When in Buffalo

Buffalo New York  has never been on my list of places to visit.  I mean, who goes to Buffalo?  Turns out they have the friendliest people I've ever encountered anywhere on any trip.  We found ourselves chatting with friendly strangers just about every place we went.  There's not too much going on there but you can make fun happen anywhere if you want to so that's what we did.

It took 20-30 minutes to get anywhere we wanted to go in Buffalo.  That came in handy when we arrived hungry on Friday morning after our overnight flight.  We got our rental car and the first thing I did was check to see if there was a Cracker Barrel in town.  We don't have them in California so when we travel we are always on the look out to eat there.  We were in luck!!  There was a Cracker Barrel 20 minutes from the airport.  We devoured the best Pancakes ever in the history of Pancakes and then it took us about 20 minutes to get to Embassy Suites.  Our hotel room was one of the biggest I've ever had.  The standard size room was about the size of a one bedroom apartment but by that time the thing I was most interested in was the giant super comfortable King Size bed and a nap. 

When in Buffalo you go to Niagara Falls because it is there and who knows when you will ever make it back.   It took us 30 minutes to get there from downtown Buffalo.  We saw signs pointing us to it but it was still really hard to believe that we were anywhere near a gigantic set of waterfalls.  As we got a little bit closer we could see what looked kind of like smoke rising in the air.  As you get closer you can tell that it's mist from the falls and then you can hear them roaring.  

We missed the cut off for the Maiden of the Mist boat rides but we could still get close to the falls by doing Cave of the Winds.  When I saw people coming back looking like they had taken a shower with their clothes on I wasn't so sure I wanted to do it.  Your ticket comes with a wearable trash bag, cheap little sandals and a plastic shopping bag to put your shoes and socks in.  An elevator takes you down and then once you walk through the tunnel you are at the falls. 

You can basically get as wet as you want to.  MJ decided he wanted to get a little bit wetter then me when he went up to the highest and closest deck to the falls.  The trash bag does a really good job of keeping you dry from the knees up but the bottom of our jeans were soaked.  His were drenched. It was fun.  I'm glad we did it.

Checking out the Canada side

When in Buffalo you also have to eat Buffalo Wings unless you are like me and you don't eat wings at all.  We walked over to Anchor Bar which is known as the home of the original Buffalo chicken wings.  Buffalo is kind of dead.  It was Friday night downtown but the streets were mostly empty.  There were a few restaurants open but most of the shops were shut down for the night.  There was no fun vibe to be seen at all on our walk over there but once we got inside the place was packed and full of energy.   There was a live band and the food was good.

We walked to a place nearby for breakfast on Saturday and then spent a few hours at the Buffalo Museum of Science mainly to see the Mummies of The World Exhibition.  MJ has an uncle in Buffalo so after that we stopped and had a visit with him and then went in search of a restaurant that we'd seen on Driver's Dine in and Drives.  You'd have to be specifically looking for Mulberry's or else I'm not sure that you'd ever find it because it's located on a random corner in the middle of a residential area.  Without reservations we were going to have to wait 1 1/2 hours but we lucky enough to find two seats at the bar.  This place has such a homey atmosphere and the best lasagna I've ever had.  I wasn't that hungry so we were splitting everything anyways which was good because that thing was huge.  We met the owner and he was so friendly.  Then we got to chatting with this kind older couple at the bar who are regulars.  They bought us drinks because they were so excited that we came all the way from San Diego to visit their town.

We had a scary moment in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  It was probably around 2 or 3am.  I woke up with this weird feeling that someone was in our room.  I kept still and listened.  I heard a rustling sound.  "I think someone is in our room," I whispered to MJ waking him up but almost not really believing it myself.  We both listened and then heard the unmistakable sound of motion.  My heart was in my throat as MJ got out of bed and went into the outer living area and I heard him say, "What are you doing in here?"  The guy was drunk and he was sitting on the couch on his phone.  He started going on about what room is this and he thought this was his room.  MJ said, "You're in the wrong room."  He kept trying to explain himself so he said it again and then the guy finally left.  I was horrified.  How did someone get in our room?  That's when MJ noticed that the door doesn't shut all the way on it's own.  You have to actually push it closed so that explains how he got in.  It was the weirdest scariest thing!  That could have gone a totally different way because you just never know but I'm glad it didn't. 

We got up early on Sunday and ate breakfast at the hotel which is one of the best free hotel breakfast's I've ever experienced.  It was not your standard cheapo continental breakfast.  They also have a guest happy hour every night and unfortunately we only made it once.  You might be wondering why we went to Buffalo in the first place.  The main event and the reason for our visit was the Buffalo Bills home opener against the Miami Dolphins.  MJ is a longtime fan of the Bills and has always wanted to see them play in their home arena.  I'm not a football fan but I was down to go as long as it was the first home game because I'm not sure I could survive the cold of Buffalo anytime beyond that.  We really lucked out and the weather was sunny, clear and in the high 60's for most of the day.

Buffalo is a hard core football town and Buffalo Bills fans are die hard.  The night before in the hotel jacuzzi we ran into another couple that had flown in from California.  We went to the Bills Store at the stadium Saturday morning and the place was already packed with people getting their gear for the game.  We waited in line for almost 30 minutes to buy MJ's jersey.  He has three now.   Their fans are crazy and unlike any fans that I've ever seen.  It was like being at a frat party.  The parking lot was packed and people were already drunk by the time we got there at 10:30ish.  There were people tossing footballs and loud blaring music everywhere.  We saw keg stands, people dancing on cars and peeing in bushes.  There was craziness everywhere you looked.  We don't have fans like that where we live.  It was fun to see a real football town in action and MJ loved being at a game where he wasn't the only one rooting for his team.  We sat on a grassy bank to watch the shenanigans and were offered beers by a group of guys sitting next to us.

MJ found this crazy group on You Tube.  They do this every year at every game in the Hammer lot.  They cook macaroni and cheese in filing cabinets, drink a lot, BBQ on yard tools atop that old mustang (which believe it or not actually runs) then they line up to get squirted with ketchup.  Why is that fun?

The longtime Bills owner died and everyone just found out that the new owner is keeping the team in Buffalo so everyone was really pumped. I wonder if that's why we had to watch the whole game standing up.  Why pay almost $100 bucks for seats and then not sit in them is what I want to know.  I haven't been to a lot of NFL games so I don't know if this is typical.  If you want to see what's going on you stand up.  I also had to use a plastic bag for my purse because even my tiny purse got rejected as being too large.  I saw others up in there with purses larger then mine but I'm sure a lot of people got turned away.  We had to walk all the way back to the car to put away my purse and our camera bag because neither one fit on the index card the guy had in his hand.
You can't see it but I'm wearing a Bills shirt that MJ bought for me so I would fit in
They won!!  I'm so happy that MJ got to go to a home Bills game and see them win.

It was a really long day.  We went straight from the hotel to the game which started at 1pm.  We were at the stadium all day.  Right after the game we went straight to the airport where we ran into other Bills fans in their jersey's on their way back home.  We ate dinner there while we waited for our flight to New York City.  If we were going to Buffalo we figured we might as well go there too.

So now you have some ideas of what to do should you ever find yourself in Buffalo.   Not that it will likely ever happen.  I can't guarantee that a sweet old couple will buy you drinks at Mulberry's but the lasagna is worth the visit.

NYC: 9/11 Memorial Museum

Post Vacation Realities

The oh so charming brownstones of Brooklyn
We got home from vacation on Saturday night.  As usual, the first thing we do is unpack.  In the house and up the stairs where we park our luggage in front of the laundry room and start unloading.  It's almost like a competition to see who can get done the fastest.  MJ usually wins but I wasn't far behind this time.  The second stop is the shower to wash away all the travel grime.  I feel so dirty after spending my day in subways, airports and planes.  The last stop is where we collapse somewhere and don't move for the rest of the night.  Him with his playstation and me usually right next to him on my i Pad because I'm too exhausted to do anything else.  Vacation is great but I need at least a day to recover.  I don't know how people rush back to work the day after they get home.  I actually used to be one of those people but I don't know how.  There are too many transitioning back to real life things to do and a time zone adjustment.  I need time and as much sleep as my body wants to get back to reality.

Laundry.  It has to be done.  The longer you wait the worse it gets so I like to jump right into it and knock it out.  I did laundry right before we left so I was able to get our vacation laundry done in two loads.  I did not however have any cleaning to do because I can't go on vacation with a messy dirty house.  I just can't come home to that.

DVR catch up.  I usually feel overwhelmed when my DVR gets too full.  There are shows waiting for me and I have to watch them!  It can feel like some sort of To Do list or an assignment that needs to be tackled ASAP if you let it and I didn't want to do that this time.  TV should not be a source of stress.  That's just ridiculous.  I did not let myself be overcome by a silly sense of urgency to watch all the things but seeing as how it was recovery day I did burn through a lot of shows.  

Grocery Shopping.  The pickings are always slim when we get back from vacation.  I don't like to leave the house on my recovery day so although I knew there was nothing to pack for lunch and we needed things for dinner I still wasn't planning on going.  I guess I'd rather starve.  MJ took stock of our dire situation and stepped up to the plate.  He'd go to the store and I could give him a list or go along.  As much as I wanted to stay in pajamas and continue my DVR catch up I decided to go.  I felt bad sending him out on his own.  You know, teamwork and all.  We were there and back in an hour, it took us less then five minutes to put the groceries away and it's one less thing to deal with during the week.

Mail.  I pretty much hate the mail on a normal day let alone the day after we haven't checked it in over a week.  It's pretty much all junk mail and yet I have to sit there and sift through the credit card offers, refinance offers, magazine solicitations, adds and coupons I probably won't use anyway in case there is something important.   

The Scale.  Dun, dun, dun.  I usually feel a lot of food and weight related anxiety before a vacation and I'm one of those people that has to know what the damage is immediately after.  I'm excited to go but so so afraid of being out of my normal diet and exercise routine and dread the thought of how much I'm going to gain while I'm away.  I'm really proud of myself not only for skipping that whole anxiety bit but also for not giving a damn about what I ate or when I ate it on this vacation.  Our last vacation was all-inclusive.  In my mind I felt I had no choice but to go all out and I did but this one was different.  We hadn't already pre paid a fortune for food and drink so it was truly my choice of what to eat or not eat.  I listened to my body and didn't feel bad about it at all while I was doing it.  I literally covered my eyes the second before I looked down but two days later not a single pound was gained during the course of 9 days of intuitive unplanned and often over eating with walking miles across NYC as my primary form of exercise.  It wasn't like an all out I'm going to devour all the food fest but I definitely indulged as tends to happen when you have to eat out for every meal; which as it turns out is not necessarily three meals a day when it's not all-inclusive.  Yes, I tracked the calories (because that's what I do) but I honestly didn't pay attention to the totals.  This is a major accomplishment for me.  There are reasons why I would have gained at least 5 lbs on vacation before and essentially gained none this time but that's another post.

The Bill.  I checked my credit card balance just once while we were there and didn't check it again until after we got back.  I have gotten a million times better about sweating over every single dime while I'm on vacation but I can't help but think about it.  We spent money on food and we did a lot of really fun things in NYC.  Things that cost money.  My attitude before was that it's a miracle I'm on vacation in the first place so that even if I denied myself almost everything I wanted to do while I was there it's how it had to be.  Now, I'm okay (mostly) with spending money on outings and attractions and see it as money well spent to enjoy myself while I was there.  Many times I tried to say, let's not eat there or let's not do that because it costs too much.  MJ ignored me most of the time, we did it anyway and I'm glad we did.  You can't take it with you.  We did not exceed what is reasonable for our budget.  We'll pay the bill at the end of the month and life goes on.  We had a great time and it was worth it. 

So that was pretty much my day yesterday and last but not least on the back to life back to reality list is Work.  The necessary evil that allowed me to go on vacation in the first place and which will allow me to do it again.  Things were really busy when I left and they are going to continue to be busy but I decided not to worry about it like I usually do.  I HAD a job a long time ago that dictated extreme anxiety and it's taken me a ridiculously long time to truly realize that I don't have that kind of job anymore.  I left that nightmare for a reason.  I'll dig through everything as I can get to it.  Stuff is gonna get done but there is no reason to try to do it all at breakneck heart palpitating speed.

Coming back from vacation is bitter sweet.  Mostly bitter if I'm being honest, but traveling can wear you out and it's always nice to be at home in my own bed and my own house.  Once I get back into the swing of things routine that is life I'm fine....until I'm not fine anymore and then it's time to go on vacation again.

I Want Out

I'm having a really good week.

The other day I grabbed raw eggs instead of hard boiled eggs by accident to eat at work for breakfast. Luckily, all it took was one small tap and no mess for me to realize it but it was a bummer that I lost half my breakfast.  I also forgot my usual water bottle which I know is really minor but having that water bottle is part of my routine and on a bad day it annoys me to no end when my routine is off even a little bit.  The ATM machine in 7-11 that I normally use was broke down so I knew I'd have to make an extra stop after work and then there were two accidents on the freeway so I sat in traffic and was 10 minutes late for work.  Last night I found out that El Pollo Loco discontinued my food.  The under 500 calorie black bean bowl is no longer available.  Don't you hate it when that happens?  They make you fall in love with it and then take it away.  I've never ordered anything else from there so I didn't know what to get.  This morning I put on my shirt and got deodorant all over it then I flicked yogurt all over my sweater when I was putting my lunch together.

When the traffic hit I turned up the music in my car and started singing along.  At least I got my coffee.  At least there is money in the ATM machine for me to get.  When I couldn't get my black bean bowl I tweeted El Pollo Loco.  I have no hope that they will bring back the bowl but at least I enjoyed it while it lasted.  Nothing really seems to phase me this week.  Even tripping over MJ's shoes yet again this morning didn't bother me in the slightest.  I want to bottle up this positive vibe and stash it away somewhere so that I can take it out on one of those days where I'm in the dumps or just in a rotten mood and every little thing pisses me off.  You know those days where you are so grumpy in general that you are annoyed with yourself for being annoyed by everything and yet you still can't stop being annoyed?  I've been struggling lately.  There were no less then two meltdowns last month so it feels great to be in a good mood and feel like nothing can get me down.
Does anyone else pack like this? 
What's even more amazing is that I haven't felt stressed not even once about our trip.  Normally I'm a complete and total hot mess the week of a vacation.  I freak out about forgetting things I probably don't need and stress myself out running around picking up last minute things 'just in case.'  I ridiculously over pack and over think everything little thing to the point where I wish someone would knock me out until I get on the plane because one I'm on the plan there is nothing I can do about anything that's not already in my suitcase and I can finally stop stressing.  You'd think I was traveling to a different planet and not just to some other city where they have stores that sell toiletries and all kinds of other things.  It's not the end of the world if I forget my favorite hair clip.  It is however the end of the world if I forget my contacts and glasses.  I can't exactly buy them when I get there so as long as I have those I'm fine.  It's only taken me about a million trips to finally calm down and hopefully I won't relapse on our next trip because it's really nice going into a trip and not feel like I'm losing my mind.  I asked MJ if he was going to start packing yesterday.  He gave me an are you kidding me, don't you know who I am? look and said nope.  He's doing it today sometime between after work and our red eye flight.  He's crazy and truly a professional packer if ever there was one.  I'll never be as good as him.  I just wish he didn't have to loose something before he travels.  Last time it was his license and this time it's not one but two credit cards one of them being his debit card.  I was the last (and only) person to actually see them on Saturday at home and now they are gone.  Just poof.  Disappeared. 

I'm sure most of my good mood is because of vacation.  I was just kind of whatever about it a few weeks ago but last night I was so excited I could barely sleep and focusing at work today is going to be hard.  I just want out!  It's been a long time since I went to NYC and I can't wait for the sheer magnitude of those giant buildings to have me standing on the sidewalk staring up at them with my mouth hanging open.  We've got some really fun things planned and I just can't wait!!  I won't be blogging but I will be on Instagram.  The significance of our travel date didn't dawn on me until a few weeks ago.  Flying to New York on 9/11 makes me just a little uncomfortable but I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

I'll leave you with this little gem from Sunday.  You might want to turn down your volume.  MJ thought it would be really fun to try to give me a heart attack while I was packing, film it and then put it on Facebook.  I was mad but even I have to admit that it's hilarious.  And just in case you are wondering our bed always looks that way.  We stopped making it everyday years ago and the decorative pillows never come out of the closet.

If you want to enter the Cocotique beauty box giveaway do so here.  I'll pick a winner when I get back.

I'm Giving Something Away

You guys! I finally got one of those boxes.  You know those boxes that everyone keep getting in the mail and blogging about?  Those surprise boxes delivered to your doorstep filled with all kinds of cool things.  I kept seeing boxes on different blogs and wondering what is up with all of these boxes and now I finally got my own pretty little box full of all kinds of fun beauty products.  The September Cocotique box has two full size and five deluxe sample size products and I'm giving one away to one lucky winner.  In case you are wondering what Cocotique is it's a monthly beauty box subscription service for women of color and diverse ethnicities. They find the best beauty and lifestyle products and ship them to your door each month.
I'm not going to say what's in it because that's part of the fun and I'm one of those annoying people that wants you to be surprised even if you don't want to.  Okay, just one hint.  One of the full size products has something to do with eyes.  I was pleasantly surprised by all the really good stuff inside.  I opened it and pulled out one cool thing after another.  I'm a hoarder of pretty much all things so I've already promised my husband that I will not "save" these things for who knows what day that never comes.  These are all things I can actually use and I will actually use them!!

Enter below and Good luck.  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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You Never Forget How

I vaguely recall my first big girl bike.  It was was blue with giant handle bars and a black banana seat with a little handle on the back.  The handle that your dad holds onto as he's sending you off on your first ride without training wheels while yelling at you to go straight.  I remember really liking that bike.  I did not however like my 2nd bike.   After outgrowing the first one and they got me this purple and black bike that I thought was ugly.  I remember being embarrassed to ride it because it wasn't girly at all and didn't have the curled handles like the ones the other girls were getting.  I wanted a ten speed.  This was not a ten speed.  My parents got me what they could afford and I eventually came to love that bike just like I loved my witch costume after it got stolen.  This is a bit of a tangent but since we're going all nostalgic here I'm throwing it in.  In elementary school my mom insisted on hand making my witch costume for Halloween and I was so embarrassed.  I wanted a store bought one like the other kids were going to have but it was cheaper to buy material.  Turns out I loved my witch costume even more then all the other ones and I guess someone else loved it too.  At the end of the day when we went to grab our paper grocery bags where our costumes were stashed mine was gone and I went home with some other kid's generic store bought one and cried because in the end I liked the one my mom made so much better.

It's just one example of how kids are so often swayed and brainwashed by whatever the masses are doing.  So afraid of standing out or being different because kids are mean and nobody likes being teased.  I'm so glad that we didn't have social media back then.  I was never a popular kid or a cute teen and I can only imagine what a beating social media would have given my already fragile self esteem.  Getting older sucks sometimes but you couldn't pay me enough to go back to being an adolescent and if I could go back and tell my 12 year old self anything it would be to get over it because half the crap you are so worried about is truly meaningless.  And mom, sorry for being such an ungrateful child.

I'm rambling.  Back to bikes.  My parents bought me my 3rd bike while I was in college and I rarely rode it.  I'm not really sure why.  I guess I just wasn't interested at the time.  When we finally got a garage of our own I picked it up and brought it home but we probably should have taken the bike straight to the dumpster.  I feel really bad for having never rode it but now that I want to again the thing is totally broke down.  It weighs a ton.  It's super old.  The gears are messed up, there are cobwebs hanging off of it and the tires are flat.  I think it's beyond saving.
Um.  I'm not so sure about this.
MJ has a fancy road bike and mountain bike with clip in pedals which sounds positively terrifying to me.  I still have the jalopy and it had been at least 10 years since I last rode a bike.  Probably longer, so when he suggested bike riding over the weekend I was nervous because I wasn't sure if I'd remember how.  I was worried I'd crash or run over an innocent pedestrian and I totally forget how to brake.  "How do I stop?" I asked MJ frantically as we started to take off.  My last bike had handbrakes and this blue beach cruiser had nothing but handle bars.  I'm sure I did, but I don't actually remember having to back petal to break.  
I was really scared when we first took off but after 30 minutes or so I was able to release my death grip on the handle bars and had a really great time.  Meanwhile MJ can take his phone out of his pocket, take a picture and put it back in all without crashing.  The wind in my hair felt amazing and the view wasn't half bad.  It took us about 1 hour to go 9 miles and by the end of the day we'd gone almost 13 miles.  It's amazing how fast and far you can get on a bike just poking along at 6 mph. 

We took the ferry to Coronado Island and rode to Burger Lounge for food.  This part was pretty nerve racking because I've never rode in actual traffic before.  We made a left hand turn in the street with the green traffic arrow.  I was scared to follow MJ but even  more scared not to.  He is no stranger to 40 mph speeds in the street, but not me.  As a driver I HATE being near bike riders and as a wife it freaks me out that my husband rides so fast in the streets.  I think we maxed out at 10 mph the whole time and being so close to cars with so little room to navigate between them started stressing me out so I yelled ahead to go on the sidewalk.  The sidewalk is safe.  With our food in MJ's basket we rode back to the water and sat in the grass to eat before taking the ferry ride back to the harbor.  It takes 15 minutes each way.  We turned in our bikes and got ice cream.  Then for some reason I really wanted a beer and drinking it while looking out at the bay was the most refreshing thing ever.
Bike riding is so much fun and I love doing touristy type things in my own city.  I really want my own bike now so I'm trying to decide between a Beach Cruiser (with hand brakes) or a Townie.  The backpedal breaking was okay but I think I prefer hand brakes.  It seems easier.  Either way, it's going to be Pink with a cute wicker basket in the front and a bell.  MJ wants one too because apparently he really enjoyed not having to shift gears and riding without his feet attached to the pedals.  I still don't know how anybody does that.  It would basically be timber for me in about 2 seconds.   

Well, I guess it's true when they say it's like riding a bike.  You never forget how.