My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
– Mark Twain
Got a helmet on and ready for a day full of mayhem.
Grant’s favorite game.
It’s a new year, and one of your resolutions should probably be moving to Olean, NY. I’ll outline some of the specifics below, but the gist is that I’m frankly not sure you can afford not to, with everything happening here.
The Olean Business Development building is more than 130 years old, and has been fully renovated (except for the 4th floor – more on that in a minute). Besides providing offices for local businesses like the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation, it also has incubation space and co-working space. I’m currently the only occupant of the co-working space, and I could – quite honestly – use the company:
Besides all the printers you could ever want, there is also conference space, private offices, and a cafe. Get on board.
This merits its own section, because it is really interesting. There’s a train depot across the street (now part of the Jamestown Community College offices), and apparently people would get off the train, troop across the street and take up rooms here on the fourth floor. One side of the building is a series of inter-connected rooms with a shared bath, and they’re all still there. It’s being used primarily for storage at the moment, but there are some really neat details still visible under the layers of dust and peeling paint.
What’s work without the possiblity of a haunting? Boring, that’s what.
The Walkable Olean project has been transforming downtown Olean one street at a time. The streetscapes are being re-designed to accommodate all stripe of walker and roller, with wide, smooth sidewalks, bike lanes and paths, and proven traffic calming measures. The rain gardens that are set along North Union Street are pleasant and add an extra barrier between pedestrians and vehicles. In the months that we’ve been back, I’ve seen more people out walking and riding than in the entire couple of years before we moved away.
What’s more, the revitalization has sparked more local business. About 20 years ago, Walmart moved to the edge of town and one by one all the dominos fell. There were more empty storefronts in downtown Olean than occupied. Generational residents have told me that the decline started with the introduction of the Olean Mall in the ’70s. Lately, though, that decline has begun to slow, and incredibly, reverse. There are cafes, a whiskey bar, a brewery, new shops opening, and plans for many more.
See, the thing about the weather is
(and this is important to keep in mind)
That even if the winter is a bit much
The summers are gorgeous!
We also have a spring, which is when everyone wears t-shirts in 40 degree weather and agrees that it’s lovely out, and a fall, which is very pretty, what with the sheer amount of trees we have here.
Boy howdy, do we have nature here. Besides it being just a very verdant place three seasons of the year, we are next door to Allegany State Park, which is a stunning natural park covering more than 64,000 acres, which is a hecka bunch of acres. The park is open year round, so folks who enjoy a good snowshoe or cross-country ski have ample space to do so.
Olean is also a designated Tree City, USA, by the Arbor Day Foundation, and has been for more than 30 years. The city is robustly forested – I think that all residential streets are tree-lined, and many or most of the commercial streets are treed as well. And let me tell you, when autumn flips the switch, all those trees are aflame with classic fall tree colors. Giddy up.
There are two elementary schools in Olean, Washington West and Eastview. They both go from pre-k to 3rd, and the intermediate school goes from 4th to 7th, and the high school is 8th-12th. My husband is a product of those schools (Eastview, the middle school – as it was then called – and the high school), and he’s turned out right good. I went to elementary school in the neighboring town, Allegany, and to high school at the local Catholic school, Archbishop Walsh. For higher education, there’s St. Bonaventure and Jamestown Community College, both of which have gorgeous campuses and solid reputations.
This is where things get interesting. If you want a bit of a fixer-upper, you can spend less than $70,000 on a 6 bedroom, 3 bath house – you can go check some out here. If your tastes are more mansion-y, you can still squeak in under the half million mark with this gem. In general, though, you can probably end up with a 4 bedroom place that’s updated under the $200,000 line, though if you do updates yourself it may be lower, or if you prefer a lot of high end finishes, it’ll be higher.
New York is somewhat notorious for having high taxes, but focus on those property prices.
Everyone loves an underdog, and all our teams are underdogs! Now is the time to jump on the bandwagon and become a fair weather fan of the Bills (not that you would ever do such a thing, but if you were, now is the time) because after 17 years and the four falls of Buffalo, they’re in the playoffs again. Here’s my elementary school classmate and American hero, Pat Miller, reacting to the Bills win last week (and the … ravens? loss?):
Also, if you want your sports exciting, the Bills routinely play in blizzard conditions:
Although it’s New Era stadium now, this isn’t very unusual:
Even the Sabres get out of the rink and into the snow on occasion:
Buffalo sports fans tend to be pretty dedicated, no matter how badly the team is doing, which for the Sabres this year, has been pretty bad. But it gives the vibrant sports radio culture something to kibbitz over endlessly, so there is that.
Future of Olean
I feel strongly about the future of Olean. The revitalization projects are kindling a new vibrancy here, similar to how cities like Detroit and Buffalo are investing in their downtows and reaping the benefits of increased community. A lot of people are invested in building a strong city here, and they’re all working together diligently. I’m proud of the way Bob, as the director of public works for the city, has applied himself to doing the best job he can for the city and the residents and visitors to Olean.
But wait! There’s more!
These squirrels are all over the city. You can see all of them here. Who doesn’t like squirrels?
We have not one but TWO Tim Hortons here. And people tend to pay for you in the drive through (or at least, people tend to pay for me, and I think you should come and take your chances).
Local brew / uncork NY
Besides the brewery in town, Four Mile Brewing, regionally we also have Southern Tier Brewing, and Ellicottville Brewing. About 90 minutes east of Olean is the Finger Lakes Wine region, with wineries, breweries, and distilleries. If you plan ahead, you can even book a Winewagen to cart you around the beautiful lakes as you tipple at each stop.
Olean is also only about 90 minutes away from Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of the world. On the other side of the falls is the entire country of Canada (Ontario specifically, though), which opens up interesting vistas to visit and enjoy.
Challenger Learning Center
Want to go to space? We do that here. The Challenger Center features themed missions that are fun for all ages (well, really like 10 or older, because we have to set some limits on space travel).
The arts in the region
The Cattaraugus County Arts Council is particularly active, featuring music, dance, performances, and art installations. If you have a taste for a particular art form, you’ll probably find it in Cattaragus County, thanks to the support of the arts council. Furthermore, the Quick Arts Center, located at St. Bonaventure, has a performance series as well as an extensive collection that is routinely rotated, and regularly features traveling exhibits.
From May to October, there’s a weekly farmers market, featuring fresh local produce (of which there is a bounty, thanks to the rural locale). All the abundance of the enchanted mountains can be yours! The market is going to be getting some upgrades, as it was recently the recipient of a $600,000 grant.
I’m just really fond of our Y. It’s really good. Lots of classes, a great facility, and plentiful childcare (Grant goes to Y daycare and the twins have Y aftercare, which takes place at their school). With all the stuff we get from the Y, you would expect their fees to be a bit steep, but that’s not the case. Aftercare for the twins is $70 a month. Go get a kleenex and wipe up the coffee you just spit all over the screen, because that’s not a typo. Our family monthly membership is $71. Grant is $180 a week, but that’s decreasing this year, as he just turned 18 months and rates are going down. Take it all in.
Just move already
Between the low cost of living (taxes aside), an accessible downtown, ample co-working space, and a return to local businesses, I’m shocked that your bags aren’t halfway packed. If you want to be somewhere where you can save money, buy a home, and be part of a community at the start of a really exciting time, this is where you want to be.
I’ll see you soon.
One of the benefits of working at Automattic is that on hire you can pick out a Timbuk2 bag to carry around your computer (another benefit) and other work gear. They also are great for meetups, co-working, and any other kind of movement from point A to point B. I’ve had my Timbuk2 for 5 years, and it has been great. It’s colorful and the rucksack style lets me really wedge a lot of stuff in it for weekends away or traveling with the kids (they need a lot of stuff). Following our Grand Meetup in the fall, Automattic decided to trial a new backpack for the company, so I signed up to get one. I’ve only been using it a few days, but so far I really like it. It’s an Aer Fit Pack 2, and I chose grey with a black logo.
When I first pulled it out of the FedEx box, I was a bit skeptical. Sure, it looks good, but I have ended up with a raft of bulky gear to haul every day to my co-working space, and I don’t really want to have odds and ends sticking out of my pack like some 1920s photographer lugging tripods. But it all fits, and it fits strangely elegantly.
Aer has taken the pack to market as a gym/work bag, and that’s great, because it means there are discrete pockets to separate your gym and work stuff – which I don’t need precisely, but I do like having everything In Its Place, and that’s what I get with the Aer.
As you can see from the photo, I don’t carry around that much stuff, but it all ends up being relatively bulky, particularly my lunch box, the Bose case, the pack of cords, and the water bottle. I was really uneasy at first that there was no water bottle pocket on the outside of the Aer, but after a few days of carrying the bottle in the bag, I’m calming down about it.
In what is clearly designated the Work Compartment, I carry notebooks, pens, a spare USB cord, and my computer, Roost, keyboard, and magic trackpad. In the front butterfly-zip Clothes Compartment, I carry my clutch, Bose, cord pack, and water bottle. In the Shoe Compartment I slide in my lunch box. And somehow, the pack doesn’t feel bulky or crammed full when everything is in, which (I regret to admit) my Timbuk2 wasn’t able to do (it ended up feeling packed to the gills with the same daily gear).
While it’s been less than a week, I am converted. I feel confident that the Aer will also be a great weekend bag, and a travel-with-kids bag to boot. I’m looking forward to pushing it to the limits and seeing just what it will hold.
We spent the holidays in Florida this year. We don’t have family there, but since we’ve been living with my parents since September we thought it would be a good opportunity to take a vacation somewhere warm while the kids are out of school. We had a great and exhausting time – as anyone with kids can absolutely confirm. Parenting is a full time job, and it’s more demanding than a paid job, because it is everything, all day and all night. That’s what makes it great, too. But vacationing with three kids is tiring and an exercise in patience and really challenging how you think of yourself as an adult and a parent. We loved it.
We spent our vacation in Palm Coast, on the Atlantic. It was mostly warm, and when it was cold, it was still warmer than New York, so I had no complaints about the weather! Our first night, Bob and I sat out on our balcony overlooking the ocean. The sky was beautifully clear and we could see all the stars. We found the classic (northern hemisphere) winter constellation, Orion, as well as saw the big dipper asterism snugged close to the horizon over the lapping waves. It ended up being the clearest night we had while we were there, so I’m glad we spent it gazing at the stars. The next day we explored our beach. The beach was made up of shells and coquina – so not super soft white sand beach, but a really interesting red/coral colored gritty sand. There were rock formations at the high tide mark that undulated in really interesting patterns. The kids loved exploring.
Because of where we stayed and where we wanted to visit, we did spend quite a bit of time in the car driving – every other day we went somewhere. It was sort of like staying at Disney and spending one day at each park, but instead of being at Disney, we were in a condo on a quiet beach, and we saw coastal Florida instead of a Disney park (although, spoiler: we did spend a day at Disney as well).
Our first expedition was to St. Augustine, on Christmas eve. Bob and I (and Grant) visited in February 2017, and we wanted to share the place with the twins as well. We spent a full day there, going to the pirate museum (where the kids did a scavenger hunt), riding the trolley, and getting ice cream. We visited the St. Augustine distillery, where we again picked up some gin and strong tonic, and after the kids were in bed, we enjoyed a nice G&T while wrapping their presents. During our bedtime routine, we called NORAD to make sure that Santa knew we were in Florida, and to find out what time he’d be in the area. The kids were thrilled to talk to one of Santa’s elves again this year, and went straight to sleep (and woke up before dawn to make sure Santa had come).
On Christmas morning, we unwrapped stockings and presents – as is expected. We made cinnamon rolls and coffee and had a nice lazy day, trying to keep Grant from throwing everything away (he loves garbage cans that pull out of cupboards, and putting things in them). One of the kids’ presents was a day at Disney, so Bob picked up a pack of Disney figurines (Pluto, Daisy, Donald, Mickey, and Minnie), and we made a scavenger hunt for them to find all the figurines, with clues leading them to each one. The final clue told them that we were going to Disney – they liked the scavenger hunt more than anything, I think! We also got them each a small Lego set that had a “ticket” to LegoLand attached. I took barely any photos all day, because we were really being quite lazy. But we did spend time on the beach, and we went out to dinner at a little local spot that had fresh seafood. I did take a photo of the sunset from our balcony, however.
The next day was our trip to Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Center. We took a mission to Mars, and saw a really cool re-creation of the Saturn V launch. We took the bus tour around the facility, as well, and saw all the launch pads for the various missions. It was interesting to see how Boeing and SpaceX were heavily promoted. It was also interesting to hear how NASA was positioning itself, now that the Shuttle program has ended – and how imminent they made a Mars mission sound. After KSC, we drove just a little ways along Merritt Island to visit the wildlife refuge there, and took a scenic 7 mile ride on the Black Point Wildlife Drive. We saw a lot of birds and gorgeous scenery, and caught the scantest glimpse of an enormous crocodile.
The next day we took as a rest day. We did nothing. We bummed around and visited the beach and the big kids went swimming with Bob. I tried to corral grant, but as usual it was mostly just me mitigating his destruction.
The day after that, we hit up LegoLand – our furthest destination at 2.5 hours away! It was a haul. But we had a lot of fun, and so did the kids. Grant especially loved a little playground area (a Tot Stop) because it had a slide. He figured out how to climb up the steps and then plunk down on his bum and slide down. In fact, he became quite pushy, and he and about three other little boys were bullying each other over who could get to the top of the slide and go down first. All the moms were trying to keep them in line, but it clearly didn’t have much effect. I rode two rides with Eleanor (we had to sort of split up how we did things, because neither twin was tall enough to go on most rides by themselves, and we couldn’t take Grant on most rides, either), and I really enjoyed standing in line with her, because we held hands and she peppered me with facts she learned from her National Geographic Nature Facts Almanac she got for Christmas. I learned a lot about black holes and Uranus.
The next day was a bum around day. The long drive to and from LegoLand coupled with a really busy day there really wore us all out. Bob took Henry to get a haircut, and that was really the extent of our activities that day.
On Saturday, our last full day, we went to Disney. We started at Epcot, where we met a couple of princesses and just cruised around for a bit, then we park hopped to Magic Kingdom and holy shit was it busy. One bonus (I guess) of that busyness is that they put on more shows and parades, so that there was always something to occupy the crowds. We only went on a few rides, since we arrived in the afternoon and couldn’t fastpass much, but that turned out to be ok. We made it on Small World, so everything is fine. The kids did a great job of being patient in lines (they were a little bananas, but it’s Disney, and that’s where you go to be bananas when you’re a kid). The hardest part was holding Grant for the lines, since strollers weren’t allowed. We bought a popcorn bucket and kept refilling it, and that kept Grant relatively busy since he was determined to eat his body weight in popcorn.
On Sunday, we got up at 5 am and flew home. We actually flew out of Pittsburgh, so once we got “home,” we had a 3.5 hour drive to get home. It was snowy but fine for driving. Since we had such an early (and direct) flight, we got settled in at home and had a restful afternoon just bumbling around and unpacking. Vacation was amazing, but it was just as wonderful to get back and spend time with my parents (and Bob got to go watch the Bills do something with one of his buddies). One terribly sad thing that happened while we were gone is that my parent’s dog, Murphy, fell terribly sick and ended up dying. The vet attributed it to Xylitol poisioning — unfortunately the source of which is likely candy that the kids brought home from school. Murphy was my dad’s dog, and they had a really close bond. They sat together all the time, and communicated as friends. Against Murphy’s better instincts, Grant befriended Murph as well, and loved to cuddle him (which Murphy tolerated) and feed him. Murph was a Very Good Boy, and he will be missed.