Thursday, December 25, 2003

Happy Holidays 2003

We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy and enjoying the spirit of this holiday season.

We always send a photo card from the biggest trip we’ve taken during the year, and this year is no exception. In January, we took a one-way road trip when we moved from our condo in Denver to Tara’s hometown of St. Louis.
We stayed with family for about 2 ½ months—with Tara’s mom, Jan, and Jan’s husband Bill, and also with Tara’s Uncle Greg—alternating places so as not to get on anyone’s nerves too much [and vice versa ;-) ]. Tara began studying for the Missouri Bar Exam, which was held 2/25 & 26, while Neal job-hunted. The end of February was great as Tara finished her exam, we sold our condo the 26th, and Neal celebrated his 32nd birthday on the 28th.

During that time we looked at 44 houses, and it was love at first sight when we arrived at the 45th! We found it March 3rd, closed the 31st, and moved in right away. Our home is located in south St. Louis City in the Holly Hills neighborhood. Carondelet Park, 3rd largest in the city, is just 1½ blocks from door. And we have a bunch of great neighbors. It has all the charm of a 1929 red brick/white stone Craftsman /Arts & Crafts-style house, but none of the hassle because it’s been updated. We have a two-car detached garage entered from the alley behind, a full basement that we use, plus two stories with a sunroom off the back, three bedrooms and 2 ½ baths—so there’s plenty of room for you to come visit!

In April, Tara learned that she passed the Missouri Bar Exam and, after the swearing-in ceremony in Jefferson City, we celebrated at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Missouri. The first weekend of May we camped and hiked in the lush Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. Then Neal began working as a business analyst/software tester at Anheuser Busch through the consulting firm Ibridge, and he loves it.

July 4th was spent with Neal’s side of our family at Lake Chautauqua, about an hour south of Buffalo, NY, where we swam, kayaked, jet-skied, and toured. Later in July Tara began working as a staff attorney in the Family Unit of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and she enjoys it. Labor Day weekend we drove to Chicago, one of our favorite cities, where we stayed with and visited friends Scott & Jane and Eva & Stephen.

In September Neal’s mom and sister visited, Tara celebrated her 28th on the 24th, we had a big housewarming party, and we celebrated our first wedding anniversary the 28th. Halloween on our street was idyllic. 11/11 we adopted a darling cat we named Clydesdale. Thanksgiving in St. Louis was warm enough for touch football with no jackets; and we are thrilled for the first time to have put up a Christmas tree in our family home.

Love, Neal, Tara & Clydia.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Shopping Deals

Found a cool web site that may meet some of your holiday shopping needs. It is called and they have some really great deals. Check it out by clicking the graphic below.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

80's Music Trivia

Take this 80's Music Trivia. It is harder than you think!

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Shuffle No More

Buffalo -- yes, Buffalo -- is now walking proud as a hip center of arts
and performances. Plus, it's a cheap flight.

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 9, 2003; Page C02

The gumbo was thick and delicious. The kind my grandmother would make,
if only she could afford to stock it with so much sausage and shrimp.

And where was this enticing bowl of gumbo? Buffalo -- a much-maligned
city about 1,300 miles from my Louisiana home town that I never thought
I'd have any reason to be in. Maybe I feared getting snowed in, even in
July. Which sounds silly, yes -- but I had heard rumors.

I was on my way back from Toronto, which I visit a lot because my
boyfriend lives there. I fly to Buffalo, then take a bus to downtown
Toronto, a "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" scheme that sometimes saves
me hundreds of dollars. In this case, on my way back to Washington, it
also gave me about four hours to entertain myself . . . in Buffalo.
(Which by the way isn't named after the shaggy beast. The city's name
comes courtesy of early French explorers, who fittingly dubbed the
Niagara "Beau Fleuve," or beautiful river.)

I left the bus station and headed toward the tall buildings. My first
impression of Buffalo: inspiring architecture. Well, except the public
library, for which the designers should issue a public apology. For
penance, they should have to build three more like the gorgeous art deco
City Hall.

A five-minute walk led me to Main Street and the theater district. The
light rail runs along Main, and it appears to carry more traffic than
the cars.

Sadly, the majority of the retail space on the bottom floors of those
grand multistory buildings, mostly home to banks and international
investment concerns, is empty. It was 2 o'clock on a Friday afternoon,
and the place was dead. I headed into the only spot that was open,
taking a seat at the bar of the Ya Ya Bayou Brewhouse. While I enjoyed
my gumbo, a mammoth muffuletta and several pints of locally brewed beer,
the restaurant began to fill up.

Students and professors from the University at Buffalo streamed in. To
my right, three grant writers discussed strategies for funding a theater
project. Behind me, a professor vented his frustrations with plagiarism
in the Internet Age. It was a lively crowd. I stepped out on Main Street
at about 6 o'clock to see hundreds of people milling around, queuing up
for shows at one of the half-dozen or so theaters within those few

Full of good food and probably a little too much beer, I was smitten
with Buffalo.

A few weeks later, I returned. This time, just for Buffalo. No side
trips to Toronto, or even Niagara Falls, which is only a half-hour away
by bus or car. I stayed at the Hyatt downtown and vowed to see the city
by rail and foot. I didn't bother asking any of the dozens of people I
know who grew up in Upstate New York where I should go. They all claim
to hate Buffalo. Asking that bunch of Buffalo-bashers for guidance would
be like asking your new boyfriend's ex-wife how he likes to spend Sunday
afternoons. I would learn about Buffalo on my own -- or at least take
advice only from people who lived there.

My first stop was the brew pub I visited before. The bartender, Johnny,
remembered me. See, this is what I like in a town. I thumbed through
ArtVoice, the city's free weekly, looking for a way to fill the hours
before the Steve Earle concert that night, the only part of my trip I
had planned in advance.

It didn't take long. Carol Adams was in town, hosting a book signing at
Talking Leaves, an indie bookworm's dream near UB's north campus. About
10 people gathered to meet the influential ecofeminist writer, who had
just published "The Pornography of Meat." While Adams's writing is not
the sort of stuff I'd generally choose for vacation reading, I couldn't
pass up a chance to meet her: This was a fairly rare public appearance.
Adams, who now lives in Dallas, grew up near Buffalo and had scheduled
the discussion during a visit home. I hopped the quick, cheap light rail
back to the theater district just in time to run upstairs and catch the
first notes of the Earle show at the Tralf, one of the city's many
venues for live music.

I'd seen Earle play roughly a half-dozen times, mostly in Washington,
but I'd never seen him greeted by such an enthusiastic crowd. Indeed,
when he sang about being "a union man" in "Harlan Man," the mostly
blue-collar male audience broke into cheers.

Other than alt-country, the only other thing I really need to be happy
is coffee. I found it the next morning at Spot Coffee on Delaware, a
couple of blocks from my hotel. The little chain serves as western New
York's Starbucks. And I'd say they make a better _mocha. Properly
caffeinated, I headed out, following a map a helpful Talking Leaves
clerk drew for me.

I walked 10 minutes to Allentown, a funky neighborhood that reminded me
of a quieter version of Philadelphia's South Street. Need a tattoo? A
secondhand copy of Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch"? A place to test
your new earplugs on screeching punk rock? This is it.

I spent most of the morning wandering in and out of the eclectic shops
along Allen Street, including the very hip, very helpful Rust Belt

Elmwood Avenue, which also runs through Allentown, is home to many of
the city's galleries and upscale shops. I ducked into Uncommon Grounds
for a healthy lunch (no Buffalo wings!) and spent the afternoon moseying
up the avenue, mostly window shopping.

After doing some real shopping at Don Apparel, a vintage clothing store,
I headed back downtown to meet my boyfriend at the bus station and pick
up our last-minute theater tickets. Pre-show, we filled our wing
consumption quota at Hemingway's and sipped wine at Bacchus, a new tapas
bar that seems a little too slick (and expensive) for comfortably shabby
Chippewa Street.

"The Full Monty" at Shea's Performing Arts Center was top-notch. The
movie, about unemployed English steelworkers who turn to stripping, was
reset in Buffalo in Terrence McNally's American stage version.

The audience was filled with college students, facetiously bored
teenagers and blue-haired ladies (one of whom unironically made a snide
remark about my own hair, which was dyed pink). They all cheered wildly
at the play's finale, chanting "Buffalo boys go all the way!," goading
the male actors to the play's, um, revealing conclusion.

The real star, though, was Shea's itself. The interior, dating back to
1926 and designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, is breathtaking. Nonprofit
efforts to restore the theater to its former glory, including
refurbishing the 15-foot Tiffany crystal chandeliers, are impressive.

After the show, we joined the other theater patrons spilling into the
bars on Chippewa Street. We found one with an Irish name on the sign,
bad '80s music piped through the speakers and cheap drafts at the bar.
The perfect end to my visit.

So it turns out that Buffalo's got more than piles of snow and spicy
chicken wings. It also has character and spunk, plus four Frank Lloyd
Wright houses and a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, which
I didn't have time to visit.

I'm already planning my next layover.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Outstanding Wines Under $15 (Note: This is a PDF)

Check out 'Outstanding Wines Under $15' (note: this is in Adobe PDF and is almost 150 pages long - about 1/2MB). It is well worth the download if you are fan on wine.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Let's Go Buffalo!

As most of you are aware, I grew up near Buffalo, NY. Here is the unofficial constitution.

We, the people of buffalo (and surrounding areas), hold these truths to be self evident:

Food we call them "wings," or "chicken wings" if you want to be formal. Never" buffalo wings," no one outside of wny can make decent wings. It's "weck" not "wick," it's "pop" not "soda" they're "subs" not hoagies or heroes or bombers. A large pizza with cheese &pepperoni shouldn't cost more than 10 bucks. Everyone knows someone who works in a pizza joint.

Dining out everyone knows where "the best fish-fry in town" is. Except for maybe Friday nights, you don't have to wait for a table. There is no public restaurant in
town that requires a jacket and tie . . . And if there was, we wouldn't go there.

You won't find grey poupon on the table. The 2nd most asked question in a restaurant after "smoking or non-smoking" is "is this coupon any good tonight?" the third most asked question is "are there free refills on the pop?" we don't "valet park" unless there is absolutely no other choice. Every bar has "happy hour" prices from 4:30 - 7pm Monday - Friday. Even though no one orders it, if it doesn't have "genny" it's not a bar. Anything over $2.00 for a beer is robbery.

Geography & roads you call it the "scajaquada" but you spell it "198". The most famous address is "998 Broadway". You still get queasy driving over the peace bridge in blowing snow. You think anyone who drives more than 20 minutes to get to work must live in the boondocks. You get mad when you get stuck in "rush hour" traffic and it takes 10 minutes longer to get home. You avoid the "blue water tower" during "rush hour" because of the above. You know fort Erie is famous for two things. Chinese food and the "ballet". The roads and bridges have been paid for since 1968 but they ain't never taking out the toll-booths. It's inevitable whatever is finally decided on the peace bridge issue will no doubt be the wrong choice. You rode rapid transit from end to end once ... To see what it was like.

Paying $5 to park all day downtown is robbery. The hookers may be gone, but Chippewa street still isn't for everyone. You still refer to places like Sloan and blastula. "La" is Lackawanna not Los Angeles secretly, you like going to Toronto.

Institutions you threaten to send your kids to father bakers' if they don't behave. You can pronounce "Weinstein" correctly on the first try. Even though they haven't done it in about 25 years you're pretty sure channel 7 still makes reference to "pistol packing punks," and you're pretty sure they don't show the same fire every night. You know commander tom's real identity. You can only name 3 radio stations
that have been around longer than 5 years. Wgr; wben; and wkbw -- at least you think wkbw is still around; just don't know what it plays since they got rid of Danny Newport. Everyone says the Albright Knox art gallery is a treasure, but a lot of the stuff in there kind of looks like drop-cloths. It's the "Hamburg fair" not the "Erie county fair and espy." you know the wrong newspaper folded in 1983.

You consider j.c. Penney to be a relatively "upscale" department store. It's "ub" - not "SUNY at buffalo, Amherst" the st.patrick's day parade means winter is
officially over, even if it snows. There is some kind of "fest" somewhere, every weekend from memorial day to labor day.

Sports all-time number 1 - you hate the Miami dolphins... We're sure the nfl is out to screw is the nhl.... The nba already did major league baseball.... So did the big east conference. You still don't forgive st.
Bonaventure for ruining the little three. What is "bonnie" anyway? Someone must listen to bison games on the radio you just never met him. Even we're not desperate
enough to support professional roller hockey. You know someone who knows someone who really knows "the real story" on jim kelly." you have a strong opinion one way or the other on ralph wilson. You can't believe that you once really liked oj. It ain't a real snowstorm unless they ban driving for more than 6 hours. You carry a shovel and jumper cables in your trunk all year round. If you drive a foreign car you feel uilty &constantly explain "its made in ohio". None of the new theme parks is as cool as crystal beach was in it's day.

Unbelievable things about other places: everyone doesn't pay 8% sales tax or $3,000 property taxes on a $70,000 house??? All golf course aren't flat??? What's a freeway??? The rest of the country isn't 90% catholic??? What do you mean we have an accent??? We talk exactly like the announcers on television. People who live in areas subject to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, wild fires, mudslides, and earthquakes can't believe that we would live in an area that gets so much snow??? Imagine that!!! I guess they would rather drown, burn, or get blown away, or buried alive than shovel for a while. Hey world we have snow plows and snow blowers. And most of all four seasons. And sometimes all in one day. Top that!

Ps: we also have weber's mustard, sahlen hot dogs and texas hot dog sauce. It doesn't get better than that.

More on The Buff here.