Winter Wonderland vs Christmas Camera

That new, beautiful camera you found under the tree is still in its box. You’re a little frightened because of all the controls and hieroglyphics placed all over the thing. You know in your heart that it has the capability of taking photos worthy of National Geographic, but in its box, at least it’s safe.

It’s time to leave your comfort zone. The camera too. You see, if you don’t PLAY with it, you will never get GOOD at it. So it’s now play time.

We have so many beautiful spots locally, and even more in winter. Ice and water can be some of the coolest subjects. Pun intended.

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Dawn’s Frosty Arrival

Here is the obligatory warning label. Don’t be stupid. These last couple below zero days remind me of a beautiful sunrise I just HAD to capture. 8 below, slippers and jammies on, sliding down the lane to the barn. As the wind began to penetrate the fleece jammies, I began to realize the “oopsie” I had just done, but I was going to tough it out.

Finding the perfect spot at the perfect moment, I got the shot. And lost a slipper in the snow. In trying to get the missing slipper on one foot, the other slid out from under me and I ended up face first in below zero snow, both slippers now missing and thoroughly frozen. I DID, however, save the camera at the expense of my back and shoulder.

My point? Dress for the foray into the cold. I could have spent those few moments dressing properly and putting boots on, and the image would still have been as good. It makes a funny story, but I wasn’t feeling very humorous when I got back to the house to find I had locked the door on my way out… The look on Janet’s face is a great subject for an entirely different story…

Second warning label. Don’t be in a hurry. Plan ahead when you can. Glass has this nasty habit of fogging up when you come in from the cold – you know this from the way your eyeglasses fog after taking the dogs out. Your camera is no different, except for the mass of the glass involved. It takes a WHOLE lot longer for the camera lenses to warm up from outside to inside than your eyeglasses do. My suggestion? Take a few minutes to warm up the car before driving to the beautiful iced waterfall.

Remember, good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from POOR judgement. I drove from home to a portrait job in an ice-cold car – and when I got to the warm location, the camera was essentially useless until it warmed up and the fog on (and inside) the lenses evaporated. If the family had been in a hurry, it wouldn’t have ended well.

Taughannock Falls is a great thing to photograph in the winter. The ice formations around the top of the falls look rather like the teeth of a prehistoric monster and the thicker ice has the hint of a beautiful blue hue. For this example (on how to do it correctly), remember to warm up the car first. Keep the camera in its bag in the car and near the heater. Don’t cook it, but keep it warm.

We’re finally there. It’s a fair walk to the base of the falls but worth it. Today is overcast – the perfect weather for Taughannock. When the sky is blue and the sun is harsh, the shadow line cuts the gorge like a knife, and it’s fair impossible to get a good photograph.

It’s time to plan the shot. Momonroe_In Winter Actionst people say it’s beautiful, snap the photo and get back to where it’s warm – but not you. You have a new fancy camera, and damn it, you’re going to take a new fancy photograph.

Ok, pay attention now, I’m going to give you the core secret of excellent photography. Ready? Ok, here goes.

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Taughannock Falls in January

“To get the image nobody else can get, you have to DO what nobody else is willing to DO.”

I find myself clambering down the bank of Taughannock Creek on to the ice, and set the tripod as low as it can go, maybe 10” off the ice. I sense the ice cracking and I can hear the burbling of the water underneath my prone body.

I squeeze the shutter slowly and I’ve got it. Well ok, I stayed and got a lot of images without moving. I didn’t dare move until I was completely done. Carefully, slowly, I edged back to the bank and struggled up the steep incline.

Here’s the last piece of advice I have for you today. When you get back to the car, your camera will be just about frozen. DO NOT put it next to the heater. Put it in the way back or at least on the back seat, in its bag. Let it warm slowly to keep it from fogging up again. You can, however, put yourself next to the heater. I’m sure you will be about frozen too.

And you won’t fog up. At least I hope you won’t.

Even with all I’ve told you about photography, visit the local falls anyway. Even the tiniest waterways are beautiful this time of year.

Enjoy our region. It’s beautiful, and it’s all within reach.

Then visit a Finger Lakes winery.


Black Willow Winery

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Black Willow” is the name of our farm. We raise a few goats and make a little cheese. The farm is named for the huge, ancient black willow trees that grow behind our house. It’s a very peaceful “natural” area.

Imagine our surprise, on leaving the Renaissance Faire, to see a booth advertising “Black Willow Winery”, and offering tastings. Our first thought was that with the name “Black Willow”, there folks must be ok, so we introduced ourselves. We were greeted warmly by John Little and chatted while tasting their wines and their excellent meads.

monroe_Black Willow-4898This year was the third time we’d encountered them at the Faire, and determined that we should meet these fine folks at their family owned and operated Lake Ontario Winery.

Being a Finger Lakes native, I had become a bit of a snob about Finger Lakes wine, and almost completely unaware of the wine trails in western New York. Black Willow Winery is about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls within an effortless walk of Lake Ontario, and part of the Niagara Wine Trail. It is a fair hike from Lansing – it took us 3 plus hours to get home – but very worth the trip.

I’m not so much of a snob any more. Just sayin’…

We arrived at the winery in the early afternoon. The storefront was all decked out for Halloween with cheery spiders, webs, pumpkins and all the stuff that says, “Good Time Inside”. Greeted by Ashley, one of the extended family who work at the winery, we felt like friends that just hadn’t met yet. She is an outgoing young lady and enthusiastic about the winery.

monroe_Black Willow-4902My first surprise was the variety of products they had for sale; wine and mead of course, but Artisan oils, vinegars and designer chocolates that appeared to be miniature works of edible art. I couldn’t taste everything, but the chocolates are high on my list next time.

The center of the tasting room is set up like a lounge for enjoying the wine and quiet conversation, surrounded by the whimsical chaach that shows the delightful sense of humor of the proprietor.

The wines are good too – this is, after all, a winery – and a meadery. A few bottles of their Reisling followed us home. Reislings seem to pick up the attitude of the winemaker, and Black Willow’s Semi Dry is serious with an aftertaste of playfulness; a feeling that keeps revealing itself to you even after it has left your pallet with memories of gentle fruit flavors.

“Odin’s Nectar” is the smoothest mead I’ve ever tasted. Not flavored by anything but the honey, it is best served warm and feels like a snuggly blanket from the inside out. Their other meads have flavorings and are best served chilled, like Valkyrie’s Lure with peach and cinnamon. Yes, both followed us home as well.

Black Willow Winery is the ongoing dream and passion of Cynthia West-Chamberlain and Michael D. Chamberlain, and is only 7 years old. For such a relatively new winery to have won awards such as New York’s Meadery of the year, and gold medals in state, national and international competitions speak to the enthusiasm and attention to detail that the owners and staff pay to their product.

Their nephew John Little gave me the “backstage tour”, explained both the history and the future growth plans. For instance, they used to use exclusively local honey, but the producers couldn’t keep up with Black Willow’s demand, so most of their honey now comes from larger producers in PA. The Diamond grapes are grown at the winery, with other varieties coming from the finger lakes and other regions within the state.

Recently they have begun hosting and catering celebrations at the winery which can be formal and elegant, or casual and intimate at their impressive fire area backed with boulder sized stones. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy the mead and gaze at the fire.
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I’ve just touched the surface of Black Willow Winery’s operation and offerings. You need to see it for yourself. Make a day trip to Niagara Falls and visit a winery or two (or three) on your way home. But make SURE that Black Willow is on your list. It is a bit of a trip, but is very much “Within Reach”!
phone: 716-439-1982

5565 West Lake Road
Burt, NY 14028

Making Christmas a Little Brighter

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On what might have been a dismal Christmas morning, more than 4,000 children received soft, furry friends, courtesy of the generous Central New York Community. The Teddy Bear Toss at the Syracuse Crunch game December 2, sponsored by Stanley Steemer of Syracuse, netted thousands of stuffed toys, and with the additional donations that continued to flow in, the number easily surpassed 4,000.

After the toys were collected from the OnCenter War Memorial Arena’s ice, they were whisked away to the Stanley Steemer building near Carrier Circle to be cleaned, disinfected, dried and refurbished as necessary – to like new condition. Once they were all spiffed up and ready, the toys were bagged and trucked to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau, held on December 20 in Shoppingtown.

We all can imagine the way a child’s eyes light up seeing a new furry friend, but it is even more important for those among us who are less fortunate. Thanks to the Salvation Army and a battalion of corporate and individual volunteers, this holiday season will be remembered for its warmth and generosity.

The Teddy Bear Toss is a significant part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau – held this year in Shoppingtown Malls first level – but it is only one piece. Books, personal care items, games, toys, balls, a complete Christmas dinner including a turkey and much more are given to families who have registered their need.

Huge plastic bags with Salvation Army emblazoned on them were filled as volunteers escorted families through the maze of gifts and necessary items. Paper bags of age-appropriate stocking stuffers, one for each child in the family, were lined up and added to the collection of items in the big bags.

The corporate sponsors from companies as diverse as Lockheed-Martin, Wegmans, Carrier, C&S Companies, TRC and more – as well as many individuals – were actively helping with large smiles on their faces.

Although the Salvation Army does their good work for our region all year round the, Christmas Bureau is the Salvation Army’s biggest event. Seven months (or more) go into the planning and logistics of the event, it is the thousands of volunteers that make it possible.

And organizations like Stanley Steemer and the Syracuse Crunch do their part to make it fun.

We are all thankful to live in this wonderful community.


A Bear’s Eye View, Teddy Bear Toss 2017

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That’s me, on the right.              Photo: Scott Thomas

“Arriving December 2’nd at the War Memorial Arena, I had no idea the journey I was about to begin. But  it was going to be special! That’s me on the right. The Teddy Bear holding the Teddy Bear.

We entered the arena and noticed that almost every seat had furry friends like me – maybe not exactly, some were bigger, most were smaller, bears, puppies, ducks and even a Minion – all sitting on their seats in anticipation. But anticipation of what?

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“4,000 of us flew to the ice”


There was a hockey game just beginning, a lot of men chasing a little black thing on the ice. Everyone was on the edge of their seats anticipating something wonderful.he next thing I knew, the crowd roared, jumped to their feet and I was flying; sailingover the glass and landing on the cool ice while thousands of my stuffed friends joined me. More and more toys flew – I thought the rain of toys would never stop. Nearly 4,000 of us landed on the ice; the start of an incredible journey to a beautiful end.

We were all gathered up by smiling and excited people. Hockey players, Pee-Wee hockey kids, men in suits and the boys who run the shovels when there are breaks in the game. I was picked up by one of the little guys in a red jersey and placed in a bag for my next trip.

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“The Little Guy in the Red Jersey” Photo: Monroe Payne

It was a cozy trailer with all of my friends snuggled around me. As we rode and bumped along, I wondered what would be happening next, and who I would meet next, and where I would eventually go.

The door opened and the light streamed in. I saw happy, smiling men in black shirts with a yellow oval on the front with the words “Stanley Steemer” printed across. Bag after bag was taken from the trailer, and I heard the muffled sounds of machinery coming from the other room.

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My Bath

Soon it was my turn and I was carried into a bright room where the same men were cleaning all my friends. I was carefully, thoroughly washed and disinfected and placed where blowers gently dried me off. As I sat there, a nice man who apparently was directing the cleaners, came and had his picture taken with me. I felt very, very special at that moment.”

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With Jeff Triciani, the Owner of Stanley Steemer of Syracuse 

Every one of the toys are special, and are destined for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau where they will become the new best friend for many of Central New York’s needy children.

This is the 7’th year that Stanley Steemer had partnered with the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club for the Teddy Bear Toss. This year, more toys were collected than any previous event, nearly 4,000, all being donated and distributed through the Salvation Army.

This charitable act is standard practice for both the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club and for Stanley Steemer. They have been working together since 2003 when the signature Stanley Steemer ice resurfacer made its debut. When the idea of the Teddy Bear Toss presented itself, both organizations enthusiastically determined to bring the event to Syracuse. This year is the 7’th Annual, and there will be many more to come.

Jeff Trisciani, owner of Stanley Steemer of Syracuse, says “This is our way to give back to the Central New York Community for supporting and blessing our business.” Jim Sarosy, COO of the Crunch echoes that sentiment, praising the loyal fans, and his players who seem to thrive on community service – when they aren’t entertaining their fans with first class hockey.

The Teddy Bear Toss is a big event – thousands of fans bringing and throwing the toys on to the ice – but it is only a tiny corner of the Salvation Army’s Christmas bureau where between three and four thousand of Central New York’s less fortunate are provided with Christmas dinner, books, toys, personal items and, of course, Teddy Bears.

The Salvation Army does its good work through the donations of time by over a thousand volunteers and the donations of money, food, and all the other things given at the Christmas bureau. Shoppingtown in DeWitt is donating the space for the bureau, Wegmans provides turkeys, food and manpower, Hess provides toy trucks and the list goes on forever.

The donations are gratefully accepted by those who need them – but in many cases, the most memorable moment will be when a child, facing the possibility of a dismal Christmas, finds a new friend waiting under the tree, courtesy of The Syracuse Crunch, Stanley Steemer and the Salvation Army.

This year’s Christmas Bureau will be held Wednesday, December 20 at the vacant JC Penney store at Shoppingtown in DeWitt. The location has the benefit of lots of parking, and ample space for people to wait, out of the Syracuse weather.

What Teddy Bears REALLY Want

They live in the shadows, barely visible.

Sometimes lost, sometimes on the back of shelves forgotten, buried under piles of outgrown toys and sometimes just left behind. They are sad, unloved, useless…

They don’t deserve this.

Once, they caused a sparkle in a youngster’s eye.
Once, they were a bedtime companion to hold.
Once, they were a confidant, a guest at a little girl’s tea party, a shoulder to cry on.

Now they sit, forgotten and forlorn, remembering the days of their usefulness and yearning to be loved once more.

And they want to fly.

Funny thing for a teddy bear to desire, to be thrown.monroe_TBT-7252

But this December 2, they will get that chance – to be thrown on to the ice when the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club scores their first goal of the game against the Bellville Senators. Their lives begin anew with that flight, starting a journey that will lead them into the waiting arms of a child that needs a new friend.

Can YOU help them begin this journey of renewal? Can YOU give a forgotten teddy bear, pound puppy, beany baby or any other stuffed toy from your home a new life? Think of the joy on a young child’s face as they discover a new friend waiting for them in what might, otherwise, be a bleak holiday season.

This is the seventh year that Stanley Steemer will partner with the Syracuse Crunch for the Tired Teddy Bear Toss. These two civic-minded organizations, led by Jeff Triciani of Stanley Steemer and Jim Sarosy of the Crunch, collect teddy bears and all manner of stuffed toys in preparation for this event, where they are distributed on the seats in the OnCenter War Memorial Arena. Some of the crunch fans bring their own collections of stuffed toys, bags full, to throw on to the ice.monroe_TBT-3000

This is the most fun anyone will ever have at a hockey game. The smiles on the faces of the fans as they throw the toys as far onto the ice as they can, and the grins of the players is a special sight.

With amazing speed, the War Memorial staff, Crunch Man, the Ice Girls and volunteers collect the toys for the next step in their journey, to the Stanley Steemer building on monroe_TBT-7344Commerce Blvd where the Stanley Steemer technicians turn their attention from professionally cleaning carpets to cleaning, refurbishing and disinfecting the thousands of Stuffed toys who began their journey with that exuberant flight.

This labor of love takes nearly a week to accomplish by four or five technicians, and owner Jeff Triciani and manager Mack Lemmon. Their considerable expertise in the task guarantee that when the toys are eventually delivered to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau at Shoppingtown, they will be in as close to “like new” condition as possible, and ready to become best friends with children from nearly 3,000 families in the Syracuse area.

This year the Salvation Army has moved the annual Christmas Bureau to the former JC Penney store in the Shoppingtown Mall from their usual venue, the OnCenter. Although the location is unfamiliar to the Christmas Bureau, it does have advantages including lots of parking and lets volunteers and individuals wait inside, and not out in the Syracuse winter.

The outpouring generosity of individuals and companies in the Syracuse area is truly astounding, as is the work of Stanley Steemer and the Salvation Army in distributing the mountains of food, books, toys and yes, teddy bears into the hands of those who truly need them.

Will YOU be a part of the generosity and the fun?

Please bring your gently used or new stuffed toys to either the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club’s office in the War Memorial Arena, or drop them off at the Stanley Steemer building, 6710 Commerce Blvd, near Carrier Circle.

For more information, or to donate, please contact Stanley Steemer at (315) 455-7148, or the Syracuse Crunch at (315) 473-4444

Why don’t YOU be part of the fun? Crunch tickets are very affordable, and can be purchased at Bring your family. Bring your holiday spirit!

And yes, by all means, bring your teddy bears!

Goose Watch Winery

Sometimes the best time to visit a winery is in the winter.monroe_Goose Watch-2522

While the rest of the world is hidden in their cubicles or huddled over their heaters, the wineries are open and welcoming of visitors – and you can actually converse with their people and learn something about the wine!

It is a cold January day, driving the 30 or so miles up the West side of Cayuga Lake to visit Goose Watch Winery. I’m making the trip expressly because of a new wine they have created; the very first from the Aramello grape. The first Aramello wine became available last year and now the 2015 vintage is available at Goose Watch exclusively.

monroe_Goose Watch-2508I don’t pretend to be a wine expert, but I’m learning. When I go to visit a winery, it is for the experience – and to maybe taste something special that I had not been introduced to before. Learning is the thing, and having fun as well is a plus. My host Janice was delighted to tell me all about the 19 year history of the winery, one of three owned by the Peterson Family. Swedish Hill and Penguin Bay are the other two,  both very special in their own right.

The tasting room is in a tastefully decorated building overlooking Cayuga Lake with a large deck – so that you can enjoy your wine outside with some cheese and good company, but I’ll leave that for a warmer day.monroe_Goose Watch-2514

Janice introduced me to their 2015 Viognier, a crisp dry white that began a bit bitter, then sweetened and flowered in the pallet to release a fruity aftertaste. It is like a Riesling, but somehow more. This wine would work wonderfully well chilled on a hot summer day in the shade, with cheese curds…

The Aramello is a new variety first planted in 1996, and is now available at Goose Watch. It is a bit like Moscato, but not as sweet. Cheeses, fresh fruit and good company work well with this luscious wine. Of course I bought some to share.

No, I’ll not talk about “legs”, “body” and all the other things wine experts talk about. I will say that I truly like the wine and the creativity Goose Watch shows with their new offerings.

monroe_Goose Watch-2517Back to Janice. I sensed the pride she feels in Goose Watch, and the satisfaction she shows in sharing its wine with visitors. Invited to take all the pictures I wanted, she suggested I walk up the hill to take in the view – and I was not disappointed. There is a pond surrounded by green meadows, ideal for weddings and events with a panorama of Cayuga Lake at our feet.

We’ll visit this place again in the summer when the grass is green, the birds are chirping and we can enjoy good times with good friends on the deck. It’s not very far – definitely within reach.

For more information, go to, or better yet, visit the winery at 5480 State Rt 89, Romulus, NY, in Seneca County. (315) 549-2599

Blue Pointe Grill

monroe_bluepointegrilleThe Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen is really quite spectacular. It was just voted the #1 best waterfront hotel by I was there looking at the hotel as an option for a convention in 2018, and it seemed to fit the bill. All the normal stuff – ballrooms, lobby, a place for registration and everything necessary for a good conference.

With the business, out of the way, we decided to visit the hotel restaurant, the Bluepointe Grille for a quick lunch before our trip back to Ithaca.

As a rule, I’m not fond of hotel food. In many cases people eat there, not because it’s great, but because it’s convenient. And your overpriced meal can be charged to your room.

With these pleasant thoughts lurking in the corners of my mind, we entered a delightful and richly appointed dining room, fireplace cheerily burning, outside light sparkling off each piece of crystal and display cases full of Finger Lakes wine.monroe_bluepointegrille-2

Good so far. Our server told us the specials of the day – roasted cauliflower soup, and an Alpine Burger platter. They sounded intriguing.

The floor started to rumble as a salt train passed about 50’ from the rear of the restaurant, between us and the magnificent view of Seneca Lake. Why I hadn’t noticed the view was probably because of the pretty lady on the other side of the table, but that’s another story altogether.monroe_bluepointegrille-3

First to arrive was the bread bowl with 3 different kinds of bread and 3 different toppings. One was plain whipped butter, another was garlic and herb whipped butter and the third – defies description. I know olives are involved, but little else. The breads were nice and warm, an exquisite olive loaf, Italian bread and a sesame flatbread.

The Roasted Cauliflower soup pleasantly surprised me with its overtones of fire – much like roasted corn absorbs the flavor of its husks on fire. The texture was similar to that of the lobster bisque I raved about last week.

monroe_bluepointegrille-4Our server brings out the Alpine Burger platters. A moment of stunned silence, and he says “Now comes the hard part – making it through these!” The burger was a veritable mountain of meat topped with bacon – lots of bacon, smothered with mushrooms and swiss cheese. The other half of the sandwich waited patiently on the other side of the plate; the top bun, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.

The fries were crunchy but soft in the middle and unlike other fries I’ve had, they truly did have a potato in their past. Just like the iced tea. Strong as a good tea should be without being bitter. Just right.

A pleasant surprise was the bill – $35 for the two of us, and I left a generous tip to a conscientious and friendly server.

I’ll have to try dinner here. If their entrees are as good as their lunch specials, we’re sure to be delighted.

The hotel and restaurant staff have the refreshing feel of “small town” friendliness and warmth. They are totally devoid of stuffiness or pretense; just genuine people doing their very best to serve you.

The web site for the restaurant is, or you can call them at (607) 535-6116. It is very worth the short trip to Watkins. You’ll be glad you did!

The address is 16 North Franklin St, Watkins Glen NY 14891, truly within reach.

Ale ‘n’ Angus Pub

Syracuse is surprisingly fun to visit. There’s always something going on, and good times can be had both on the job and in free time. Saturday evening I was contracted to photograph the annual Teddy Bear Toss at the Crunch hockey game being held in the War Memorial arena. The Syracuse Crunch’s photographer Scott Thomas invited me to join him and his wife for a meal before the game at a little corner pub across the street from the arena.monroe_alenangus-4

The unassuming establishment welcomed me with aromas of – well, beef. Really good beef. Finding my party, we chatted a bit and Scott mentioned that the “Power Play” burger, their signature dish, was voted the best in New York State two years in a row. How could I resist.

monroe_alenangus-1Instead of having fries with the burger, I requested onion rings, which I’m sure you will agree is the true measure of an establishment’s quality. While waiting for the food to arrive, the ambience began to soak in. It was a fairly full but not crowded pub, much as you would find in England, with a great time being had at the bar with good natured and occasional boisterous conversation. The Christmas decorations brightened the mood and added some color.

Although there was frivolity at the bar, it did not intrude enough to make conversation difficult. Comfortable. That’s what it is – comfortable and easy. The wait staff is attentive without being pesty;  always right there when you need them.

I didn’t get much time to look around before the dinners arrived. The menu says 8 oz burger. I think it’s far bigger, with a slice of prime rib on top for good measure. It looks like a little meat mountain… The Kaiser roll it was served in had been grilled as well, and added to the flavor rather than being merely a conveyance to get the meat to your mouth. Juices seared in perfectly, the burger defines pleasure. I was a little surprised at the rather small amount of seasoning used, but after the first bite the flavor seemed to blossom on my tongue. This is how beef is supposed to taste.monroe_alenangus-3

The onion rings were perfectly done, just crisp on the outside with the onion “meat” being well cooked but not mushy, flavorful without being obnoxious. Across the table, my friends also had the Power Play, but with the pub’s own hand made chips, delightfully crunchy with the perfect amount of seasoning.

The menu shows a selection of standard pub fare extending from fish and chips, a great variety of sandwiches, burgers and wraps up to the finer cuts of beef. The prices are reasonable with the most expensive steak being $20. My meal was less than $15 – but then, I didn’t order the Guiness.

The bar’s owner is obviously a Syracuse Crunch hockey fan and happily caters to the crowds before and after the games. Whether they are celebrating a hard fought victory or licking their wounds from a stinging loss, the Ale n Angus pub seem to make it all better.

On game nights, reservations would be a good idea. The place can fill up very quickly, I’m told.

What makes a perfect evening?

Ale ‘n’ Angus, a Guiness and a Crunch game. Doesn’t get better than this. AND, it’s within reach!, 238 Harrison St, Syracuse, NY 13202 or phone (315) 426-9672.

All Dressed Up, and Ready for Adoption

Close to 3,000 teddy bears are poised to be adopted in Central New York’s greatest event of generosity, the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau, scheduled for this Monday, December 19, 2016 at the OnCenter in downtown Syracuse.

The plush toys were collected from the ice at last Saturday’s Syracuse Crunch hockey game against the Utica Comets (The Crunch won, 4-3), and have been cleaned, repaired and refurbished at Stanley Steemer of Syracuse. Steemer’s expert technicians use their skills to clean every toy, disinfect and dry them, so that they are in as close to “like new” condition as possible.

Cleaning the Toys

Once the toys are completely done, they are bagged and transported to the OnCenter, where volunteers separate them by age-appropriateness, and bag them for distribution at the Christmas bureau.

This year, Brandon Roth of TV3 did a live remote at Stanley Steemer, showing his viewers what goes into the cleaning process, and what a major task it is. Four technicians work for several full days to prepare the mass of toys for distribution. And, of course, Brandon had fun playing with the teddy bear in army camo…

Brandon Roth and his new toy

This charitable act is standard practice for both the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club and for Stanley Steemer. They have been working together since 2003 when the signature Stanley Steemer ice resurfacer made its debut. When the idea of the Teddy Bear Toss presented itself, both organizations enthusiastically determined to bring the event to Syracuse. This year is the 6’th Annual, and there will be many more to come.

Jeff Trisciani talking with Brandon Roth of CNY Central

Jeff Trisciani, owner of Stanley Steemer of Syracuse, says “This is our way to give back to the Central New York Community for supporting and blessing our business.” Jim Sarosy, COO of the Crunch echoes that sentiment, praising the loyal fans, and his players who seem to thrive on community service – when they aren’t entertaining their fans with first class hockey.

Drying the Pile of Toys

The Teddy Bear Toss is a big event – thousands of fans bringing and throwing the toys on to the ice – but it is only a tiny corner of the Salvation Army’s Christmas bureau where between three and four thousand of Central New York’s less fortunate are provided with Christmas dinner, books, toys, personal items and, of course, Teddy Bears.

The Salvation Army does its good work through the donations of time by over a thousand volunteers and the donations of money, food, and all the other things given at the Christmas bureau. The OnCenter donates its space for the bureau, Wegmans provides turkeys, food and manpower, Hess provides toy trucks and the list goes on forever.

The donations are gratefully accepted by those who need them – but in many cases, the most memorable moment will be when a child, facing the possibility of a dismal Christmas, finds a new friend waiting under the tree, courtesy of The Syracuse Crunch, Stanley Steemer and the Salvation Army.


It Rained Cats and Dogs (and Teddy Bears, and Beany Babies, and lots more…)

The 6’th Annual Tired Teddy Bear Toss, jointly sponsored by Stanley Steemer of Syracuse and the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club is history, collecting 2,628 furry friends when Henri Ikonen scored with 6:40 left in the first period to get Syracuse on the board.

The crowd lept to its feet, roared and the deluge began with thousands of teddy bears being joyfully hurled onto the ice by the fans in yet another display of the Central New York community’s generosity. Seriously, this is the most fun that can be had at a hockey game, when fans are actually invited to throw things on to the ice.

The Syracuse Crunch help corral all the donated Teddy Bears at this year’s Teddy Bear Toss

The Crunch and Stanley Steemer have been actively collecting toys all year for the fans to throw. Many of the fans brought in their own collections in bags, happily tossing them over the glass one by one.

The biggest bear this year was a 93” plush teddy bear by HugFun which made it over the

Hamming it up before the game

tall glass owing to herculean efforts by grinning fans. He enjoyed watching the game until his moment came.

Even as the toys were flying, players from both teams, the Crunch staff and the Ice Girls all worked together efficiently to corral the bears so that the game could continue without undue delay. The toys then got counted, bagged and moved to the Stanley Steemer building where they will be cleaned, refurbished and made ready for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau next Saturday.

Cleaning and preparing the toys is a big job, but one that the crew at Stanley Steemer does with big smiles on their faces. The technicians use their considerable expertise to do a thorough job on items a lot more fun and exciting than carpets and ducts.

This Tuesday December 13, the Channel 3 remote crew will be at Stanley Steemer between 6 and 7AM, looking over the mountain of toys and showing exactly what goes into preparing them for their new homes. Be sure to watch for TV3’s Brandon Roth’s opportunity to play with that huge bear. The Ice Girls sure liked it…

Both Jeff Trisciani owner of Stanley Steemer of Syracuse and Jim Sarosy, COO of the crunch say that this event is one way that they can give back to the community that has supported them for so long.

You can find the video on Twitter,, and more information on the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau at