The Polar Plunge

Recognize any of those kings?  Are you done with all my references to royalty lately?  Okay–sorry, but with this picture I just couldn’t resist bringing it back to last week.  So can you guess what we did this past weekend?  THE POLAR PLUNGE!  That’s right–we jumped into freezing cold water for no reason at all.  Can you pick out which one of the above is Mr. Bunches?  Mr. Rockstar?  Mr. Holoholo?

No?  Well, that’s because we didn’t actually do it.  Kind of like how we didn’t actually get a goat.  Sorry.  But, there was a lot of talk about doing it.  See, the Polar Plunge takes place each year in Skaneateles, NY (pronounced skinny-atlas).  It’s a great fundraiser and is one of the more exciting parts of Skaneateles’ Winter Fest.  Last year they had to saw through 8 inches of ice just to make a hole for people to jump into.  Not this year, though.  Nope–no ice on the lake at all.  So I’m guessing this year’s event was a little less dramatic.  I’m only guessing because Mr. B and I didn’t make it into town quite in time to see it.  But no worries–we got to see lots of other stuff.  Er, well, mostly ice sculptures . . .

Oh, and donuts.  Mmmm . . . donuts.

Okay, so the donuts aren’t actually a part of the Winter Fest, but rather they’re just a regularly scheduled part of Skaneateles.  The Skaneateles Bakery to be exact.

Essentially, this is one of my dreams–Mr. Bunches and I move to a quaint little tourist town and open a fresh, local bakery.  With homemade donuts.  Lots and lots of donuts . . .

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it that the owners are two twenty-somethings that just moved to NY from Boston?  I mean, c’mon!  I know we’re not in our twenties anymore, but could they really be any more similar to us?!   Not like I know them or anything, but in my mind they’re just like us, which means, by the transitive property, that Mr. B and I could definitely open a successful bakery.  And yes, I said transitive property–take that fellow math geeks!

Okay, moving on.  Besides eating donuts (clearly I have a one-track mind at the moment), we actually did some poking around the town . . . we ended up in a local antiques store where we found all manner of assorted old things.  Like some gorgeous white stoneware that I almost purchased . . .

You know I love me some white stuff.  But there were also gobs of cool storage crates . . .

Some super old milk containers . . .

A giant stoneware piece labeled “large coffee mug” although I’m pretty sure it’s an old bed pan (but don’t tell Mr. B) . . .

And of course your token barrel of incredibly old golf clubs.  Seriously–who buys these things?  Can you actually still play with them?

But despite all the goodies in the antiques store, we left empty-handed.  I guess watching all those episodes of Hoarders has really curbed my appetite for “stuff”, eh?  And apparently made me a bit Canadian.

Okay, so after poking around, it was time to meet up with some friends–the actual reason we made the trek to Skaneateles in the first place.  Don’t get me wrong–we love a good excuse to go to the Finger Lakes, but the best excuse of all is when you’re going to spend quality time with the Rockstars, Holoholos, and the newest couple to the blog . . . Clark and Ellen.  They all were staying at the adorable Sherwood Inn . . .

I mean really–could it possibly ooze any more charm?  Well, the answer is yes.  Just go inside and be greeted by a roaring fireplace and this gingerbread house and you’ll know what I mean.

Methinks someone had a little too much time on their hands, no?

We didn’t book our trip in time to stay at the Sherwood, but we did manage to snag ourselves a room at the only-slightly-less-quaint Skaneateles Boutique Hotel.

It was actually quite lovely.

But getting back to the matter at hand.  Drinking and dining with our friends.  And what better place for both then at the Mirbeau Inn and Spa?  FYI–be forewarned about clicking on that link as there’s some pretty get-in-the-mood music playing in the background.  Bow-chickie-bow-wow.  Mr. Rockstar, of course, picked out the Mirbeau as our destination; why?  Well, because of the sample-your-way-silly wine bar:

Yes sir–it’s one of those wine bars where you hand over your credit card in exchange for a faux credit card (I’m guessing so that it makes you feel like you’re spending Monopoly money instead of the real thing) and then get to sample a whole assortment of wines by the glass, half glass, or 1 oz. taste.  Best. Idea. Ever.

And just ‘cuz I’m curious–am I the only one that didn’t know that Dave Matthews now owns his own winery?  Dreaming Tree Wines.  Please tell me I’m not the only one living in a cave.  Anyways–they obviously had some of DM’s wine on hand.  Yum.

And what better way to enjoy wine then with some cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese . . .

Mr. Rockstar couldn’t even wait long enough for me to snap a pic.  I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who loves their wine and cheese more ;).

But the fun didn’t stop there.  Nope–we enjoyed an amazing dinner.  And dessert.  It was so good, in fact, that I couldn’t even pause to take any pictures of it.  So you’ll just have to trust me.  Well, that, and this proof:

That was a PB&J dessert–a peanut butter mousse ball dipped in chocolate with a grape sauce and homemade marshmallows.  Clearly, it was disgusting.  But not as disgusting as Mrs. Holoholo’s dessert . . .

Yep, her combo banana bread carrot cake was really gross.  Ick.

Clearly, we were all unhappy with our meals . . . can’t you just tell by the looks on our faces?

Oh and yes, I was there too.   To prove it, I hopped in for the “crazy” picture.  And apparently I’m oh-so-creative in that the only thing I could think of for crazy was rabbit ears.  Seriously?  Am I ten years old?

We really did have a great time though on our little weekend getaway.  So thanks again to these fine couples for thinking to invite us along . . .

Maybe next year we’ll actually partake in the Polar Plunge?  Who’s with us?

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It’s Here . . .

And chances are it’s staying awhile!  What, you ask?  SNOW!  Glorious SNOW!  Mr. Bunches says it’ll be here until June–please someone tell me that isn’t true?  Anyone?

Yep–that was the winter wonderland scene that Mr. Bunches and I were greeted by this morning.  But considering it’s almost mid-December and this is the first snowfall, I’d say we’re pretty lucky (apparently there’s sometimes snow early enough for Halloween–yikes!).

Just wanted to do a quick update to commemorate our first snowfall in our new home.  I’m sure it won’t be the last ;) .  And another quick apology for my absence of late–I’ve been a bit of a traveling fool, and unfortunately that means that the blog has been left quite unattended to of late.  But no worries–I plan to get back on that bandwagon and do some posts next week.  Until then–have a great weekend!!

House Conundrums

While we’re eager to explore and take in all that Western New York has to offer, we’ve been a little one-track-minded lately.  All we can think about is our house hunt . . . we have been going near crazy trying to decide not only what we want, but also where we want to live around Buffalo.  It’s so different than being in Boston, where we felt trapped by how over-priced and ridiculous the housing market was . . . we lived in a 1,200 square foot condo that came with, wait for it, a parking spot!  Now, for those of you not familiar with Boston, you’re probably thinking, ‘Really?  You’re bragging about a parking spot?’  And yes, yes we are.  Because that parking spot was AWESOME.  When it snowed 80+” this past winter, we threw caution to the wind and actually drove places (instead of walking snowshoeing or taking the T) because we knew we had a place for our car to come home too.  Trust me, if you haven’t lived through feet of snow in a crammed city with no parking, then you have no idea how awesome a parking spot can be.

Okay, phew–enough about parking spots.  Can you tell I’ve been a bit scarred by Boston’s parking situation?  Of course, there’s no shortage of parking here–in fact, it seems everyone has lots of cars . . . I guess if you fill your driveway, then there’s less you have to shovel?

Back to our house dilemmas . . . basically, there’s a lot to consider:

  • Location
  • School District (we hope to someday have some mini Bunches)
  • Square Footage
  • Outside Space
  • Neighbors (we’d like to live near folks similar in age or at least life phase–having kids, etc.)
  • Age of the house (we’ve heard stuff built in the 1960s and earlier is much more solid than stuff from the 70s, 80s, and 90s)
  • Layout (open is better)
  • Some other stuff we’re probably totally forgetting right now . . .

The hardest grappling point thus far has been location, and you know what they say: location, location, location!  So we need your help–we’re torn between two different areas: Amherst/Williamsville/Clarence and Orchard Park/East Aurora.  Initially, we were dead set on the Amherst/Williamsville/Clarence area–mainly because the Williamsville School District is the number one school district in WNY, and the Clarence district is number two.  (Quick aside–the school districts are sort of odd in that they aren’t based strictly on the town limits . . . so the Williamsville district includes East Amherst, the Village of Williamsville, and some of western Clarence.  Yeah, totally confusing . . . it’s taken us over a month to figure this much out, and we may still have it wrong.)  And initially, we had entirely decided against even looking in Orchard Park/East Aurora because they’re South Towns, which, in this neck of the woods, South = SNOW:

So even though that’s just a graph of the 2008-2009 season, I think it’s pretty representative of what we’re going to be dealing with.  Amherst/Williamsville/Clarence are just northeast of Buffalo, so they would be in the green area; Orchard Park/East Aurora are southeast of Buffalo, so they’re in the yellow area, and on the cusp of the red . . . I know, scary, right?!  (Although not as scary as that big brown dot in the upper right!  Kill me now.)  And now you’re asking, where’s the dilemma?!  It seems straightforward, right?  Wrong.  The problem is the South Towns have a lot more charm, a lot more space, and a lot less congestion (Amherst’s population is 110k+, whereas Orchard Park’s is 27k+).  Oh, and Orchard Park’s school district is usually number 3, so a close runner-up to Williamsville and Clarence.

But A/W/C has a lot more homes for sale, and a lot more in our price range, as compared to OP/EA, e.g. this 2,800+ square foot beast on a secluded cul-de-sac:

So why did we even venture to the South Towns to look when there are homes like this?  Well, the answer is because of these:

Yep, that’s a foundation crack.  But no, that’s not from the home above, it’s just a demonstrative shot of what these cracks look like from some other house that we’re not going to buy.  See, there are a lot of these cracks in A/W/C–so many, that Amherst asked the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study of the area’s foundations back in 2003, and this is what the results of the study showed in 2005: Amherst Foundation Issues.  Basically, all the little dots are where there have been foundation problems.  Apparently, A/W/C has sandy soil, so some foundations have been sinking as the soil expands and shrinks with the changing weather conditions.  And hence, the foundations crack.  And sink.  And shift.  And in one house we saw, practically cave in on themselves (don’t worry–we got out of that one in a hurry).  In most cases, it costs around $30,000 to repair a cracked foundation, but in some cases, that number can reach into the hundreds of thousands.  Can we say Money Pit?!  But our realtor has assured us that as long as the cracks are vertical, the repairs are far easier and less costly . . . even so, it got us nervous.  And we headed south.

And while we tried with all our might to hate the South Towns and to picture them covered in feet and feet of snow, we just couldn’t do it.  For one thing, the South Towns have one thing A/W/C entirely lacks: hills.  That may sound strange, but you have no idea how much you miss hills until you’re in Kansas Amherst.  Driving around A/W/C is kind of like driving around marshlands–totally flat, lots of standing water, but with some pockets of great homes and schools tucked between some tired and crowded neighborhoods.  Whereas OP/EA has rolling hills, wide open spaces, and quaint village centers . . . kind of sounds like a country song, right?

So now it sounds like OP/EA should be a no-brainer, right?  Wrong again.  There are just far fewer homes in our price range.  We drove around there a lot this weekend, hoping to find THE ONE, but instead we found the-one-if-we-want-to-double-our-budget:

Granted, that home is 3,800 square feet and on 1.5 acres, but still–you get the idea.  As of now, there are only a handful of homes in OP/EA that are within our budget and meet our other criteria (we’ll detail the criteria soon), so we’re feeling torn.

And that’s where you come in–we need help.  Please comment on this post with what you think we should do . . . any home-buying advice would be much appreciated, particularly as it pertains to location at this point.  Our heads are so foggy and we’ve gone back and forth so many times . . . just help us, please, before we entirely lose our sanity and move to that big brown dot.

Image of snow map from here.  Foundation study from here.

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