Buffalo/Niagara area 2015 summer concerts

The Buffalo Business Journal printed a great list of all the concerts showing in the Buffalo/Niagara area this summer.  I don’t know the cost of these concerts but I’m guessing most of these are not cheap, but there are lots of big name acts.  Most of these should be no further than a 1.5 hour ride from Rochester.  You might find something here that interests you:

Buffalo/Niagara summer 2015 concertsm

Which ones sound good to you?  There’s something for every music lover.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Watch those college costs

There was an essay in this past Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle by Robert Rood,  an Associate VP of Finance at Roberts Wesleyan College, about minimizing and managing college costs.  Rood’s essay, Students need to better manage college costs, has some good suggestions on how to deal with escalating costs.  My son is a junior in high school so this is a topic near and dear to me.

My suggestion is to see if your student can get college credit while still in high school.  My son is taking a Digital Imaging class which is offered as a dual credit course from Monroe Community College (MCC).  The Dual Credit Program is a cooperative program between MCC and area school districts and BOCES that provides the opportunity for high school students to enroll in MCC courses and receive official college credit. Dual Credit courses offer the option of receiving credit for the course on both high school and MCC transcripts. Erie Community College (ECC) offers a similar program called Advanced Studies. 

MCC charges $43 per credit hour for dual credit classes versus $128 for traditional classes.  MCC also charges a Technology fee for dual credit courses, so for the price of $150 my son will receive credit for one 3-hour course at MCC.  The nice thing about this class is my son needs to do nothing special in order to get the MCC credit.  This is a way for students to get credit for advanced classes they take in high school that don’t offer an Advanced Placement (AP) exam option.

AP exams (there are currently 34) are taken by students as a means of showing proficiency in a topic.  That proficiency is usually equivalent to knowledge gained in a college level course.  You are not required to take an AP course prior to taking an exam.  The exams costs $87 each, but you will only get college credit if you score at a high enough level, usually a 3 or more out of 5.  I was happy to receive college credit for a full year of calculus and a full year of chemistry because of my AP exam results.

You want to weight all your options as your child approaches college.  If you want them to leave college without being drowned in debt, then start them thinking about earning college credits when they start high school.  They’ll appreciate the money they save by having a few courses under their belt by the time they start school.

Are you doing enough at work?

Most people are good at being green and recycling at home.  Most workplaces make it easy to recycle paper by placing blue recycle bins in key locations.  Usually in the cafeteria you can recycle your bottles and cans.    But what are you doing at work to help the planet?

  • The easiest thing you can do is use less paper.  I have set my default print settings for 2-sided printing and my co-workers can always tell which printouts are mine.   For large documents I’ll print 2 pages on each side of the paper so I’m using only 1/4 of the paper.  Using less paper helps the company’s costs and reduces recycling costs. (To change your default printer settings in Windows, open the Control Panel and select Devices and Printers.  Right click on  your printer and select Printing Preferences.  Select your 2-sided printing options and select OK.)  I’ve even submitted a suggestion at work to have printer settings set to 2-sided by default.
  • I’ve brought in a Tupperware plate and reusable plastic silverware.  I use them for meals I bring from home and whenever we have cake or pizza.  Over the years I’ve saved a lot of paper products from going in the trash.  I’ve seen people at work who bring in real plates and silverware.
  • Sometimes I’ll bring frozen entrees for my lunch. In Monroe County where I live, the plastic dish and the box are both recyclable. In Niagara County where I work they don’t recycle plastics except for bottles with 1’s and 2’s on the bottom.  I’ve been known to carry items home with me so I can recycle them instead of throwing them in the trash.
  • When bringing my lunch to work I use reusable containers instead of plastics bags which end up in the trash.  I use to bring small bags of potato chips or pretzels for snacks.  Now I just bring in the entire bag and dish out snack size portions (warning: this requires will power).  It also saves me the time for portioning out the snacks.

What are you and your company doing to be greener at work?

Are you a picky picker?

This past week I went strawberry picking twice.  I went on my way home from work one night, stopping to pick 4 quarts.  Sunday, I stopped to pick on the way to my parents house. My daughter and I managed 5 quarts in 20 minutes.  The plants were plentiful with ripe fruit. It was hard to stop picking.  What made it even better was the price: $2/quart!  (If I wanted to buy a quart of strawberries already picked it would cost me $3.75.)

I picked at Kern Farm in Basom, NY (point B on the map).  It’s not far from the Western Door gas station (point A on the map) where I sometimes buy my gas on the Indian reservation.    I realize this location is not convenient for most people but it’s just a few miles off the Pembroke exit of the NY state thruway.  My sister and I went there last year to pick berries. Andrea picked enough there this past week to qualify for the volume discount price of $1.50/quart.  I looked into the price of picking strawberries at the Greg’s U Pick farm in Clarence and their website says if you pick strawberries there it will cost you $3.75/quart for the first 3 quarts or $3.25 for 4 quarts or more ($.25 more than last year’s prices).

There are dozens of farms in western NY where you can do the picking.  The PickYourOwn.org website lists many of them, organized by county.  I’m sure there are others which aren’t listed.  Some of the more popular farms for picking in the Rochester area are Gro-Moore (their strawberry fields are in Rush) and Green Acre in Greece.

Tips for picking fruits and vegetables:

1) Bring your own containers. Save up containers from store bought berries to use for picking.  Save containers from year to year.  Farms may charge you a fee if you need to get containers from them.

2) Bring cash.  A lot of farm markets don’t take credit cards.

3) Check prices ahead of time.  Check the farm’s website or call for pricing.  You don’t want to get there only to find out they’re much more expensive than you anticipated.

4) Check hours of operation.  Call or check their website.  Be sure they are open when you intend to pick.  Some farms are closed to picking one day a week.  Some close earlier in the day.

5) Pick earlier in the day if you can.  That way you get the best choice of fruit.

6) Have a plan for what you’re going to do with all your bounty.  It’s great if you have the time to pick 20 quarts but if you can’t do something with the majority of them in a short period of time then you might end up throwing them away when they start to go bad.  Valid choices are: freezing, making jam, making pies and other baked goods, giving them to friends/family.    When picking this week I stuck with what I knew I could deal with given my crazy schedule.  Here’s a great Strawberry Cobbler recipe I got from Family Circle has been a hit.

7) Bring friends and family.  Children love to pick fruit and eat it fresh.  I don’t recommend bringing toddlers since they have a tendency to trample low lying berries like strawberries.  The more people in your party the faster it goes

8) Act quickly.  Strawberry season is short and will be gone before you know it.

I’d like to hear about your favorite place to pick berries.

The 14th of May is the day to give it away

My “neighbor” (he probably lives within 3 miles of me) Mike Morone is the founder of Give Your Stuff Away Day, a great idea.  This is the third year for this event which has gotten worldwide attention.  I wrote a blog post about it last year.

His website, giveyourstuffaway.com, explains how it works. The goal is to unclutter your life and give items to someone else who would actually use them.  This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, May 14.  Also be sure to check out his Facebook page.

We all have stuff we don’t use anymore.  I challenge you to find 5 things to give away that day and keep them out of a landfill a little bit longer.

Become a bag lady(guy)

Has this ever happened to you?  You walk into a grocery store for a few items, grab a shopping cart and walk out with a cart full of items.  I realize this is an exercise in self-control.  I will readily admit that I find all sorts of stuff that I don’t need or didn’t intend to buy.  So I have a plan for dealing with this.

When I plan to buy just a few items I enter the store with one or two of my reusable shopping bags.  My rule is that I have to use the bags to carry my items.  I can carry things in my hands and the bags but if I can’t carry it, then I can’t buy it.  I love to troll the aisles for bargains which means I usually walk out with many more items and spend way more money than I intended.  It’s a lot harder to do that when you have to carry everything.

If I’m going to do a week’s worth of shopping I’ll grab a cart, but if I really only need to pick up a few things then I become a bag lady.  Try it, you might save some money.