Friday, April 23, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Winter Garden Comes Down

I got a text just as my Zumba class was ending this morning that the Winter Garden Theatre was being demolished so I walked up North Main Street to have a look. I spent about an hour and a half in the cold (with a stop off to Labyrinth to get some coffee to keep me warm) watching the building being crumbled away. Most of the facade and part of the interior is down for now. Work stopped for the Sabres game.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Census: Getting Our Slice of the Federal Pie

I had the pleasure of writing the feature article for the latest issue of the Chautauqua Region Word. The downloadable PDF is here.

I've been living in Census Central, it seems, for the past few months. Promotional materials have filled the trunk of one of our cars, thwarting me whenever I made my weekly trip to Wegmans and forgot, once again, that I was competing for space with posters, water bottles, and other knick-knacks. Unexpected meetings have been added to my work agenda so I could listen to and share ideas for how to get the word out about the Census.

The guy leading the cause for our area has been Matt, so I really and truly couldn't get away from it. I watched him and other people on the committee turn an awareness campaign into something that resembled what I had seen him do on the political side of his job. It was heavy on grassroots and so far seems to have had some good results based on the Census Participation Map that shows Jamestown at 73% for Mail Participation rate.

To get the full story, pick up a paper copy of the Word or click over here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Singleton Cooking

Matt is out of town so I made myself spinach salad and spiral mac n cheese. You bet I plated that! The salad has a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing because I didn't have any spinach salad dressing on hand. Well, I didn't want to take the risk that jar that said it expired in February might still be good.

Fortunately, Matt will be back tomorrow to cook us dinner so no more box dinner stuff!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Life With A Bubble Boy

Matt and I had been dating a few years before his allergies started showing up and wrecking havoc with his life and somewhat with mine. It's to the point where we joke that we should just get him a bubble and be done with it all.

His sensitivity to corn, and thus corn-derived products, has changed up our grocery shopping habits once again, but I think this one could be beneficial to us both.

I knew that a lot of products had corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup in them, but I guess I didn't realize to what extent. Something as simple as ketchup has both ingredients. Even "healthy" cereals like Bran Flakes have HFCS!

Fortunately, with the natural food movement and desire by some of the population to get away from the easy sugar of HFCS, there are now more products that are sweetened "naturally" either using cane sugar, honey, or fruit-based sweeteners. Naturally, they tend to cost more.

Either way, if it switching to these products helps keep the hives away for Matt and we see benefits in terms of our waistlines, I'll be happy.

Easter Monday Morning Quarterbacking

We did the Easter thing with my family yesterday and on the way up to Buffalo, I mused over why I never quite got why this was such a major holiday. It comes down to a lot of things for me.

First off, when you're raised Catholic, you have four weeks where you're deprived of eating meat on Fridays. I didn't care for fish as a kid, so I ended up eating a lot of macaroni and cheese on Fridays or deep fried shrimp. Fortunately, the mac'n cheese was homemade by the Parkside Diner, so I never got tired of that meal. Then after, all the fasting we finally got to eat meat on Easter Day. Hooray! Except in my family, that means fresh kielbasa and borscht. I've never really enjoyed fresh kielbasa and there was one Easter where I figured if I ate it really fast, I wouldn't be able to taste it. That didn't work out so well and the floor didn't appreciate it either when I upheaved it later. I don't think I have to explain the horror that is borscht. Fortunately, my family has added smoked kielbasa to the Easter offerings as well as ham, so dinner is not dreaded so much.

Going back to religion, I was pretty straight-forward thinking on some issues as a kid. I didn't understand what the big celebration was over the death and rising of Christ. My 9-year old train of thought went sort of like this:

"So, Jesus was a good guy and he got killed for it? And you're telling me he raised from the dead? Okay, I get there being ghosts and angels and stuff but, dude, he's STILL DEAD. Like, it's not like Jesus can hang out and ride bikes with us or climb trees. And we're supposed to super happy about this??? There's still lots of bad people out there, so I dunno if it was worth it."

I know. It's hard to reason with 9-year olds. Plus, I always thought it a bit macabre that not only were we celebrating some revered guy's death, but some of our main icons were of the guy nailed to a couple pieces of wood. Um. Hello? I don't want bloodied, beat-up guy all in my face. Thanks Mr. Jesus for the nightmares as a kid. Add to that the extended church service just because it was a major holy day and my love for Easter was very small.

Getting away from the controversial stuff, Easter falls during a time of year in Western New York that can be either wonderful or snowing. Inevitably, my mom would have picked out a cute, frilly dress for me to wear for Easter. As a kid, I would wear it and shiver because a warm sweater and slacks would have been a better match for the weather. Just try keeping your toes warm in white patent leather shoes when the temperature is 40 degrees!

It wouldn't be fair to not mention to the positive things about Easter. Of course, the candy was always a thrill as a kid. Ham for dinner also was a huge plus once I discovered the delights of Miller's Horseradish spread on each slice. Naturally, time with my family in Buffalo was and still is the biggest plus to the Easter Holiday. So Happy Dyngus Day to everyone!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday at Spragues

We decided to spend Good Friday by making the trek out to Sprague's Maple Farms in Portville, NY. The weather is a little nuts with it being 85 degrees and it's only April 2nd. We hope to make a return trip out here sometime with some of our friends who haven't experienced this maple syrup heaven.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Viable Happiness In Recession

One of the disadvantages of living in a small community is that it takes a little while for the gains and ills of the rest of the metropolitan world to reach us. I think it's safe to say that all the fall-out from the housing market is finally reaching this area. Add to that all the nonsense from New York State and any other missteps that might have happened locally over the past few years and things feel depressing around town.

I know it's not quite as bad as all that, but some days it feels that way. Maybe I'm deluding myself there even and it really is that bad.

One of the areas where people tend to find satisfaction and fulfillment is work. There are jobs available, I'm told, but whether they're matching up with what people want for careers or offer enough compensation for a person's talent is another matter. From many people in my age group, I've been hearing dissatisfaction with what they are doing for work, assuming they're even employed. The level of frustration seems to have ratcheted up since the beginning of the year. The feeling is, "My job isn't so bad but it's not what I want to do and there are no jobs here I can go to," "I'm not crazy about my boss, but there's nothing else open that would be any better," or "I like this job but the pay doesn't come near the hours I put in or what I'm worth."

As much as many of us would like to say we are able to concentrate on enjoying the hours away from the office, for most of us the discontent of the work day has a way of spilling over into our "free" time. Ideally, we all would be working in careers that we love or be following our calling in life, but that can be a hard goal that's made harder when living in an economy that's struggling to not shed too many jobs each quarter.

So assume for a moment that we take on the task of truly trying to let work be work since changing the job economy is something that is probably beyond most people's control. Control is an important word. We have a certain level of control over what happens in our lives. While not true in every case, we usually can control the activities that fill our free time. We choose what food we eat. We choose the people with whom we want to associate.

We all have toxicity in our lives. It can be something as mild as choosing to eat McDonald's for dinner one night to the extreme of using an illegal substance to numb that which is displeasing. What it comes down to is taking responsibility for our lives and choosing to live. My personal belief is that if one does this, happiness follows. It could be easy, or not, depending on how deeply mired you are in your way of life that has you down. I don't think we ever can stop working at finding happiness, it just becomes easier to attain if we continually practice what we know is true to ourselves.

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clift...