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When there’s nothing going on, go to Sea Breeze!

21 Jan

I’m in one of those blog droughts, when good ideas are few and far between. But I really don’t like letting the blog sit fallow for several days on end. So here’s my back-up plan: another East Extra Afterthoughts installment.

Afterthoughts is a new, completely separate blog, where I’m reposting some of my favorite columns from when I was the Our Towns East Extra columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle.

I came up with this particular column idea when I had to find SOMETHING about Irondequoit to write about. Since I don’t often get up into the Sea Breeze area, even during the summer, I decided it would be fun to check out what the area is like in the winter … if, actually, anything much happens when Seabreeze Amusement Park is closed.

The original column was published Jan. 10, 2014, in the middle of winter, so I thought it would be appropriate to revisit it today.


Seeing a surprising side of Sea Breeze

I’ll wager that most of us think we know Sea Breeze pretty well. At least summertime Sea Breeze, anyway.

But life’s a whole lot different this time of year up there, where Culver Road meets the lake.

The constant clatter of roller coasters has quieted, the patio tables and chairs at Vic and Irv’s are stacked in a corner, and the warm summer breezes have been replaced by stinging winter winds.

But don’t think for a second that when Seabreeze Amusement Park closes up for the winter, the Sea Breeze neighborhood turns into a ghost town. That was my thinking when I visited there a few weeks ago. I actually wondered if any of the neighborhood’s businesses would even be open. I figured that when winter hits, they roll up their sidewalks and hibernate for a few months.

But then I walked into the Parkside Diner, and realized I was very wrong.

Click here to go to Afterthoughts and read the rest of the post.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

It’s Girl Scout cookie time!

13 Jan

Hooo boy, this is going to be dangerous.

The Girl Scouts are going all-in with their online sales this year, thanks in large part (I’m sure) to this never-ending pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to find it much easier to pull out a credit card for my cookie order than try to scrounge up cash. Which, of course, facilitates the purchase of more Girl Scout cookies than a normal body needs. (AND you can get them delivered right to your house in just about a week.)

I’ve had a regular cookie connection for many years, ever since we lived in North Penfield across the street from Annalise, who sold us cookies every year before we moved to the village.

But even though we weren’t neighbors anymore, I knew where she lived, so I still tracked her down when cookie time rolled around. This year it’s so much easier — all I have to do is visit her personal cookie-selling website to get my fix of Thin Mints and Shortbreads. Anna’s little sister Adelia is a Brownie now as well, so I’m going to have to split my order … or maybe just buy more.

The Scouts are being encouraged to record promotional videos this year as well. I think that’s pretty neat in that it gives these young ladies a little public speaking experience. If you’re at all interested, here’s Anna’s video, and here’s Adelia’s.

I hope you also have a regular Girl Scout cookie connection. Or perhaps you wait until you can grab some boxes in March when they’ve set up tables outside local businesses. But if you can’t wait and really need a source, feel free to visit Adelia’s or Anna’s cookie ordering sites.

And if you really DON’T like Girl Scout cookies, there’s still a way you can support the organization’s goals and the opportunities they provide for the girls. It’s a program called “Cookie Share,” where you can purchase some boxes to be donated. Usually these go to local military organizations.

Thin Mint fan or not, I encourage everyone to support the Girl Scouts. They do so many neat things with these young ladies. Adelia’s mom Jess told me the trips her daughter’s been on already include visits to the Planetarium, Ginna and the George Eastman Museum. Plus, she’s taken an engineering class at the U or R and sampled karate and yoga.

I don’t remember having anywhere near that much fun when I was a Camp Fire Girls Bluebird back in the day.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

Fairport, Ohio? Webster, Mass.?

10 Jan

Today I invite you all to check out the latest installment of my East Extra Afterthoughts blog.

Afterthoughts is a new, completely separate blog, where I’m reposting some of my favorite columns from when I was the Our Towns East Extra columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle.

The column I’ve chosen today was one I came up with in desperation. I had no idea what I was going to write that week, so I had to get creative. It was a fun little research project which I hoped would interest my readers no matter where they lived.

Game with town names yields results

Have you ever searched the Internet for your name? It’s fun to see how many of you there are in the world.

I did that for our towns. I wondered if there are more Brightons in the United States (lots). If Irondequoit, with its Iroquois-inspired name, is the only one in existence (yes).

It was an entertaining exercise. Here (with help from Google, Mapquest and Wikipedia) is what I found out.

Click here to go to Afterthoughts and read the rest of the post.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

Woodland Silkscreen & Embroidery a spicy addition to Webster business scene

9 Jan

One of the Village of Webster’s newest businesses is also one of its oldest.

Woodland Silkscreen & Embroidery joined the village’s West Main St. business corridor less than a year ago, but the shop at 5 West Main (lower level) is only the newest location for a business which has been around for more than 70 years.

You might recognize the Woodland name from its many years on Rt. 104 in Ontario. Owner Laurie Read operated the business there — in three separate locations near the Ontario Animal Hospital — for 30 years. But Woodland Printing was founded well before that, when her father Arnie started the business in his home on Shoemaker Rd. more than 70 years ago.

Laurie took over part of the business when she left Kodak, and got even more involved when Arnie decided to retire. She built the business through the years, including moving it out of the house to Ontario 20 years ago.

Her most recent relocation into Webster last March wasn’t her decision (her landlord in Ontario decided he needed the space for something else), but the move has turned out to be one of the best she’s made to date. Not only did it mean coming back to her hometown, but her highly visible, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-village location facing Gazebo Park has been great for business.

“I love it here,” she said.  “I was mad that I was being booted from my other place. I had fears, but since I’ve been here, it’s been great. Everyone is so nice and friendly, I love being part of the BID, I’m part of the Chamber now. I love being back here.”

The spicy side of Woodland

Visitors to Woodland will also discover a surprising, spicy side to the shop. When Laurie moved to her new location, she brought her OHHH, LORDEE! Everything Sauces with her.

Laurie can also thank her father Arnie for introducing her to homemade hot sauce — it’s his original recipe, which she’s been making on her own for years. But for a while now, Laurie and her best friend Denise Jones have been bottling the sauces, following a chance phone conversation they had one day when Laurie was cooking up a batch. Denise was immediately intrigued. When she eventually had a chance to try the sauce, she fell in love.

“She immediately said, ‘Oh my god, we’re bottling it,'” Laurie remembered. “We’re doing it, nothing’s stopping us.” With that, OHHH, LORDEE! was born.

The friends currently have five sauce varieties, ranging from mild (“Cloud 9”) to killer hot (“Devil’s Ecstasy”). Laurie describes the sauces as “different from anything out there,” with flavors that complement everything from chili and scrambled eggs to macaroni and cheese and Hawaiian pizza.

The sauces are available at Woodland Silkscreen, but also can be purchased at several locations in the area, including Hegedorn’s, Costanzas, Joe’s Meat Market in Ontario, Breens in Palmyra and Williamson, and others. To see a whole list and find out more, click here.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

Everyone has a story — this is mine

1 Jan

Today, I invite all my readers once again to check out my brand new, completely separate blog which I call East Extra Afterthoughts, where I’ll be reprinting some of my favorite columns from when I was the Our Towns East Extra columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle.

Today’s entry was not actually one of my columns. Instead, it was from a blog I wrote in December 2019. But it does have a nice follow-up story — or as I’m calling it, an afterthought. And for those of you who are new to my blog, it’s kind of a nice introduction to me and why I do what I do.


The power of words

I was a junior in high school when my English teacher said four words that changed my life.

She told me, “You’re a good writer.”

I still remember exactly where I was standing after class that day, and how proud those simple words made me feel. But I didn’t realize then how powerful they were, how much they would shape my future. Because from that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write. …

Click here to go to Afterthoughts and read the rest of the post.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

A short silly blog for fun

29 Dec

I happened to be going through some of my past blogs recently, and came across this one, which made me giggle. I thought you might like to see it again — or for the first time. I took the photos one morning last December when I was headed to the old Irondequoit Rec Center on Pinegrove Ave.


We all could use a little laugh right about now as Christmas-time stress compounds the stress we already have thanks to COVID.

So I thought I’d share these images with you, of a scene I came across in Irondequoit last weekend. All I could think was, “Arlo Guthrie told us all about the ‘Thanksgiving Day Massacree.’ How come we haven’t heard anything about this obvious Christmas Day Massacree?”

It got worse when I got to the Rec Center, where I saw clear evidence of a hit-and-run.

Just keep swimming, folks.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

If there’s snow on the ground….

24 Dec

…that means it’s time for the first barefoot snow walk of the year.

I’m posting this today because I know a lot of people expect these photos every year. It’s a tradition handed down for generations from my paternal grandmother (Gia Gia), who originated the challenge about 75 years ago. One day in the dead of winter, she took off her shoes and socks and tromped barefoot in the snow to the far side of her yard and back. It was a distance of perhaps 100 feet each way. Pretty much every year since, my family has been holding annual barefoot snow walks whenever we get together for the holidays.

The photo below is of a Christmas-time snow walk we did in 2018. We called it the “deep freeze” walk because we were experiencing record low temperatures that day.

Even when we don’t get together — and we haven’t been gathering much lately — we still try to find any excuse to carry on the tradition. Like my Gia Gia’s birthday, or my mother’s birthday.

Or the first significant snowfall of the year.

Last year since we didn’t even come close to getting together for Christmas, we actually did an extended family barefoot snow walk via Zoom, which included my children in Cheektowaga and Gates; brothers in Pennsylvania and Connecticut; my sister in Greene (NY); my aunt and uncle in Cape Cod; nephew in Massachusettes; even my cousins in Corning and Arizona (where my cousin Laura put her feet in the pool).

Here’s the video from that craziness:

I hope you and yours can enjoy your family traditions this year. If you do anything particularly fun and crazy, let me know about it!

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

And now for something completely different…

19 Dec

I’d like to introduce a brand new feature today.

I’m calling it East Extra Afterthoughts, a completely separate blog page where I’m reprinting some of my favorite columns from when I was the Our Towns East Extra columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle.

In seven years, from April 2013 to March 2020, I wrote 350 columns about interesting and inspirational people, places and events from all over northeast Rochester. When the D&C discontinued the Our Towns columns, I was determined that all my hard work would not be lost. So I squirreled away several dozen of my favorites.

Recently, as I looked back through them, I started wondering about many of the people and places I featured. What are the people doing now? Are those businesses still in business? How did COVID affect that annual fundraiser?

Those questions led directly to the creation of East Extra Afterthoughts.

Once a month or so, I’ll post one of my old columns to that page, and provide an interesting (I hope) update on where that story went after its original publication.

Normally I plan to post just an introductory paragraph or two here, then invite you to click through to Afterthoughts for the rest of the story. But for this first installment, I’ll post the entire column and follow-up here. Today, as this is the holiday season, I look back at the American St. Nicholas.


In this column, originally published on Dec. 24, 2017, I interviewed Pittsford resident Richard Brookins, famous all around the country — and world — as the “American St. Nick.”

I picked up this column idea from a notice I saw on the Webster Museum website about a presentation Brookins was giving there on Dec. 9. I got some contact information from the folks at the museum and arranged to meet with him at his Pittsford home.

We sat at his kitchen table and he almost immediately made it clear that he didn’t trust reporters much. He had been interviewed hundreds of times about his experience, and too often found the subsequent articles were filled with inaccuracies.

As it was, every time a column of mine was published, I would worry that I had gotten something wrong or the subject wouldn’t like it. So his warnings made me that much more nervous.

Fortunately, he liked the article very much.

Pittsford WWII veteran brought joy to European village as American St. Nick

Here’s a charming holiday story, about a Christmas gift delivered to the children of war-torn Luxembourg. It’s been told many times, but its simple message of holiday joy deserves recounting.

The story stars Richard Brookins, a 95-year old World War II veteran currently living in Pittsford. Brookins has gained international fame thanks to one day almost 75 years ago, when he forever became known as the “American St. Nick.”

The story begins in December 1944. Private Brookins, then just 22 years old, and his buddies with the 28th Infantry Division had regrouped in Wiltz, Luxembourg, after helping drive out the German army. It was a fairy-tale-beautiful village, but the residents had suffered under the German occupation.

“The Germans just took over their life,” Brookins remembered. “They threw them out of their homes, took their possessions and the houses … They took away all their cultural things.”

The Germans also refused to allow the people to celebrate one of their most treasured holidays: St. Nicholas Day.

After hearing some of these stories from a local resident, Brookins’ friend Harry Stutz came up with the idea of hosting a St. Nicholas Day party for the children of the village. For gifts, the GIs pooled some of candy and gum they regularly received from the government. The cooks made cookies, and the nuns made a cake.

Still, one thing was missing: St. Nicholas himself. Stutz asked Brookins to do the honors.

“All you have to do is walk around, pat the kids on the head, chuck them under the chin, smile at ‘em, that’s all,” Stutz said. So Brookins agreed.  

The nuns provided Brookins with a priest’s surplice (which had to be returned by 4 p.m. for Mass), a bishop’s miter, a broken and taped-up shepherd’s crook and a rope beard.

As St. Nicholas made his rounds, the children sang and performed skits. Not knowing the language, he couldn’t say much, so he just patted them on the head and chucked them under the chin. But that was plenty.

“They just really thought this was St. Nicholas,” Brookins said. “They were speechless.”

That day came and went, and the GIs and townspeople went back to their normal lives. Brookins eventually went home, mostly forgetting about the whole event.

Then in 1977, he received a letter from an official in Wiltz.

“He wanted to have a special activity, and wondered if I could come back and be St. Nicholas.” So that December, he and his family all made the trip back to Luxembourg.

“You couldn’t believe it,” Brookins remembered. “People were standing in line to see this goofy old guy, 55 years old.” To them, “I was America.”

This time, Brookins wore a professionally-made cloak, carried a steel shepherd’s crook painted gold, and sported a much more realistic beard.

“It was really an upgrade,” Brookins said. “I really looked like royalty.”

Brookins has returned to Wiltz to reprise his role seven times since then. Many residents, now in their 80s and 90s, remember when the American St. Nick gave them candy back in 1944.

Wiltz continues to celebrate St. Nicholas Day every year, and is already planning the 75th anniversary of that first visit. Brookins doesn’t bet on being around for that celebration, but several of his family members are already saving up to make the trip.

As often as he’s shared this story, Brookins makes sure to pass off most of the credit.

“I do this in honor of the guys who did all the work, for all of my buddies who aren’t here. They earned it. I didn’t have to do anything but chuck ‘em under the chin and pat ‘em on the head.”

But he added, “I just can’t tell you, as much as I try to, what meaning it has.”

In this image from Dec. 5, 1944, Richard Brookins rides a jeep through Wiltz, Luxembourg in his first of many appearances as St. Nicholas Photo Courtesy the WWII Foundation 

Richard Brookins, the “American St. Nick,” is now 95 years old and lives in Pittsford. 


As it turned out, Brookins wasn’t, in fact, around for the 75th anniversary. He passed away on Oct. 11, 2018, less than a year after my column. He was 96 years old.

The people of Wiltz, Luxembourg still celebrate the story of the American St. Nick every year, and did host a 75th anniversary celebration in 2019. Click here to read more about that, and see a few more photos from the time when some American GIs brought a Christmas miracle to war-torn Luxenbourg.

The anniversary was also commemorated in October of 2019 by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, located in Belgium, Wisconsin. You can read more about that here.

Finally, click here to check out my new East Extra Afterthoughts page. There’s also a link in the right-hand column on this page. Then watch for more features to come.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

“Steel Magnolias” by OFC Creations will feature a rising star from Webster

16 Dec

When OFC Creations Theatre Center in Brighton stages its production of Steel Magnolias in January, Webster residents will see a familiar face onstage.

Natalia Stornello, a junior at Webster Thomas High School, has been cast in the lead role of socialite M’Lynn Eatenton, played by Sally Field in the 1989 movie re-make of the 1987 stage play.

The story is set in a small-town Louisiana hair salon, where a colorful and outspoken group of women gab about their neighbors and town, and have to come to grips with the death of one of their own.

Tackling the character of M’Lynn is just the latest in a long line of theater credits for Natalia. According to her very proud mother Amy, Natalia has been acting since she was six years old, from Schlegel Elementary School through Thomas. She’s also performed with NTID Performing Arts, RIT Players, the Multi-Use Community Cultural Center, and A Magical Journey Through Stages youth theater. Last summer she spent six weeks at Stella Adler’s Acting Studio in New York City.

Natalia has also completed many film projects for RIT film students in their new MAGIC Spell Studios. One of those productions, called Bond, recently won an award at the Buffalo Film Festival.

I sense that this young lady will be one to keep an eye on.

Steel Magolias will be presented at the OFC Creations Theatre Center, 3450 Winton Place, Brighton, in four shows January 14 through 16. General admission tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

Museum’s Tree Festival awaits your votes

6 Dec

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Webster Museum.

I mean, they don’t just have one or two Christmas trees set up, they have 11 them, four-foot tall artificial trees placed on the counters, in the classroom, and tucked among the exhibits all through the museum.

The trees are part of the museum’s annual Festival of Trees Christmas tree decorating contest, where individuals, families and organizations adopt trees, decorate them however they like, then put them out there for community members to vote on for a chance to win a $25 prize.

All of the trees have been decorated and are on display, awaiting visitors’ votes. Votes will be accepted through the end of December.

The Webster Museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. They’re open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Call 585-265-3308 for more information.

I’ve put photos of some of the trees here, but you’ll want to visit the museum to see the rest of them. Or, you can see all the trees and vote on the Webster Museum website.

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email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@missyblog)

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.