Embracing the cold: Warming up to Jack Frost’s long and wind-chilled kiss - The Buffalo News
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Embracing the cold: Warming up to Jack Frost’s long and wind-chilled kiss

As this January’s bitter single-digit chill seeped through winter coats, kept runners in and the cat from wanting out, Buffalonians either embraced the cold or found ways to think warm.

Find the cold bracing? Like it hot?

Take your pick.

We know there’s fun in making the best of the deep freeze.

Whether it’s escaping into the tropical warmth of the Buffalo Zoo’s Rainforest exhibit or gliding on a pair of free rental skates at the new Martin Luther King Park skating rink, we’re not letting winter beat us down.

“We’re just a hardy bunch,” said Thomas Hererra-Mishler, president of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “A little bit of cold weather doesn’t slow us down. I think we’re excellent role models for the rest of the nation for how to enjoy cold weather. It’s actually our responsibility.”

At Delaware Park, Jack Frost’s long, frozen kiss has lent new promise to Saturday’s Flurrious! festival. Even if forecasters get it right and the weather warms ice to slush this weekend, there should still be plenty of material for the snowman competition, and for an “extreme” winter version of the Harry Potter-inspired Quidditch tournament.

Impatient for spring?

Head to East Aurora tonight for a $15-a-ticket Caribbean Party at the Roycroft Inn, transformed with tropical flower décor, rum drinks with umbrellas, fried plantains, conch chowder and a 20-piece steel drum band.

Or take a lesson from fourth-graders at Grand Island’s Huth Road Elementary School: Study the weather.

Kids have taken an interest in tracking the snowiest cities across the country as they play “Fantasy Snowfall League.” Student teams with names like “Snowball” and “Whiteout” are now almost halfway into a 10-week season, tallying inches in hopes that they have the snowiest combination.

“I want to see who wins … I like seeing how much snow people are getting … I love winter,” said Sophia Steck, 9, of the Blizzards, with Denver, Binghamton and Albany on their roster. “I would definitely pick Syracuse or Buffalo,” she said. “Denver has been the same thing for three weeks.”

Some, like Kathleen Riley, have sought refuge from the cold in hot, steaming bowls of soul-warming soup.

“I’m utterly sick of the snow and cold,” she said, while lunching with a friend, enjoying a generous bowl of ramen noodle soup at Elmwood Avenue’s Sato Japanese restaurant, winner of three soup awards last weekend in the Buffalo Soup-Fest competition.

So far this week, Riley has had soup at her parents’ home and the Pho 99 Vietnamese restaurant on Bailey Avenue, she said.

Soup, along with running on the treadmill and good company, have helped her cope with the cold, she said.

Need more inspiration? Here are a few things to help you make it to the other side of the polar vortex:

• The Buffalo Museum of Science added an interactive game about what bugs do in winter to its bug exhibit.

The little critters hide, adapt and move to someplace warm, but for humans, Science Learning Manager Brian Enright, suggests going outside and trying winter experiments.

“With such frigid temperatures you get a chance to see how the freezing cold temperatures affect so many different things,” he said. “All of them are pretty neat to do.”

He suggested some cold weather science tricks for both kids and grownups, including hammering a nail with a frozen banana. Or, blowing bubbles in the extreme cold. When temperatures are freezing, soap bubbles freeze, too. Depending how cold they are, they can even shatter like glass. “The bubble solution allows the water to stay in the circle shape even when water molecules freeze,” he said.

To see how animals use fat to stay warm, make a “blubber glove.” Line a small plastic sandwich bag with Crisco. Slip another bag over the coated part. Put a hand inside, plunge it in snow and notice the warm, insulated effect. Enright’s favorite: Boil a cup of maple syrup with a stick of butter for about five minutes, or to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour it on some clean snow. The sugar cools and gets thick. Eat it like taffy.

“It’s like the best thing ever,” Enright said. “Especially right now.”

• The Community Table soup kitchen and food pantry at 185 Southside Parkway in South Buffalo will host a “can mob” for the warmhearted from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Food and toiletries are being collected for people in need as part of a “flash mob”-inspired “can mob.”

“Rather than cash, we’re asking for cans,” said Debi Coffee, a member of community action organization South Buffalo CREW. “Stay, socialize … Come in out of the cold and get a hot cup of coffee, tea and doughnuts.”

For more information, check southbuffalocrew.com.

• The Family Garden at the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens on South Park Avenue is one of the warmest greenhouses. There’s a tree with tiny bananas and a ponderosa lemon tree with “lemons the size of your head,” said Kristy Blakely, director of education.

On Saturday, in anticipation of Groundhog Day on Sunday, kids can make “dirt cakes” with pudding cups and cookie crumbs to resemble a burrow and groundhog, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ask for the scavenger hunt list at the front desk and look for the chocolate tree with flowers and chocolate pods on the trunk that resemble “weird-looking” melons.

• The Buffalo Zoo’s Rainforest exhibit is “a little vacation trip when you’re still at home,” said Malia Somerville, general curator.

There are bright birds to look for, like the flaming Scarlet Ibis, and more discreet beauties, like the turquoise Motmot with blue tailfeathers that stop and then extend into a dangle, like a pair of earrings.

Linger in the moist, tropical heat inside the exhibit and it’s easier to notice subtle slow-moving creatures like the armadillo, anaconda water snake, turtles and caiman, an alligator relative.

“The longer you sit,” said Somerville, “the more you’ll see.”

• Skate with free rentals and lessons from park staff at the rink on the restored Martin Luther King Park pond at Best Street and Fillmore Avenue. If it’s cold enough for ice, it’s open from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. during the week and noon to 5:30 p.m. on the weekends.

“Everybody can go skating again,” said Hererra-Mishler. “They’re coming from all over the region … It’s pretty awesome.”

• Run in a “fun run” around Ring Road and play volleyball, kickball and tennis in the snow at the Flurrious! festival in Delaware Park. Warm up at the fireplace in Parkside Lodge, and children can make snowflake cut-outs. Sip beer and soup while bands play in the “brews and stews” tent. Check bfloparks.org for the event schedule and registration.

“I think that just the camaraderie of being out in the snow ... There’s something so Buffalo about it,” said Hererra-Mishler. “It’s like a great big family reunion.”

No matter what turn the weather takes, Buffalonians adapt.

Daniel Garvey marvels at the turnout at the recurring Caribbean Party at the Roycroft.

Even on the coldest nights, they “still come in their swimsuits and Hawaiian shirts,” said Garvey, director of the inn’s food and beverages.

Tonight some 100 to 200 good-natured revelers are expected to arrive for the 6 to 11 p.m. fete, listen to the Lancaster Middle School’s Carnival Kids Steel Orchestra and polish off the mango dip, coconut shrimp and Jamaican-style jerk pork. They just embrace it,” he said. “It’s so cool to watch it. They don’t care about the cold.”

email: mkearns@buffnews.com

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