Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Christmas decorating begins

Today I decorated the mantel for Christmas for what I believe to be the first time in my life.

I mean, I had decorated it before with Candle-Lite candles and whatnot. But it has always been kind of slapdash, as Jeoffry, above, has clearly realized.

Today for the first time, I got some garland and mounded it on the mantel and put lights with it.

Which looks pretty good if I may say so myself.

I am playing host to our Christmas carolers this week so I need the house to be festive. We had great success last year and so this year we are feeling our oats and thinking of adding to our repertoire. We are dreaming of "In Dulci Jubilo" and the Gloucestershire Wassail.

Our surroundings must be right! Next I will go about putting up the tree. I might do it right now. I might wait till tomorrow. For tonight I might just rest on my laurels, you know?

I have a rule I am abiding by and that is to use what is in my house. That explains the colored lights. I know white lights are more tasteful. But colored lights were what I had and you know what? I like them.

I make no apologies!

Recently watching one of those corny Hallmark Christmas movies, about which more later, I saw a comment from someone in ... Denmark, I think it was. One of those countries.

He wrote: "You Americans, do you all decorate your houses like that? I think it is ugly."

It did not matter that a few minutes before, I might have agreed that the houses were overdone. All of a sudden I grew defensive.

What a rude jerk!

Butt out, plain Dane!

Go back to your hygge!

We will decorate our homes as we see fit. All of a sudden I want to overdecorate my house and I will not stop until it is done.

Wassail, wassail!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A farewell on Hertel Avenue

The Kmart on Hertel and Delaware has closed and overnight, the sign came down.

It is harrowing to see.

Whereas in my sketch of Kmart the lot was filled with life ...

.... now all is bare and desolate.

What with the building knocked down yesterday that is two of my art subjects that have disappeared in the space of a couple of days. I mean, with Kmart we knew it was coming, but still. When it actually happens that does not make it easier to take!

Howard wondered if our friend Ryan had bought the big sign. But no, he had not.

Another friend had gone in early on hoping to buy one of the interior signs but they were all gone.

I should have drawn the interior of the Kmart. I should have drawn everything in it.

On account of you never know!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A farewell on Ellicott Street

As I wrote on Facebook today, I love sketching around Buffalo because I like to celebrate what we have. It makes me so sad when something I've drawn passes into history.

Today downtown I saw that this old building on Ellicott Street was destroyed. My friend Meghan and I were going from St. Michael's to Starbucks to sketch and we thought at first it was a fire. But we have since learned it was an emergency demolition because of neglect. The landlord had neglected this building and the roof began to cave in.

This is the sweet building with the peaked roof on the right in the sketch I did standing on the sidewalk last summer, of the block with Maureen's Flowers.

Darn it all! That is what I wrote on Facebook and one friend complimented me on my resistance to bad language.

Now I am officially like Charles Burchfield and his "Rainy Night" building. The buildings next to the main corner "Rainy Night" building are gone but they live on in his picture.

This building lives on in mine.

It is bittersweet because now, looking at the picture, it is like seeing a ghost. I remember that beautiful summer day I drew the sketch, from the sidewalk across the street. When you look at the sketch now I see that the building that came down today, the picture would not work without it. That roof added height and variety. And I admired the roof. I got in the little details that made it so cute.

We are all railing about this on Facebook and another point I made on a friend's page is that to make matters worse it is on a prominent downtown street. There is a gap now that cannot be filled.

Our friend the photographer Phil Pantano took that picture of the loss. Horrible. He ran it side by side with the sketch. I will not do that because No. 1 it is heartbreaking and No. 2 I do not have the technical know-how.

Buffalo! I love the place but sometimes....

Can you stand it?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Happy cat

For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

That is a line from "My Cat Jeoffry" and I found myself saying it because, well, our cat Jeoffry is better.

He had a cold for a few days and was sneezing alarmingly. He was not quite snoozing a lot. He was still on his feet. But you could tell he was not his true self.

He became his true self at a most inconvenient time of course when I had just cleaned off my desk and was trying to get work done.

How was I to interrupt him when he was scanning the yard below looking for the groundhog?

"Is there a groundhog?" We ask him that.

"Is there a Chihuahua?" Poor Jeoffry was down with his cold and scarcely noticed the Chihuahua at Thanksgiving dinner. Now that is it for the Chihuahua until next Thanksgiving! Our friend Larry's mother brought the dog and there will not be another chance for Jeoffry to see them again until next year. I keep thinking the Chihuahua is a he but it is a she. Her name is Precious.

Precious is precious and so is Jeoffry.

For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

Our cat is once again complete!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving hacks

So this year I had my best Thanksgiving ever. Honest, it was great.

Last week reading back on old Thanksgivings I kept remembering how stressful a lot of them were! But this year ... What went right?


One thing, I have discovered a variety of Thanksgiving hacks. Some by accident. This year...

1. I roasted the turkey the night before. Never had it occurred to me to do this, but I read online where you could do it, and so I did it. My sister brought over a home-raised turkey on Wednesday, and by Wednesday night that big bird was cooked and sliced up and wrapped up in the fridge. And the bones were making stock in a Crock Pot. Why the heck not? You never see the big roasted turkey anyway. That vision of the turkey on the table, venerated by all, that is only in books and magazines. I used the stock for stuffing. Which leads me to hack No. 2 ...

2. Cook the stuffing separately from the turkey. I used to be a total purist about this because darn it, I grew up with stuffing in the turkey, and that's how it should be. But I changed my mind. I did the stuffing in another Crock Pot with this bread my brother George brought over from the Turkey Trot. It was the best stuffing I ever made and there were no leftovers.

You could also use your fresh stock for gravy however I did not do that because...

3.  I had made the gravy in advance!! Always do that. Gravy is not hard to make but it is hard when you are tripping over kids and a cat and people are racing through the kitchen and the turkey is out of the oven and everyone is hungry.

4. Make your red cabbage in advance. You don't make red cabbage? You should. Red cabbage and apples is our tradition. That is the German version and goes great with turkey. The Polish have a cousin to this version which does not have apples but has something else, I forget what, but I am sure it is yummy. Anyway, whatever version you make, do it in advance and put it into another Crock Pot.

5. The potatoes were cooked on the stove and mashed up with butter in a fourth Crock Pot. Needless to say these were Smashed Potatoes. I cannot peel eight pounds of potatoes, absolutely cannot.

6.  My niece Barbara came over and helped me get ready. That is she in the picture up above, right before my phone died. Looking at my kitchen you can see, ahem, signs of a struggle. But all's well that ends well.

A great Thanksgiving!

A miracle!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Thinking Thanksgiving

I have been hosting the family Thanksgiving for a long time. There were only two years in maybe the last 20 that I did not hold it. One was because I was in California with Leonard Pennario and the other was... I do not remember what the situation was but my sister Katie held it instead. I remember there was a reason for that but I do not remember what that reason was.

There was one Thanksgiving before I was married when a storm blew in and I was not sure if anyone would make it. Buffalo has a way with storms.. we tend to get them on holidays, Thanksgiving and, especially, Christmas Eve. This Thanksgiving storm was a bad storm and my sister Katie and her family were coming in from East Aurora. Ah, single life! I remember dressing for dinner, putting on a nice dress, thinking: I might be eating this 24-pound turkey all by my own damn self! And I am OK with that, I thought as I opened a bottle of wine.

However everyone made it! That is Buffalo.

Our Thanksgivings are always chaotic but I look forward to them and I love preparing for them. I love this time of year, the promise of Advent and Christmas, the early darkness.

I love planning the Thanksgiving menu. I like how it is traditional it is, how simple, how cheap. Turkeys are cheap. The supermarkets practically give them away. Pies are cheap, even if you buy a pre-made crust. I personally am making mine with lard. But that is another story for another day.

Potatoes are cheap and so is squash and cranberry sauce and pretty much everything else. It really is, when you get down to it, what might at one time have been considered a simple Sunday dinner.

Over years of subscribing to cooking magazines I have been happy to see that efforts to chip away at the Thanksgiving tradition have failed. Thanksgiving is always under attack. An old Cooking Light suggested beef tenderloin (very expensive by the way) replacing the turkey. Other cooking writers can't wait to tell you they really don't like turkey that much (I love it!) and why don't you roast something else instead?

But the turkey is here to stay. And so is the cranberry sauce. With which, my first Thanksgiving recipe for this year's feast:

Baked Cranberries With Rum!

It is in the oven as we speak.

We are off and running!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A walk into winter

Today I was getting over a migraine brought on by recent dental derring-do. It was really no big deal, I had this deep cleaning, pretty much describes it. I get migraines in response to anything. They are not terrible migraines. They do not put me out of business.

Still I would rather be without them, you know? And so today I went for a walk in the park.

This walk in the park was no walk in the park!

It started out nice and sunny. I loved it. I slipped back my hood and got me some Vitamin D. There was a smoky aroma in the air. I could not remember when I had enjoyed a walk so much. Blissing out, I took the picture up above.

And this picture, of Ashker's in the Park all shuttered for the season.

This was in contrast to my summer sketch of Ashker's in the Park ...

...  that led in a roundabout way to my show going on now at Ashker's on Elmwood.

I loved doing that drawing, sitting on a tree stump on a summer day. But I love winter too. I love the stillness, the snow. Thinking thoughts like this I rounded the corner by the bathrooms and continued counter-clockwise parallel to the expressway.

That was about when things began to go south. I mean north! Because it got colder and windier. The sun was still out but somehow it was not hitting me.

I worried I would slip on black ice. Trying to walk in the snow to avoid that I got snow in my boots. Yikes and zut alors!

I struggled on. This being Buffalo I kept passing a bicyclist. Of course people were bicycling in the park, you know? You have to love this town. The thought made me smile as I entered the home stretch. Finally, finally. With the end in sight, I began enjoying myself again. The view really was stunning. I mean, if you showed someone this picture ...

... and said you took it in Greenland, that person would believe you.

The bison did not care what kind of day it was.

Watch that ice!

And a picture of the walkway because I love this view and take pictures of it in all seasons. And this being winter there were no cars ruining the view.

Wow, look at this gallery! Pushing a button on my camera is a lot easier than drawing, I will tell you that right now! And one other thing, my head had stopped aching.

A winter walk will work miracles! And when you get home you can have brandy.

That makes it even better!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The first snow

Today is the first snow and we are supposed to get several inches before tomorrow morning. Luckily it is ending about 6 a.m. and then we can plow out.

I always have great sympathy with people who have to get out and go somewhere because so often that has been me! I come from a family of teachers and when a snowstorm blows in, they are all la la la la la la la, because if it gets bad, odds are they will have off, and they can sit around and make snowmen and bake cookies.

Not me! I always had to get to work and even now I have to do work related things a lot. And I have to get to church for various things too. There is always something. Reminds me, I am fascinated by that song, "Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." I did a Let it Snow Christmas card, with a sketch I did of Hertel Avenue digging out after a storm.

But the lyrics, they have little in common with my life. Granted I think too much. But a few days ago I heard ...

It doesn't show signs of stopping
But I've bought some corn for popping...
The lamps are turned way down low..
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

And I was thinking: I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where I could just say, let it snow, let it snow. There is always something! If not tonight then next morning. Or next afternoon. You would have to be on vacation or something.


I am very lucky in that Howard is out getting the plow in order. He took that picture at the top of the plow, deployed just today, and my old Crown Vic next to it. Howard drives the Vic now.

I am sentimental about the Vic because Leonard Pennario rode in it and so did my mom. But the Vic is terrible in snow and looking at it I remembered terrible times in it. Such as once when I was coming home from The Buffalo News in a snowstorm. I was driving the Vic over the bridge on Michigan Street right by Scott Street and I was stuck in traffic and all I could think was, I am going to slide all the way down this bridge hitting all these cars.


So what I did was, I called Howard from the top of the bridge. As if that was going to do any good! But somehow I think it did. He calmed me down and then miraculously the Vic did not slide. Things went OK and I made it home ... hours later, but I got there. That was not a long time ago. That was pretty recent. It was funny, I was thinking: This is the worst snow drive of my life. And that included the time I was driving home from the Niagara Gazette and did a donut on the Robert Moses.

Ah, the memories.

The memories that a first snow brings!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The sketch calendar

Fast away the old year passes! Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

Also hail my first calendar!

I love calendars and planners as I have surely written about before. I keep a bullet journal. And I thought it would be fun to fit some of my sketches onto calendar month cards.

Hilarious experience putting it together. When I thought everything was in the bag I realized that in three different months, the days were off. Then I kept going back and forth about type faces. There are all these details you never think of.

Luckily having worked for years as a newspaper writer I have all kinds of safeguards in place. You learn to check everything out of necessity.

Here are some of the months lined up like the Rockettes.

The calendar posing on my desk.

Flush with success I added the calendar to the products at I also put it in our Etsy store, Buffalo Donut.

May I take this opportunity to say I cannot believe how the year has flown. I cannot believe we are looking at 2020.

Here we are back in Eastern Standard Time, plunged into darkness! And we have already passed All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I heard a priest at church say once that at this time of year, the readings at Mass all turn to matters pertaining to the end of the world. It is a time of year that I confess, I love.

But it all goes so fast!

I will be using my new calendar before I know it!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

My first art show

Yesterday I celebrated the opening of my first art show. It was a life experience.

That is how I keep describing it. It is true! The show is on till the end of the month. That is right, the show must go on! Meanwhile we opened it last night with style.

People are so nice. I keep thinking that. Friends I had no idea would show up showed up. My friend Gary held a party for me after it. Strangers came in off the street.

These were all pictures I had drawn in the last year. It started in Inktober when I discovered how much I loved going out and drawing from life in pen and ink. Now the walls of Ashker's, this beautiful coffee shop on Elmwood Avenue, were covered with my drawings.

The show itself made me realize how much work goes on behind the scenes in the art world the same as in every other world. At The Buffalo News we would joke about how actual writing was only about 10 percent of our job, if that. The rest was ... oh, returning phone calls, making phone calls, getting sources to talk to you, schmoozing people so they would tell you what you needed to know, keeping your calendar in order, fact-checking yourself, thinking up new ideas, going to meetings, it never ended.

So it is in art too. I do not even want to talk about the work that led up to this. But it had to be, you know? I read that Leonard Bernstein said that the secret to success was "a great idea, and not quite enough time to do it."

Nothing gets done without a deadline!

Look at Mozart. They had to lock him up to get him to finish "The Magic Flute." If they had not locked him into a hut someone else would have had to finish it.

Anyway. I had my deadline and I worked. To steady my nerves I listened to "Die Meistersinger," this production I found on YouTube with Berndt Weikl and Siegfried Jerusalem.  Then on Friday I went in to Ashker's and the curator, Julia, and I put the show together.

All day we worked, getting pictures up on the walls, and there are a lot of pictures, because I do a lot of drawing. Finally in the late afternoon I left and scooted downtown to get to Mass for All Saints' Day. Of course it was a holy day!

The actual day itself was more stressful than my wedding day. I was in a complete daze. At church today I had trouble praying because I kept thinking about stupid things I had said, duh. But people were great and I got through it. Everything worked out great and I feel exhilarated now that the opening is over and went so well.

The, ahem, art will be on the walls until the end of November. You will have to go and see it if you are curious because I have discovered that the picture mechanism on this Web log is not working for now. No pictures, for now.

But they are at Ashker's, 1002 Elmwood Ave.

On the wall!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Bosch, the gift that keeps on giving

It is funny how one thing you do in your house can lead to a chain reaction.

A few weeks ago, remember, the Bosch stove kicked once too many times and I kicked it out. Now I have that no-frills white stove with not so much as a clock. It is a pleasure to cook on this new stove, I will tell you that. No worries! However, also, no clock.

It is weird not having a clock. Not until you do not have one do you realize how often you looked at it. I keep glancing over and over at this blank white stove.

Finally this morning I said to Howard that we should keep an eye out for a kitchen clock. And he came downstairs with a never-opened clock radio. This is the kind of life we lead! This is why it is fun to be us.

We situated the clock radio in the hall outside the kitchen door on the radiator where it replaced the boom box. Now the boom box had to go somewhere.

The boom box is also a CD player but downstairs we never played CDs, only records. I thought: I should put it upstairs in my, ahem, studio. I do not spend much time in the studio actually drawing because I like to be out drawing on location. But it is there for when I need it to do technical stuff, mostly. Like photograph my creations for Etsy or

And when I do that, I thought, it might be nice to have music sometimes.

Optimally I would like to have a record player but the CD player could do until the real thing comes along. I have all these CDs basically doing nothing. I have pared my collection way back but held on to some things I love, Lieder and Leonard Pennario and whatnot.

So I put the boom box in this dresser in the studio. Before I did that I had to do some cleaning. See that picture at the top of the post? Things do not look like that any more!

Next, to plug in the boom box I needed to perform some electrical derring-do involving the power strip. Nothing serious, I just had to move it and straighten out some cords and whatnot.

Finally when I got things straightened out I took a fresh look at this weird '70s pole lamp standing next to the dresser. It had been mine when I was a kid, I mean, my parents had assigned it to me and my sisters. Somehow I had inherited it and it had made its way to this room and had just been standing there because the cord did not reach to any plug socket.

Now, with a little more derring-do, it did! The studio needed more light. It was worth a try. I plugged it in, and -- it lit!

There was that smell of when you plug something in that has not been plugged in in decades.

Happy in the new light, I grabbed a CD, which turned out to be Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin." When I was just grabbing a CD the odds are good it will be "Die Schoene Muellerin" because I have a million recordings of it. This one was by the excellent baritone Christopheren Nomura. In the bright light of the pole lamp, I snapped it into the boom box and hit "play."


That's better!

And people thought I would regret getting rid of that Bosch.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

My Guardian Angel and me

This evening I went to Mass. I had a feeling I should go to this daily Latin Low Mass we have at St. Anthony's because today is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. I thought I should go on account of my Guardian Angel who does so much for me.

It is a complicated situation, the Guardian Angels, and I admit there are things I do not quite understand. However it is in Scripture, that we have a guardian angel. And I know I keep mine working overtime.

Why did I get her? That is what he is thinking. Or she. I am afraid do not have my theology straight on this. Do angels have genders? They must, because think of St. Michael the Archangel. It was just his feast day on Sunday.

This Guardian Angel appears to be a woman. This is by a 17th century Italian painter who surely knew what he was doing.

The picture at the top of this post, by another Renaissance painter, also shows a female angel with a child.

Not to show disrespect to these august masters, but it is easy to portray a guardian angel guarding a child. What about guarding a grown-up?

Why do I always picture a guardian angel as a male being, guarding an adult? These paintings to be honest took me by surprise.

Does Howard have a guardian angel? That is another thing to think about.

Do you have to be Catholic to have a guardian angel?

If so then I would suggest everyone become Catholic right away because who would say no to an angel by your side? All other things being equal?

On the way home while I was pondering all this, I turned on the radio and WNED was playing Saint-Saens' "The Swan." This beautiful, peaceful music. I drove by the Peace Bridge blissed out.

Then I thought: Is my guardian angel enjoying this music?

Can he or she hear music? I imagine yes, because angels are always observing your life and what you say and do.

But this music, beautiful as it sounds to me, must be like nothing to the angel who is used to heavenly music.

Imagine what my guardian angel thinks when I listen to some really dumb song as is sometimes my wont.

I wonder if my guardian angel talks to other guardian angels. When I was in California with Leonard Pennario I wonder if Pennario's guardian angel communicated with mine.

While I was on this topic I asked my guardian angel to pray that I am able to complete my book on Leonard Pennario and mastermind the publishing.

La la la la la la la.

This is why you should not spend too much time by yourself. If you have other people in the car you are not pondering this stuff.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Think ink -- it's Inktober

Yesterday I realized that today would be Inktober. Inktober is this art challenge that demands that you do an ink drawing every day in October. It can be anything! It can just be your cup of coffee. Just do it.

Then ideally you post it on Instagram and slug it #Inktober.

I did Inktober last year. I never imagined how it would change my life. The first day, I went out in the evening, and I drew one of the doors at the Buffalo Zoo which is pretty much across the street. Then I went home with it and took a brush to it and tried to ink in the shadows I had seen. Then I sat there at the dining room table and looked at it.

I loved it!

I still like this drawing, the drawing of the zoo door. Actually I did two, on facing pages. The one on the left was the one I brushed up and the one on the right was there because ... You know what, I forgot why I did two. But it is still something I do a lot, do one drawing and then another of the same thing, right away. You flip the page and start over. On account of you never know.

They give you prompts for Inktober but the prompts are optional, and though I thought about using them -- I wanted to use them -- I could not get it down to a good system. The first prompt was "Poisonous," and I was going to draw the Five Venoms Tattoo studio over on Hertel Avenue. But the plans hit a hurdle. I think it was raining or something, or I could not get a good vantage point on Five Venoms. It was a great idea but alas. All of a sudden you miss that day and it is the next day with a new prompt and you are behind.

So I adopted a theme of my neighborhood. Everything I drew had to be within walking distance, or a very quick bike ride. My neighborhood is amazing for Inktober's inky themes. I am unbelievably set up. I mean, within walking distance I have a Victorian zoo; the Hertel Avenue strip; and a world-class historic cemetery (Forest Lawn) complete with the grave of a U.S. president (Millard Fillmore).

What else? I can walk easily to statues of Mozart, Lincoln, the Indian Scout, and the Centaur. The History Museum is practically down the street. And the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, including whatever wacky sculptures they choose to plunk down in their front yard. I can walk to the old Pierce-Arrow motor car company factory, and various other ancient industrial sites, things I love drawing more than anything. We have the greatest water towers, the best old factories, atmospheric old alleys -- I ever drew Kmart and found it terrific material.

Which makes me think: I do believe I will continue to explore my neighborhood this year.

I did a lot of drawing on Elmwood today because the owners of Neo Gift Studio, the beautiful gift shop on Elmwood that I am honored to say carries my note cards, requested an Elmwood set. And I love drawing on Elmwood, love it. There is so much life and the buildings are so quirky. Elmwood would give me a lot of material this year I did not explore last year. And there are other options even closer to my doorstep. Such as: The Gates To Nowhere, the Monster House, and the Secret Staircase. Those are all ideas that occurred to me as Inktober approached. As I said, I live in a great neighborhood in a great city.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?