A Cup of Coffee, A Taste of Love

One fine winter evening while plodding through snow, I found myself in Parkside. It was in this historic neighborhood, that I came across Sweet_ness 7 Café.

OutsideNamed after her son Stefano’s email, who she tragically lost in a car accident, Sweet_ness 7 is Prish Moran’s way of keeping her son’s memories alive, by embracing his love for coffee and penchant for old neighborhoods.

One is welcomed by a “Hug Here” motif outside the door step. The warmth continues inside, with beautiful drapes, lop-sided message boards, an old telephone booth and a center table proclaiming Buffalo to be the “City of No Illusions”.

Equally impressive is the menu which boasts a variety of coffee drinks, fine selection of teas, beers and wines, making sure that our non-caffeine crazed friends also feel the love! The fact that coffee goes hand in hand with a little-something-to-eat is known to our friends at S7. Enter fresh home-made baked goods and a dedicated menu of some eclectic-named crepes like “The Whole Shebang” and “Kiss me I’m Irish”.

Old World Cafe

But this café is more than unconventional décor and crepes, for it is an embodiment of its owner’s lifestyle. Prish is an unconventional designer and a believer of sustainable living. Hence explaining the cage-free eggs, fair-trade organic coffee beans and net-zero water cups. When asked more about the café, she tells me “We have a safe, we just don’t use it! I want my employees to take ownership. I always give them more responsibilities, so they can excel in everything. That is why we don’t have managers.” She comes across like a nurturing mother, pushing her employees to accomplish more while making sure they can fall on her.

And you see that caring streak in her when she offers a job to a young man simply because he needs one, or when she asks someone to chaperone me to my car because she is not comfortable with me walking alone to the back parking lot.

She along with the entire S7 family keeps her promise of delivering a cup of coffee with a taste of love!

S7 Logo

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Baby Clothes on the Cheap

It’s pretty obvious why moms out there shouldn’t be spending top dollar on togs for their tots.

It shouldn’t cost your first born to clothe your first born.

Sure that adorable pint-size North Face jacket is irresistibly cute but dropping a hundred bucks on something they’re going to wear for a few months is just plain dumb.  Yep, I said it.  Besides how quickly our kiddies grow, there’s really three simple reasons to buy baby clothes on the cheap:

  1. Pee
  2. Poop
  3. Spit Up

LogoI have yet to meet a kid that hasn’t destroyed 68% of his/her wardrobe from one of the above offenders.  When you’re tossing away that onesie, it’s a bit easier knowing you didn’t pay full price. Far from it actually if you shop at Peek-A-Boo Baby Boutique on Hertel Avenue.

Baby consignment shops like Peek-A-Boo are pure genius.  Gently-used clothes for newborns to toddlers being sold at a fraction of their original price.  How’s it work?  Moms bring in bags of clothes their kids have outgrown (sans the stains) and Peek-A-Boo turns around and sells them to frugal moms like me. In fact, I stopped in to their 50% off sale earlier this month and walked away with 13 items for only $27 (3 of them even had their original tags on them!).

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Follow along on their Facebook page and Peek-A-Boo’s owner, Stacey, will regularly post grab-bag deals and snapshots of what she has in stock.  Oh and it’s not just clothes, you can find shoes, toys, bouncers and other previously-loved nursery accessories at a killer discount.

I realize that only 6 weeks of motherhood doesn’t necessarily give me “mom cred” just yet but whether it’s 6 weeks or 60 years, mom always knows best.

Baby5

Fire the Kiln to Cone Five

Circa 1998,
Manhattan, New York City

Three hundred and seventy three miles away from home, wandering about the trendy SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan; amidst the buildings that are higher, streets that are wider, and steaks that are thicker; amidst all this commotion; a young man discovers his passion for creation; his passion for pottery.

January 2014,
Hertel Avenue, Buffalo

7Sixteen years later, it is in this Little Italy of ours, in a newly expanded space, flanked by beautiful red and black awnings, adorned by art from over sixty different fine craft artists; that I meet Greg Link, Ceramic Artist and Owner of Cone Five Pottery.

When asked about his formal training, his answer is “almost none”. A six week class was enough to tell him that he was a natural at pottery. But being natural was not enough for this perfectionist artist, so he shut himself in his studio on Rhode Island St. for almost three years, his only companions being several books on the subject and a potter’s wheel. In his own words “I would end up smashing pretty much everything I made”. The laborious efforts paid off, and soon Greg saw himself moving from his old studio to a work studio-cum-gallery space on Allen followed by Elmwood, and eventually finding its current home on Hertel.

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His attention to detail and finesse is demonstrated as soon as he brings out a ceramic cone to explain the meaning of his gallery’s name (the temperature of the kiln is determined by these ceramic cones. When the fourth cone is completely bent and the fifth cone starts to slump, the temperature of the kiln has reached 2120 degrees F, perfect temperature the kiln is fired to).

13While being a business owner, creating and selling your art might be enough for most, Greg did not stop here. After establishing himself as a master craftsman, he decided it was time to give back to his community. So he went out of his way to support as many local artists as he could, by providing a home to their art, be it ceramics, glass, wood, metal or jewelry, in his gallery. Another aspect of his work is the embodiment of Frank Llyod Wright’s mantra of “Form Follows Function”. This artist wants people to incorporate his art, his pottery in their daily life activities. Enter very clean and tastefully done bowls, vases, sconces, platters and what not.

So here it is, another gem in our lovely neighborhood.  And if pottery does not happen to be your thing, how does the idea of owning something that is one-of-a-kind, lovingly, thoughtfully, painstakingly and proudly made in Buffalo sound to you?

Worth a shot, isn’t it?

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“Stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a good football game.”

So the holidays are over, should that stop us from being merry? Surely not. It’s NFL Wild Card weekend and there’s a local merchant on Hertel that sells quality beer to help fight the lurking winter blues.

I decided to take Jimmy Griffin‘s advice this weekend, but I didn’t want to go at winter beer sampling alone so I gave my beer connoisseur brother-in-law an offer he couldn’t refuse – free beer. When it comes to beer he means business, just look at his twitter avatar (@BobStrusa) – it’s a beer drinking a beer!

We picked up a mix six from Village Beer Merchant. Bob and I enjoyed each of the six beers this afternoon (don’t judge), and here’s our amateur review:

Winter WhiteWinter White Ale (Bell’s Brewery, Comstock, MI)

Started light. This one is an alternative to the heavier “winter warmers”. In my opinion, this is a glorious beer. Cloves. Bananas. Bright color. Easy finish. ABV 5%

Winter SolsticeWinter Solstice Seasonal Ale (Anderson Valley, Boonville, CA)

A spicy, copper colored beer. Bob said he tasted raisins in this one. I said he was crazy. Then Bob’s beer app mentioned that there were currants in this brew. We proceeded to google “currants” to learn that they tasted like a cross between cranberries and raisins. Bob wins. ABV 6.9%

Hibernator Ale

Hibernation Ale (Great Divide Brewing Co, Denver, CO)

This is a darker, roasted beer, not your typical ale. It could have almost a stout flavor, which could come from the lengthy aging process for this brew.

The flavors hide the power behind this beer, leaving the 8.7% ABV feeling a bit more subtle.

CelebrationCelebration – Fresh Hop Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Chico, CA)

Hoppy but not the bitterness you’d find in some of the strong IPA’s out there. Instead you get citrus and pine taste and aromas.

Celebrate we will! ABV 6.8%

Mad ElfMad Elf Ale (Troegs Brewing Co, Hershey, PA)

The label says it’s brewed with honey and cherries which is definitely a statement of the obvious as you seemingly can smell and taste both in this reddish tinted ale. Very sweet finish.

And by the time you’re done smelling and tasting, you may forget your name because this one packs an 11% ABV. This one may have been my favorite!

StoutBlackout Stout (Great Lakes Brewing Co, Cleveland, OH)

We wanted to throw in something other than an ale for good measure, but this is average at best. I’ll admit I’m not a stout fan so this just tastes like burnt crayons to me, but even Bob said this left much to be desired. It’s probably because it’s brewed in Cleveland. ABV 9%

Well that’s it folks. Good beer, good football, family. That’s what winter Sunday’s are about…

Resolve To Be Involved!

Happy New Year friends and neighbors!

As I was enjoying my first cup of (Spot) coffee in 2014 this bright and crisp morning, I got to thinking about what many of us have been thinking, talking, and posting about: how great 2013 was and how we’ll dominate in 2014.

Karen and I were blessed with a baby boy (“Sweet Baby” Ray) a few weeks ago, so our primary resolution for 2014 is to figure out the whole parenting thing. Something tells me that will be our 2015 resolution as well, but we’re up for the challenge.

But apart from that, continuing to spread the positivity for Buffalo and pitching in to make our community better tops our list of things to do this year.

If you’re like many of the folks that I talk with, you’re wildly proud to be a Buffalonian, you’re stoked about all the things going on and you’re dying to be a bigger part of it all.

But “how?” you might say.

We were asking ourselves that same question this time last year when we decided we were going to start this blog. It’s nothing fancy but seems to be aiding in raising awareness and love for our North Buffalo ‘hood. In fact, the success of Hello Hertel has surpassed our wildest expectations, with over 15,000 views so far! For us, its a fun and easy way to contribute.

The answer for you is just as simple. Anything you choose to do that shares the BuffaLOVE will work. Shop local. Eat local. Don’t move to the suburbs. Embrace the progress. Ditch the “old Buffalo” mindset. Attend a community meeting. Stop and talk with your neighbors. Join a board or committee. Volunteer. 

All feasible. All impactful.

I see some folks are already taking action. Take a look at NorthBuffalo.org – a grassroots organization spearheaded by Ryan Sajdak that looks to pull it all together. Getting involved with this might be a no-brainer. Looks like there’s a meeting on Friday night…hint hint.

The Washington Post said that BuffaLOVE is “in” for 2014. Yep. Everybody’s sharing it. It’s your turn!