Friday, November 30, 2012

Buffalo Holiday Fun For The Family!

The holiday season in Buffalo offers families with so many great opportunities to get out and explore WNY without breaking the bank. I put together a list of my top ten family activities that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit! 

If you know of others, please feel free to share them on the comment section below :)

Krystal's Top 10 Family Outings This Holiday Season:

Hospice Buffalo's Outdoor Tree Lighting Ceremony: I attended this event for the first time last year and it brought me to tears. My family utilized the amazing services Hopsice Buffalo offers when my Grandma was battling cancer back in 2001. The tree lighting ceremony is a short, but important ceremony to remember and honor all those who have passed away. This year's event will take place on Saturday, December 1st at 5:00pm. The ceremony features singers, guest speakers, family testimonials and more. The trees are lit up outside CTG on Delaware Avenue, and the trees are filled with ornament tags  to honor loved ones. If you are headed to the event, look for me, and look for my Grandma Carol Sondel's name on the tree!

Admission cost: FREE to the public, free parking

Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting at Rotary Rink: For the 29th year in a row, Buffalo Place will light up downtown Buffalo during a wonderful tree lighting ceremony. The event will take place on Saturday, December 1st beginning at 5:00pm. There will be FREE ice skating for the family (there is a nominal fee for ice skate rental if you don't bring your own). The tree will be lit around 6:00pm. After the tree is lit there will be many children's activities, a visit from Santa and holiday gifts! 

Admission cost: FREE to the public (fee for skating rental if you don't have your own)

Ice skating at Rotary Rink: If you can't make it to the tree lighting, stop down during the winter and ice skate for free (nominal fee for skate rental if you do not bring your own). Ice skating hours vary by day (weather permitting) and the rink is closed on Mondays. Check out the full schedule by clicking the link above. It's the perfect family bonding activity, and can make for some great family photos! 

Admission cost: FREE to skate (nominal fee for skating rental if you don't have your own)

The Fairgrounds Festival of Lights: Last weekend, the Erie County Fairgrounds kicked off their annual Festival of Lights. The nearly two mile drive with over one million lights is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. Once you finish the trek through the light display, check out other activities on the fairgrounds. 

Admission cost: $20 per carload (bring canned goods too to support their food drive!)

Roswell Park's Tree Of Hope 2012: Join Roswell Park on Friday, December 7th for their annual Tree of Hope event from 4:30pm - 6:30pm. I had the chance to attend for the first time last year and was incredibly moved, and had such a blast! The event includes live music, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting and other activities for the kids, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, ice sculpting, free treats and hot beverages, a gingerbread house display and the tree lighting and candle lighting ceremony. NEW this year is a 13 minute lighting event set to music. 

Admission cost: FREE, parking is also free in the RPCI ramp

Day Out With Santa: The Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo is hosting "Day Out With Santa" on Saturday December 8th from 9:00am - 3:00pm. Kids can get their pictures taken with Santa and enjoy many other activities throughout the day including a petting zoo, pony rides, bounce house and meet and greet with local sports mascots. Each child will also receive a gift.

Admission cost: Canned goods/non-perishable food items that will be donated to The Food Bank of WNY

Santa On The Carrousel: The Herschell Carrousel Museum in North Tonawanda is hosting Santa On The Carrousel for three Saturdays in December (December 1st, 8th and 15th). The event starts at 11:00am with lunch followed by an afternoon of activities from 12:00pm - 3:00pm. Activities include holiday games, crafts, carrousel rides and more. As an added bonus, at 1:00pm each Saturday there will be a live performance. 

Admission cost: $10 per person with lunch, $5 per person for just the activities

Hibernating Holidays: For nature lovers out there, check out Tifft Nature Preserve's "Hibernating Holidays" event on Saturday, December 15th from 2:00pm - 3:30pm. The event will share with you how wildlife at Tifft spend their holidays. It will be a hands-on activity that includes a craft and trail hike. Pre-registration is required. Check out the link above. 

Admission cost: $5 to non-members

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Lancaster Opera House is offering interactive performances of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer from Friday, December 21st - Sunday, December 23rd.

Admission cost: Adults - $16, Kids under 12/seniors - $13

Family Winterland Walk:  Tifft Nature Preserve is also offering this great Family Winterland Walk on Thursday December 27th from 6:30pm - 8:00pm. Explore the sights and sounds of the Preserve! Make sure you bundle up! Showshoe rental will also be available, weather permitting. 

Admission cost: $5 to non-members, $2 for snowshoe rental, weather permitting

Have a wonderful Buffalo holiday season!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Gifts for the Buffalover

I'm in the holiday spirit this week, so today's post is also holiday related! Do you have a hard to buy for Buffalover in your life? Looking for a gift that reminds ex-pat's about their hometown? Here is my shopping list of ten must buy items for the Buffalover in your life. 

Krystal's Buffalove Shopping List (in no particular order, they are all great choices):

1.) Buffalo Niagara Shop's "Buffalo's Cooking" print: Visit Buffalo Niagara launched an online Buffalo shop in addition to their location inside The Market Arcade. I'd be happy with almost any of the items on the website, but one in particular is Michael Morgulis' "Buffalo's Cooking" print. This great print is perfect for the foodie in your life. An even greater perk to purchasing from the Buffalo Niagara Shop: All the money you spend on items goes right back into promoting Buffalo! ($27.00)

Bonus item: I fell in love with the Buffalo ornaments (pictured below) inside the shop when I visited a few weeks ago. They are a great stocking stuffer or a fun splurge for your tree this holiday season. ($9.50) 

2.) Faces Of Buffalo's Buffalo Photo Alphabet: This great framed print spells out Buffalo by using historical architecture in the area. There are a handful of options on the website, featuring local colleges, other cities in the WNY area and can also be customized to spell whatever you want! It is a must buy for ex-pats who want to show their hometown pride. Also great for an office, mantle, or book shelf! ($18.00 - $32.00 plus shipping depending on style)

3.) Fridge Phrases: Buffalo Edition: This new product offered by the City Dining Cards in Fall 2012, has taken the local Twittersphere by storm! These great fridge magnets include over 200 words with a local flavor to them. Create sentences using "sponge candy", "Cheektavegas", "The Ralph", and more! If I had to pick one item on this list that you MUST buy, fridge phrases are it! ($20.00)

Bonus item: The City Dining cards are also a great stocking stuffer for Buffalonians. They include a $10 gift card to 50 local restaurants. If you know someone who has been wanting to check out the local dining scene, this is the item for them! The Dining cards were how I found out about a lot of my blog entries in 2012! 


4.) BuffaloHistory.Com Vintage Buffalo Calendar: The 2013 calendar offers a historical look back at Buffalo and is sure to give you a better understanding and appreciation for The Queen City ($14.95)

5.) Darwin Martin House Floor Plan Platter: Do you have someone in your life who loves architecture and also loves to throw parties? The Darwin Martin House platter is a gorgeous piece that was created by Niagara Ceramics exclusively for the Martin House and is microwavable and dish washer safe ($40.00) 
Bonus item: Pair the platter (or offer alone) gift tickets to visit the Darwin Martin House! ($15.00 for the basic tour, $30.00 for the extended tour)

6.) Subscription to Buffalo Spree Magazine: This magazine rocks. If you want to know what is going on in the area, where to eat, what is coming for the city, then you need to grab a subscription today! Order this soon to send to ex-pats looking for information on the city. The website currently offers a 2 for 1 special right now, so order today! ($26 for 12 issues plus special edition issues as well)

7.) Buffalo Neighborhoods Typography Map: All the Buffalo neighborhoods are represented on this awesome print designed and printed by local artists. There are limited number of these available, so get one today!! They come in three different color palates. ($20.00)

8.) Origami Buffalo: This great piece is a map of the City of Buffalo folded into Buffalo origami and mounted on a black stand. This is the perfect piece for someone who has everything. Great for display on an office desk, or on a mantle or book shelf at home. This item can be purchased at Thin Ice on Elmwood (or online!) ($18.00)

9.) Buffalo Memories Book: This book features 160 short stories about Buffalo through the years written by George Kunz! It can be purchased on's "shop local page" or in bookstores throughout the area. &17.95, but prices may vary depending on store)

Bonus items: There are so many great Buffalo books I've stumbled upon this past year. Some other great options for book lovers out there: City on the Edge by Mark Goldman, The Complete History of Parkside by Steve Cichon, Buffalo Unbound by Laura Pedersen, Buffalo, NY: Cool Stuff Every Kid Should Know by Kate Jerome. There are too many more to list here!  

10.) Pride of Buffalo Gift Basket: One of my favorite stores to walk around in is Premier Gourmet on Maple Road in Amherst. They put together gorgeous gift baskets year round, but they are especially great for the holidays. The Pride of Buffalo basket includes great locally made products including Weber's mustard, Anchor Bar wing sauce, Waton's sponge candy and more ($49.99). 

Bonus items: Premier Gourmet offers other great baskets ranging from $39.99 - $159.99. They have a lot of other great Buffalo products in stock too!

Whatever you are looking for this holiday season, consider shopping local. Elmwood Avenue is my favorite place to shop during the holidays - many of the stores even do complimentary gift wrapping. 

Happy shopping, Buffalo!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Small Business Spotlight: The Home Stylist

As the holiday season gets into full swing around Buffalo, I decided to sit down with Julia Dana from The Home Stylist to talk holiday decorating!

The Home Stylist is a Buffalo based interior decorating/home staging company. Julie offers home owners with a do-it yourself approach that empowers families to make the changes they are looking for without breaking the bank. 

When it comes to holiday decorating, Julie says to keep the color palate simple. "Work on picking out two or three colors and then all your accessorizing around the house will come together easier." So how do you pick which colors to choose, "Start with colors already in your house and work off of those - try to not to pick colors that clash like introducing red accessories into a burgandy palate."

Julie also noted that people feel pressure to have all the nooks and crannies in their homes decorated, but she said to pick three main focus areas in your rooms and decorate those. "Choose the mantle above the fireplace, sofa/coffee tables and the archway of doors. Your staircase is also a great place to choose. If those areas are decorated, it will feel like your whole house is without cramming different items in all over the place."

Julie has owned The Home Stylist for ten years after family and friends encouraged her to get into the business. "I was always decorating for my family and friends, so why not get paid for what I love to do!" Julie told me. "I love empowering home owners and helping them spend their money properly so they maximize their outcomes." 

Julie is also the author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Staging and Selling Your Home" In addition to interior decorating, Julie focuses on helping homeowners stage their homes. It is a buyer's market out there, and Julie says that what will set homes apart that are around the same price is how it is staged! Many homeowners will opt for lowering the price of the home before properly staging it, and while that can cost you thousands of dollars in the end, a properly staged home would cost so much less (Julie's staging plan costs $150). Julie shared one of many great success stories with me, "I worked with a client that had their home on the market for two years. They took the home off, I worked with them to stage it and once we put it back up, it sold 16 days later!"

"It can be overwhelming to homeowners on how to decorate and especially on how to sell their house. Making mistakes can cost money, and my goal is to make sure my clients spend the money they can allocate properly and give them a plan that is easy to follow!"

Julie's rate is $85.00 per generous hour, and most design plans can be worked up in an hour to an hour and a half. Julie also offers a 3 for $30 option on her website where you send her a photo of the room you are working on and she will create three great solutions to improving the room. 

Once we wrapped up talking about the business side of things, our conversation moved to Buffalo! While Julie is not a native Buffalonian (she moved here from Michigan over 20 years ago for love), she has found a home in Buffalo and can't imagine living anywhere else. "There is so much to do here! Western New York has it all; culture, arts, museums, kayaking/canoeing and great parks to explore. It is a great place to raise a family too!" Julie is also a docent for the Roycroft Campus and resides in East Aurora. 

Home decorating can be a lot to take on so make things simple and give Julie a call today! She will give you the practical and economical advice that will pay off for years to come!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Falafel Bar in Amherst

This year I discovered Falafel Bar, and after my first meal there, I couldn't believe I used to turn down dinner offers to this great Amherst restaurant. In fact, in a recent article I was interviewed for by Buffalo Spree, I chose Falafel Bar as one of my top 5 "cheap eats". It is that good AND budget friendly! 

In my younger, much stupider (or less adventurous) days, falafel didn't sound appealing to me, so I avoided the restaurant. The restaurant is a combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food and up until a few years ago, I stuck to the same few restaurants and styles of food. My boyfriend had suggested going to Falafel Bar a handful of times (he already loved it), but it wasn't until about 6 months ago that I finally agreed to try it out.

The restaurant is located next to the Northtown Plaza on Sheridan Drive. The trendy and modern feel was right up my alley, and I really enjoyed all the artwork, decorative pillows on some of the wall seating and table settings. 

My first time there we ordered the mushroom hummus, and honestly, I can't get enough of the stuff. With sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions over the hummus, the flavors are absolutely outstanding. The pita bread it is served with is delicious and always warm and fresh. The hummus in itself could be a meal alone for those who don't like a big meal. 

In the times since we have gone back, I've had the falafel (which is a great starter), cigars, salads, the shnitzel, shawarma, salmon and beef kabobs, and more. I haven't had a meal or even a part of a meal that wasn't above average. They offer a wide variety of menu items including sandwiches, plates, entrees and salads. They also have great daily specials. 

Our service has always been above average and it's a restaurant where the atmosphere is always fun and guests are always enjoying themselves. 

It is no surprise to me, that Falafel Bar has a wall full of awards; being given the coveted Artvoice "Best of Buffalo" award for years, as well as recognition from Buffalo Spree and others.

My only gripe about Falafel Bar, and to be honest it's really a gripe about most restaurants, is their kids menu. They don't offer any of the traditional Mediterranean items on their kids menu. Like in most restaurants the items include chicken fingers, hamburgers, grilled cheese, etc...I'd love to see some of the traditional items on the kids menu to help young ones branch out and expand their palate. If I was given those options when I was younger, it might not have taken me almost 30 years to check out one of my new favorites spots for dinner. 

If you aren't the adventurous type, Falafel Bar offers much more than the traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern options and can please the whole family. If you haven't checked them out yet, you are really missing out. I am so happy I finally decided to give them a try! Get there soon, Buffalo!

For more reviews on Falafel Bar, check out:

Falafel Bar on Urbanspoon