Friday, June 15, 2018

Sunset on the Niagara River #SkywatchFriday

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a Master Naturalist volunteer/training weekend. It was coordinated by Kristi Sullivan of Cornell University, with the support of a variety of organizations, including Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper, the Western New York Land Conservancy, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County. We spent the entire weekend working in and exploring the Niagara Gorge. It is a beautiful place that I will describe in more detail in the next few days.

On Saturday evening, we went to Joseph Davis State Park in Lewiston to practice our newly acquired frog identification skills by listening to frog calls in the park. We also enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Niagara River.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Humans of Grand Island: the kettle corn maker

Jim Sniadecki can be found at events, both on and off Grand Island. I've seen him at Relay for Life, held in June, and in Paddles up!, held in July. I've seen him at the Grand Island Farmers Market, which was held last year at Tom Thompson's farm on Long Road. Today, I caught up with him at E.H. Enterprises, a nursery on Ransom Road.

Alice: Hi Jim. Tell me about you. What got you into the business of being a maker of this aromatic popcorn?

Jim: Money, fun, being part of the community, and having a good time.

Tell me more about having a good time with popcorn.

You can’t have a fun event without popcorn. Things are more fun with kettle corn in it.

That is right. Kettle corn makes life complete.

It does.

Tell me why people should enjoy having kettle corn, instead of some other type of popcorn.

I use two kinds of popcorn. I use butterfly and giant mushroom, extra fine granulated cane sugar (a lot of places don’t use cane sugar; they use beet sugar). I use fine salt and corn oil. That’s all the ingredients there is. I never pop in advance. I always pop on site. It’s fresher and it’s better. It’s gluten free. Popped kettle corn is naturally gluten free.

When you’re not making popcorn, what do you enjoy most?

I like to take care of my family… my kids. I’m an older guy with younger kids. I have fun with the kids. I do yard work. I used to sell real estate until about a month ago when I decided to retire.

How old are your kids?

Sophie is twelve and Scarlett is ten.

Do they like popcorn?

They do. They all enjoy it. We don’t eat a lot of it. We eat it after an event. We don’t eat it at home.

What sort of events do you like to do best?

paint your own cookies!
Farmers markets and fundraisers.  I’m going to a fundraiser next week for Cystic Fibrosis in Veterans Park in the City of Tonawanda, if you’d like to come by. It’s a 5K run/walk event, the sixth annual. Check in is at 10 a.m., and the walk/run is at 11 a.m.

You've come to the Grand Island Farmers' Market for some time. What do you think of it?

Check out the great variety of
plants, ready for your garden,
at E.H. Enterprises.
Well, I think that it should be supported more by the people on Grand Island. The local paper should give them free press all summer long, and the local politicians should say it at every town board meeting and at every interview that they do about the island. The TV stations should advertise it in the morning in their little blurbs about what’s going on in the community.

What about the other farmers market that you're involved with: the one at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. What motivated you to want to be part of that farmers market?

My wife works there. It (the farmers market) is a good cause. It supports not only the hospital but also the neighborhood. It’s open to the public. People in the neighborhood there get fresh vegetables. There’s crafts and things like that that’s available to the inner city.

You sell popcorn at Relay for Life. And I see the word "survivor" on your sign. Could you tell me more about that?

I’m a breast cancer survivor. One percent of the male population gets breast cancer, but 98 percent (of that group) die because they don’t know that they have it. My physician, Willard Ruth, here on Grand Island, was giving me a routine physical. He noticed that one of my nipples was discolored and inverted and told me to go for a mammogram, which I did. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The people at Roswell said that Dr. Ruth saved my life because of his good doctoring.

How long have you been cancer free?

This will be four years on the day before the Ride for Roswell (June 23rd). And I’m looking for donations. Go to the Ride for Roswell site. Type in James Sniadecki and give me the thousands that you have lying around the house. Send me money. Ride for Roswell!

Where do you live?

Grand Island.

What do you like best about living in Grand Island?

I like the new bike path on West River Road.

Me, too! How do you think that it will benefit you and your daughters?

They won’t have to dodge traffic on the West River Road itself because the parkway will be the bike path. It will just be more access to the river itself. You won’t have to worry about getting run over by a 55-mile-per hour car or anything like that.

That’s pretty scary.

It is.

Is there anything else that you’d like to say to people who might be reading this blog?

Well… if you live in New York’s 27th district, go Nate! Nate’s the man!

For more information about Nathan McMurray's campaign, check out the Nate McMurray for U.S. Congress website.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Power of Me Time

My California adventure ended early in the morning on Tuesday, May 8th. It was time to go back home. Two movies, two airplanes, and one truck later, I was home.

Home had changed since I left a little more than two weeks ago. I left winter in the Buffalo area and I returned for springtime.
Real springtime with flowering trees and delicate leaves that are so soft and fresh that they feel like little flowers.

Today felt like a good day to enjoy some me time. I caught one bus to Buffalo and a second bus to the Buffalo History Museum, in north Buffalo.
It was a beautiful and peaceful me time. I wanted to see springtime start to unfold. It is my favorite season and it's so full of life and hope.
So I took a day to see the newly emerging life in the city. I met people, too, with interesting stories.
One of them was a young woman named Lorena, who works in the park. She is from Puerto Rico and has lived in Buffalo for four years.
She is the mom of three small children, and they all speak both Spanish and English, sometimes in the same sentence. My conversation with Lorena was the same; it consisted of Spanish and English, sometimes in the same sentence.

I met a man named Peter, who was looking for fish crow nests. Fish crow?
I didn't know what that was. Peter talked to me about the differences between fish crows and American crows. The most observable difference would be in the sound of the birds' voices.
Their calls sound different. Fish crows get that name because they like to live near wetlands. Mated couples like to preen each other, and the birds like to stockpile surplus food by hiding it.

So... what about the power of me time? Me time outside is very special time.
It is time that I spend with nature and with listening to other people's stories. It felt even more powerful after the winter that felt as if it would go on forever.
Being outdoors with nature in Buffalo was good after my visit to California.
I had the opportunity to experience two very different ecosystems, and I was able to see the beauty in both of them.

When I returned home, I was tired, but happy. It was a good tired, gotten from taking a pleasant walk.
The day had been a bit chilly but full of color and light. I did see the power of me time. I had seen it in the flowering trees. I had seen it in the leaves that were so soft and delicate that they themselves seemed like flowers. And now, I am experiencing a peaceful bit of me time by describing it here, in this blog, and by drinking that last cup of tea for the day.

Note: this is my #FridayReflection, although it is based on last week's prompt. Next week, I will focus on the current prompt. 

Question for you: What are some of the things that you like to do while experiencing the power of your me time.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Reflections on the 2018 Blogging from A through Z challenge

Now that it's time to reflect on my experience with this year's A through Z challenge, I am almost speechless. What do I say about a month that I spent looking for beauty in likely and unlikely places?

At the beginning of April, I took a selfie with a camera because... C is for camera!
I have managed to find beauty every day. Some of the days didn't seem very promising. There were early spring snow and high wind conditions.
inhospitable surroundings do
not deter the determined crocus
There was an ice storm.
... but winter, beautiful in its
frozenness, was not willing
to leave gently.
There were mounds of litter that needed to be picked up. Those were the most unlikely places to find beauty. There were places in which I found expected beauty. On April 24th, when I arrived in San Diego, after a cross-country flight, I was greeted by the sight of very tall palm trees. As I waited for my nephew to pick me up, I squealed, "Palm trees!" I had managed to leave a winter that didn't want to say good bye and arrive in a place that was warm (for the most part) and full of bright color.

The fruits of last summer have
become these delectable treats
(Grand Island Farmers Market,
April 8th).

For me, the theme was an opportunity to really look at my world and find something good in it. When I started, it was still winter, despite the date (April 1st).
I won the peanuts and bought the
almonds and used a food processor,
purchased at a garage sale,
to make peanut butter and
almond butter. I explored the world
of the foodie, making yummy
dishes with those nut butters.
Food is beautiful, no matter
the weather.
Because I struggle with winter blues, I really had to reach to find beauty in a season that I would gladly skip. I did manage to discover beauty in the coldness and grayness that I have trouble loving. I found beauty in the fun and adventure of my visit to family in sunny southern California.

The challenge was a good experience for me. I did manage to post 26 times, which was exactly the number of posts needed for the Blogging from A through Z challenge.
There was an ice storm. I
stayed inside and cooked. One
of the dishes that I made was
vegetarian West African peanut soup.
It was, however, an exhausting experience because I write each day's blog post on that day. Sometimes, I fell behind, due to days of too much busy-ness or a long day of travel. I am happy that, at the end, I had caught up and was able to complete the challenge of finding beauty in likely and unlikely places every day.
life sized chess game in sunny 
Riverside, California

Western Day Parade in Lakeside was
fun and fun is beautiful.

I look forward to next year's challenge and, maybe this time, I'll buy the T-shirt!!!

What an adventure! We went to a rodeo on April 29th!
Tomorrow: I'm heading to Buffalo to check out the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Gardens on Hoyt Lake behind the Buffalo History Museum, and I will share pictures right here!

#AtoZChallenge reflections logo 2018