Niagara Gazette

December 30, 2013

RESOLUTIONS: Resolve to learn something new in 2014

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — With the New Year come all sorts of resolutions to fix the problems we have with our lives.

We resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, become more organized and be more financially responsible. In short, we focus on the negative.

But what if instead of — or in addition to — these typical New Year’s goals, we take a more positive approach and try to add a new skill or hobby? Have you said you’ve been meaning to take up knitting for 15 years now? How about that plan to finally learn the piano? What about something daring, like learning to pilot a plane?

Here are some fun — and quirky — ways to add to your life in the New Year.

Learn the ukulele

John Radice, of Buffalo, began teaching the ukulele as part of Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Community Education this semester and he was presently surprised by the response his class at Kenmore West garnered.

Some 24 people showed up for the first gathering, many of whom signed up for next semester’s intermediate class.

Radice said the ukulele is the perfect instrument for anyone who’s completely new to music.

“The perfect instrument is the ukulele because you don’t have to know (how to read) music to play it. All you have to have is the desire,” he said. “Music is one of those universal languages we like to speak, but we have made ourselves believe we can’t.”

He said the ukulele has been growing in popularity in recent years thanks to the likes of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and classical ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro.

Classes begin Jan. 14.

Learn to cook

Lucia Malo is teaching fruit carving at Niagara University.  It’s a skill that can turn a watermelon into a baby shower centerpiece and an apple into a flower.

“I carve apples to look like hibiscus,” she said. “It probably takes about ten minutes.”

Her class is one of many cooking classes offered by the Continuing Education program at the college. The cost for a one-night session is $39.

Virginia Garcia, of the college’s continuing education department, says the cooking classes fill up quickly.

“Since TV has been doing all those cooking shows, it’s gotten unbelievable,” she said of the community response. “People are really interested in the different recipes and techniques.”

Class choices include cake and cupcake decorating, side dishes and starters, seafood basics, and of course, fruit carving.

To see the wide variety of classes in a range of subjects offered to the community in the 2014 winter semester call 286-8181 or visit online at

Become an artist

You can feed your inner artist over at Lockport’s Market Street Art Center.

The center offers a variety of art classes — from pastels to oils to watercolors.

And if you think you might be the next John Grisham or Stephen King, you can learn how to self-publish with a class at the art center, as well.

Instructor Mike Miller shares his expertise with budding authors, and explains why today’s POD — print/publish on demand — is very different from the “vanity press” of years past.

Get fit

At Lockport’s Dale Association, they teach a variety of classes for all ages, but many of the activities are geared toward an older demographic.

And you’re never to old to get in shape or learn something new. According to Patricia Quirk, marketing coordinator at The Dale, a brand new and very popular class is Qi Gong — pronounced “chee gung.”

“Qi Gong can be done sitting or standing, much like Tai Chi and yoga, it combines slow and sustained movements with controlled breathing,” Quirk explains.

Take up the hula hoop

Again, through Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Community Education, one can learn the art of the hula hoop. Yes, folks, there can be more to it than just twirling a giant hoop on your hips.

Lesta Ammons, of the Town of Tonawanda, teaches hula hooping fundamentals at Roosevelt Elementary School in Kenmore.

Ammons said she took up the hobby two years ago after she broke her foot.

“I wanted (to do) something so I wouldn’t dissolve into a puddle of fat, but I couldn’t put pressure on my foot,” she said.

She said she plans to teach her students how to hoop on their hips, head arm, how to walk while hooping and how to do some tricks.

“I’m hoping they will learn to love this as much as I do and rekindle the fun in fitness because it makes it fun ... you’re not trudging on the treadmill. It’s restores that element of play that people don’t get from a lot of other types of fitness activities,” she said.

Classes begin Jan. 14.

Take to the skies

Gloria Green was 10-years-old when she took her first plane ride. Right then, she knew she’d fly planes someday.

Green, of North Tonawanda, was 25 she took her first flight lesson. Today, at 33, she’s the chief flight instructor at Prior Aviation in Buffalo.

“Flying lessons are not cheap,” she said. “But if it’s something you really want to do, you find a way to make it work.”

The cost of getting a pilot’s license can run about $15,000, she said. But, some people enroll at Jamestown Community College to get certified, and that makes them eligible for grants, financial aid and student loans. For more information about flight school, call Green at Prior Aviation at 633-1000.

Start a business

Ever dream of saying things like “you’re hired,” or “you’re fired?” Perhaps this is the year to start your own business.  Sometimes, all it takes is an small investment of time to get the nerve to jump in with both feet.

In 1999 Mary Jo Cornell took her first SCORE class. She had just opened her own sercurity company called Linstar.

“I was looking for advice about recruiting and human resources policies, initially,” she said. “What I discovered was an entire network of experienced executives who were eager to work with me and seemed personally delighted in my company’s success as it continued to grow.”

Today, her company, which specializes in security systems, has locations in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany.  

“My SCORE advisor, Bill Danesi, has become a trusted confidante that I am privileged to also call a friend,” she said.

For those who might like to experience the support Cornell has enjoyed, there is a day-long workshop Jan. 9 for those interested in learning how to start a business. The session, sponsored by SCORE and the Small Business Administration, will be held at the North Tonawanda Library. Cost is $30 and veterans are free.

Joy Smith of SCORE says this class is perfect for “big thinkers, dreamers, and small and medium business owners who just need some advice from experts.”

Attendees will learn about business planning, marketing, market research, legal structures, insurance, taxes and more.   For reservations go to

Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes and features editors Anne Calos and Michele DeLuca contributed to this report. Contact them at