The Perfect Housewarming Gift for Friends who Have Everything

Cody’s brother Patrick and my college roommate Shannon recently moved into a beautiful house in a neighborhood outside Rochester. After spending quite possibly the hottest day of the summer moving them into their new home, they spent a month making their new digs *perfect* before inviting us all back for a housewarming party.

Between the two of them and their families, Patrick and Shannon had just about everything they needed to make their new house a home. And to be fair, they specifically asked party guests not to bring housewarming gifts. But that’s not really my style, so what do you get for friends who have everything?

Housewarming Gift Ideas | Gifts for Friends

Cody and I decided on getting Patrick and Shannon everything they would need to make Coronaritas (the delicious summertime drink that involves tipping a mini Corona into a maragarita). This is super easy to put together:

Housewarming Gift Ideas | Gifts for Friends

Wrapping a 6 pack of beer is surprisingly difficult, but other than that, this gift could not have been easier! Now we’re just waiting for an invite to a margarita night 😉

Lake Life: A Weekend in the Finger Lakes

I call Buffalo home, but my parents, who both grew up in the beautiful town of Penn Yan,  love the Finger Lakes region of New York. My sister and I were raised taking weekend trips to Central New York, and we both have an affinity for the endless lakes and rolling hills there that not everyone in Western New York really understands.

Last weekend was a collection of beautiful August days and I got to spend it on not 1, but 2 of the Finger Lakes.

Day 1: Canandaigua Lake

My college roommate totally gets the draw of lake life, because she grew up spending summers on the boat in Canandaigua. She (and her mom) are nice enough to let all of us experience the thrill of tubing and soak in some sunshine at least once a summer there.

We spent Saturday together on the boat with weather so much nicer than predicted. I’m more of a lay-in-the-tube-person than a let’s-go-tubing-person, but everyone else enjoyed themselves!

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Succulents and Sunnies

Day 2: Keuka Lake

My parents rented a cottage on Keuka Lake for the week at the last minute, completing my Finger Lakes weekend. I spent the morning on the dock after convincing Murphy he wasn’t going to fall through the wooden slats.

Cody met me at Climbing Bines Hop Farm in the afternoon. We’ve been dying to check out the brewery since it was named #1 in New York by a BuzzFeed article (and, apparently, Yelp). The location is amazing and so is the beer. Cody tried both the House and Pandemonium IPAs, while I liked the Tart Cherry and Honey Apricot brews, both from the Pandemonium line.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Climbing Bines | Succulents and Sunnies

We had lunch in Penn Yan and I took advantage of being in town to stop by my grandma’s house, before heading back to the lake for dinner with my parents, sister, my grandpa and his girlfriend. We watched the sun set over the Bluff after homemade peach pie and ice cream for dessert. This was definitely a Sunday funday.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Succulents and Sunnies

Day 3: A Solar Eclipse

Sunday fundays are even better when you take Monday off! And when that Monday happens to be the day of the first solar eclipse visible in the US since 1979 and there’s not a cloud in a sky – that’s a good day.

We were not prepared enough to have solar glasses, although our neighbor let us look through his for a few minutes. Instead, we watched with a cereal box/tin foil contraption and a Ritz cracker. No matter how you saw it, this was a super cool event.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I headed home Monday night, tired and happy in a way that only spending a weekend on the lake can do.

Public Kold Brew + Productivity at The Grange

As a blogger, I’m constantly trying new breweries and coffee shops, photographing weekend trips and exploring Buffalo’s neighborhoods. Cody and my family are great sports about this, but they definitely appreciate it when I finally put down the camera and actually eat what I ordered.

For this post though, I collaborated with fellow blogger (and vlogger!) Julia. Instead of shooting me an eye roll while I took a good 10 photos of my empty plate, she videoed me doing it.

Meet Julia Jornsay-Silverberg

I’ve talked about Julia before. Last summer I started doing a bit of freelance social media work for her. The majority of our communication is over email, but we make sure to meet up every once in a while over coffee or smoothies to talk social media, blogging, clients and Buffalo.

The Grange Community Kitchen | Hamburg NY | Julia Jornsay-Silverberg

This coffee date/work sesh was special; we wanted to do a collaboration somewhere different, with me photographing and her taking footage for her YouTube channel. The Grange Community Kitchen is a newer restaurant (they opened in the summer of 2016) that shows up on local bloggers’ Instagrams almost daily. Neither of us had visited yet, so it was the perfect place to sip Public Kold Brew and be productive together.

Hamburg’s Farmers’ Market

Hamburg is definitely a bit of a drive from other WNY towns, including mine, so I wanted to make my trip worth it. I got to Main Street a little before Julia (shoutout to Hamburg law enforcement for not enforcing that 2 hour parking…) and wandered towards the farmers’ market.

As an Ithaca College graduate, I have very high expectations for a farmers’ market (the Ithaca one is stunning – like people get married there it’s so pretty). I have to say that Hamburg does a pretty good job. There were dozens of vendors with a good mix of produce, meat and baked goods, and well over 100 people, including families and so many adorable dogs!

The Grange Community Kitchen | Hamburg NY | Succulents and Sunnies

From there, I headed down Buffalo Street, aiming to check out Nickel City Designs. I didn’t make it that far, but I’ll just have to visit again soon!

The Grange Community Kitchen

Now, for the main attraction: The Grange Community Kitchen. Let’s just start with the space, which is stunning. All the minimalist, Instagramable, exposed brick, gold-accent vibes had us swooning as soon as we walked in the door. It helps that you’re greeted by a custom tiled entryway. Julia just happened to be taking a picture of her feet with that tile while I ordered, which gave me the chance to ask the barista if just about everyone does that. She said that yes, she watches people do that all day long.

The_Grange_Community_Kitchen_SucculentsandSunnies_3

The Grange Community Kitchen | Hamburg NY | Succulents and Sunnies

I ordered an iced coffee (from Public, of course) and an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. It turned out to be probably the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. There are no photos of it, just of my empty plate and Julia’s iced chai after I finished inhaling my sandwich.

The Grange also serves lunch and dinner with a full bar and wood-fired pizza. Like their brunch menu, lunch and dinner “are inspired by what’s in season and reflect [the restaurant’s] commitment to utilize goods obtained from local farmers and producers.” Don’t worry, I’ll report back on that ASAP. 😜

The Grange Community Kitchen | Hamburg NY | Succulents and Sunnies

After eating, we moved outside to take more photos (duh) and get some work done. The Grange has pretty reliable WiFi and you can ask any of the staff for the password. Even on a busy Saturday afternoon, we didn’t get any funny looks for taking up a table with just our drinks left.

I can 100% say that The Grange (and the adorable town of Hamburg) are worth the drive, and should definitely be added to your summer to do list!

Julia’s Take on The Grange

While I prefer to write about my experiences, Julia takes video footage. For her take on our beautiful day in Hamburg, plus more details on the farmers’ market and The Grange, check out her latest YouTube video:

Want to get to know Julia?

You can check out Julia’s YouTube channel for both lifestyle and social media tips. Her blog is packed with social media and online branding how-tos. To learn more about her everyday life, check out her *very cohesive* Instagram feed.

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!

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!

The Ultimate WNY Summer Bucket List

I love summer in New York and making a bucket list every summer helps me make the most of it! There are a few things on my list every year, as well as some new adventures I’ve been waiting for warmer weather to try. This year, I want to focus on exploring Western New York, instead of trying to plan a plethora of weekend trips. Buffalo is an incredible city in the summer and with more friends moving to Rochester, it makes sense to take advantage of all the (585) has to offer too!

This Summer in Buffalo:

  1. Food Truck Tuesday at Larkin Square
  2. Hertel Ave (Must-dos: Lake Effect’s new scoop shop, Poutine and Cream, and Lloyd’s)
  3. Silo City
  4. Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck
  5. Wilkeson Pointe
  6. Tifft Nature Preserve
  7. Erie County Botanical Gardens
  8. The Victory Gardens at Oxford Pennant (open from May 20th to July 3rd!)
  9. WNY Book Arts Center

In Rochester I Want To:

  1. Visit Rochester’s breweries
  2. Public Market
  3. Fuego Coffee
  4. Glen Edith Coffee
  5. Upper Falls
  6. Rochester Subway and Broad St Aqueduct
  7. Chimney Bluffs
  8. George Eastman Museum
  9. Highland Park

The Stuff in Between:

  1. Kayak in Oak Orchard Creek
  2. Go fishing
  3. Spring Lake Winery
  4. Chestnut Ridge Park
  5. Bike rides (although I’m going to need a bike for this 🤔)
  6. Lockport Caves
  7. Spruce Lake at Holiday Valley
  8. Go on a picnic

I’ll be documenting my bucket list progress on Instagram and would love it if you followed along! What new places are looking forward to exploring this summer? Let me know what you think I should add to my summer plans ☀️