind Buffalonians of the original CBW space or Buffalo Brewing Company. We were greeted by lots of bartenders who knew what they were talking about, friends hanging out and a really cool (if not 100% accurate) map of breweries around the country.

IPA at Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

I chose a flight of 4 so I could try the Lemongrass Kolsch, NYS Pils, Hibiscus Gose, and Ways and Beans (a porter that I tried solely because of the name). Everything was great. I think the gose was my favorite, which is true of the last few breweries I visited. Cody opted for two IPAs, both of which even I liked.

Fifth Hammer Brewing Company

Because it was still pouring rain, we took a 2 minute Lyft ride rather than walking to Fifth Hammer Brewing Company. I bet this place is really cool in the summer, with a big garage door that opens on to the street. The huge taproom here was a nice breath of fresh air after spending a few days in traffic, Fifth Avenue crowds and busy restaurants.

On the November night we visited, the one thing I couldn’t get over was how dark it was inside. I had to position my glass strategically over the Christmas lights in the corner to take a picture of it…

Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

My Cranorangutang (an American sour with cranberry and blood orange) was just sour enough to make it nice for sipping. Cody tried 2 of the IPAs, liking 1 enough to order it again rather than try the last IPA on tap.

We might not have been in Manhattan, but we were definitely still paying New York City prices at both breweries. Considering we drove down with my parents, ate at my aunt’s house most meals and spent the day walking, we weren’t too upset about spending $40 per brewery.

We finished the night with giant, cheap slices of cheese pizza at sLICe (I wasn’t kidding about the name thing), which tasted great. We headed back to Manhattan happy, full and ready to sleep a few hours before a loooong drive back to Buffalo.