Friday, October 27, 2023

The Mystery Ogre-Faced Spider

So I was sitting at my desk, working, when all of a sudden I look up and there was this spider.

Not just an ordinary spider. It had long legs and it was vaulting this way and that, casting crazy shadows.

Quick! I sprang for my Seek app. I opened it up, fired up the camera, and aimed it at the big bug.

It was an American Ogre-Faced Spider!

However it held off on telling me the exact species. And zut alors, while I was trying to zero in on it from different angels, the spider vanished. I went back to work. 

A few minutes later I saw to my delight that the American Ogre-Faced Spider was back! I tried photographing it again. However this time the app decided it was a fly. It identified it as one of a number of Common Crane Flies.

"Idiot," I told Seek. "It is not a Common Crane Fly."

It is an American Ogre-Faced Spider!

However now it is gone again and I do not think I will ever know which one, exactly. The picture up above, it is not my picture. It is from Scientist magazine. However that looks like the spider I saw, I will tell you that.

Come back, American Ogre-Faced Spider!

Come back1

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Return of the Werewolf

Remember the Animated Immortal Werewolf? It is back!

This was the view from my front lawn yesterday.

It is, indeed, the Animated Immortal Werewolf! Wrestling with the garbage tote.

Apparently the werewolf won the match because today it has moved to my neighbor's front yard. It is standing there next to a coffin. I fully expect to see its eyes glowing red and its jaw opening and shutting, as was the case last year. 

I always remember the first look I had of this creature. When you see a box labeled, "Animated Immortal Werewolf," that is when you know it was going to be one of those Hallowe'ens. And it was!

And this one will be, too!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Cat in a Box

In our family we love laughing about brand names. Always have, always will.

And Albrecht Discount has the greatest brand name for pet supplies.

It is Heart To Tail!

The other day when I had my delivery from Aldi, some of the groceries arrived packed into a Heart to Tail box. It is now Jeoffry's favorite toy.

Heart To Tail must have planned that!

This box was just like a little cat house. It is like a freebie I got along with my Heart To Tail cat food and Heart To Tail cat litter. We are spoiling Jeoffry recently with canned cat food. He does not barf as much. If your cat barfs, try canned food instead of dry food, is my advice. It makes a difference.

Plus, if you play your cards right, you might get this box.

Heart to Tail!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Back to the BPO

Last night I went to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's season-opening concert. It was my first time in Kleinhans Music Hall in something like four years.

It felt funny, walking in, just because it had been so long! However you always love going to Kleinhans. And in a minute I felt right at home all over again.

I wrote a review of the concert

Which was just like old times. Aside from that I got to fuss with it a little. I have to be at church on Sundays at the crack of dawn however I got up extra early and fussed. 

Actually writing a review can be drudge work -- you are home writing as opposed to out somewhere enjoying a cocktail after the concert. However this one was a pleasure to write. JoAnn Falletta, our music director, is fun to report on. I got to interview her this week.

Also the concert featured violinist Gil Shaham, whom I have enjoyed chronicling over the years. He has a unique charm. I got to talk to him a couple of times over the years, previewing concerts for The Buffalo News.

Here is my Gil Shaham story that I love to tell and that I subject my friends to frequently. The publicist had arranged our phone interview for late afternoon, a time I hated because by then I was invariably wiped out and off my game. On this particular day, it turned out that Mr. Shaham was also wiped out and off his game. I remember there was a problem involving the babysitter, and he and his wife were trying to figure out what to do, and --

As I remember it, I said, "Mr. Shaham, would you like to talk another time?" 

And he immediately agreed. As I remember it, we both started laughing, because we were so happy to put things off. We ended up agreeing on talking later that evening at 10 p.m.

Which was great!! 10 p.m. was a different world. I was home, in my pajamas, fed and rested, with a glass of wine. Not that I confided these details, however what I mean is, I could think.

Long story short, he is a very nice man. You would guess that from his performances, however it is great to be able to know for sure.

And last night's concert was a concert I will remember.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Toilet Genealogy

Long story why, however recently I became interested in the genealogy of the toilet in my downstairs bathroom.

Remember the toilet? We explored this subject some time ago. Above is a file photo of it.

Today I wanted to settle how old this toilet in our downstairs bathroom actually is.  I happened to be reading in this book about Frank Lloyd Wright that I got at Amvets that you can often identify old toilets by a stamp on them. You can find very useful things in books about Frank Lloyd Wright and this was one of them.

I looked all over the toilet. No luck.

I reread the passage in the book. I did some Googling. Someone somewhere suggested I look under the tank lid. So I did. I saw nothing. 

However after carefully replacing the lid I decided to give it another gander. I lifted it off again and suddenly .... there it was. Some lettering!

It took me forever to make it out. I had to do more Googling.

Finally, eureka! "A.R. San." it read.

American Radiator Standard Sanitary! I found that name somewhere online.

I consulted with Howard. As he has pointed out before, American Radiator merged with Standard in 1929. That means this toilet is not original to the house, which was built in 1917. Which we were thinking it might be, because it has that wall-mounted tank and just looks so antique.

It made sense however. When I moved in here a million years ago, a chatty neighbor told me that the downstairs half-bath had been added to the house, that the space used to be a pantry. I had always interpreted that to mean that it had been added more recently, and I had wondered if she was mistaken, because as I just said, the toilet is so old.

However, it turns out that she must have been quoting old oral history, and it is correct. From my research, the toilet dates to the 1930s. So the remodeling was done then. A long time ago.

From what I see online, there are a lot of vintage bathrooms, however very few with a toilet this old. Toilets are usually replaced at some point, out of necessity.

Ours has had its problems over the years, however the problems have been fixed.

It is going strong!


Monday, September 11, 2023

The Aldi Princess

I love Aldi, you know me. And so does Jeoffry, as you can tell from the above photo of him enjoying an Aldi bag.

Now Aldi and I have taken our relationship to a new level. Ever since Covid made me aware that you could order your groceries, I have not been able to kick the habit. I have become an Aldi princess!

You order online, and poof, the stuff shows up faster than it would if I had gone to Aldi myself.

However you know me, I always find a way to complicate the game. With me the rule is: What you get is what you get.

There is no arguing!

There is no going over the bill and making a fuss over anything. 

It makes things more exciting! Plus I do not want to do anything to upset this Aldi apple cart. This is a tremendous service they are offering. And the shoppers, I admire the shoppers for being up for this job. I do not want to make their lives difficult. I do not want to jeopardize this arrangement in any way. You screw up my order, I will eat it.

I mean literally, I will eat it!

Today was a great adventure.

Instead of one bag of red onions I was brought three.

Instead of one bunch of bananas for Howard, I was given two.

The cat litter also multiplied. One became two.

Last time I remember I received two cabbages, not one. So I am learning that this is typical. Make no mistake, I am paying for all this doubling and tripling.  But still.

Who cares, you know?

It is not as if I will not use the stuff.

OK, there was one exception. One thing I got today I will not use. The delivery included -- doh! -- DOUGH --

-- a loaf of gak bread!

That was what my parents called this white bread, gak bread. I no longer eat any bread, let alone gak bread. I have not eaten bread for two years now. Howard even has knocked it off as well.

So what do I do with this Aldi gak bread?

Something for church coffee hour?

A picnic with friends?

I will figure something out!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Hawk Has His Lunch

Talk about Wild Kingdom! I was walking in Forest Lawn Cemetery and I see, some yards away on the bank of the creek, this big bird. He was perched on the ground and he was eating something.

You know me and the Seek app, I had to try to get a picture of this bird to identify it. It took many pictures -- the Seek app is finicky -- however just as I was about to give up, it told me what the bird was.

It was a Red-Shouldered Hawk!

And he was having his lunch.

It is kind of horrifying to see a hawk having his lunch. As Howard said later, you know that whatever he was eating had been having a nice day until he was lifted up by this hawk, carried to high heights, then dropped to the ground so as to be stunned, and then eaten. That is what Howard says hawks do.

What about Howard Hawks, the great movie director?

I felt like him when I was filming this hawk!

Here is some footage I took of the dramatic scene. Warning: Gross!


I kept filming the hawk off and on, edging a bit closer. I must have been about 15, 20 feet away from him finally. I didn't want to go away, you know? This is the only time in my life I will have this experience. I will never again be this close to a hawk eating his lunch.

The hawk kept glancing up, as you can see in the video. He was always on the watch for something that might want to take his kill away from him. He would glance at me too from time to time, however I think he understood that I didn't want a bite.

The video at the top of this post is pretty graphic. I think his meal might have been a squirrel.

That was what this other bird was eating once, this big bird up in a tree. I thought I had written about it but now I cannot find it.

I will have to dig out those photos and we can compare and contrast!

Monday, August 7, 2023

My car wash adventure


I have gone on a glorious adventure. I took my car through Delta Sonic. That is the car wash here in Buffalo.

Here are a few pictures of the psychedelic experience.

On Sunday at the Latin Mass coffee hour I dined out on this experience. In Buffalo you are not brought up to pay to have your car washed. You are supposed to wash your car yourself. And we are all fascinated by the experience of going through a car wash.

Not being brought up to go through a car wash, I have been in one only... well, only once. The Buffalo News had me doing a story on going through Delta Sonic on the first warm day of spring and so I did.

What a pain! I remember begging Howard to go with me however Howard would not. I had to go through on my own. Not easy!

This second time around was just as challenging.

The car wash puts out no prices, no options. There was nothing in print as far as I could determine. It is expected that you know these things.

As I was heading into the car wash I had to notice for myself that one lane, you did not go in that lane, nobody was in it. Everybody was in the other lane. The lane on the right was not open, however nobody told you that. There were no signs.

When I got out of the car wash the drama continued. The arrows were all pointing in this one direction however when I followed them, the only exit I could find was the road going the wrong way. It was the road where the people coming into the car wash were supposed to go.

Luckily nobody was coming into the car wash at that moment. However I thought, I must be wrong. I backed up the car. I looked around. 

I could not figure out any other way out!

So I went out the wrong way. I reached Sheridan Drive successfully, hung a right, and I was out of there.

I do want to become accustomed to going to the car wash. Sure, you get hosed -- pun intended. 

Still it is worth it to get your car cleaned. I am trying to get my life together and cleaning my car is part of that. I am, as YouTube motivation gurus would put it, raising my floor.

The car wash was part of a larger surge. On the way to Delta Sonic I also went to the dry cleaner, for the first time in my life. And to the shoemaker, also for the first time in my life.

But that is another story for another day.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

The Delaware Park Restroom


The other day I was out drawing in the park and by mistake all I had with me was a brush pen.

This pen is kind of like a big fat marker. Normally I would not draw with it however it was all I had in my bag with my sketchbook. And so I did that picture up above, of the Delaware Park restroom building.

This building looks really beautiful in the photo. However if you are not from Buffalo, do not be overly impressed. It is closed and says it is "under construction." However nobody is ever working on it.

Still it is an interesting looking building and it was there and so I drew it.

I was happy with my drawing, too. I went home and looked at it. I should take watercolors to it but right now I am just leaving it be. Those big fat shadows and big thick lines, there is something I like about this marker.

Maybe I will take it out again tomorrow!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Monet's Fruit Cake

Last week I had the idea to start baking cakes again for coffee hour. It has been too long since I have done that!

Yesterday I made a cake and I had so much fun doing it that I am planning on making something next week as well. I am off to such a good start!

For which I thank Claude Monet. It was his recipe that I used.

A few weeks ago I scored this coffee table book, "Monet's Table," at Amvets. That was 79 cents well spent! Unlike many coffee table books, this one actually does sit on the coffee table. People love to gawk at it. My brother George and I spent quite a while discussing it. It tells all about this idyllic life Monet lived at his home in Giverny, which George and I have visited, hence our conversation. Then there are all these great-looking recipes.

I had dried cranberries I wanted to bake with and so I made "Rich Fruit Cake."

I would not call this cake rich. Perhaps our standards have risen since Monet's day. Perhaps we are used to more sugar and fat and whatever. It was very simple to my way of thinking.


Monet's Fruit Cake

Grease an 8-inch cake pan. (I used a 9-inch.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Take 3 tablespoons butter. Soften in a bain-marie or double boiler. (I just took it out of the fridge early and let it soften. The weather has been very hot -- otherwise, you know me, I would not be turning on the oven. And that butter softened right up.)

Remove the butter from the heat and beat in 3 tablespoons sugar.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add 2 tablespoons rum and 1 cup chopped dried fruit, any kind. (I used raisins and dried cranberries, so I didn't have to chop them.)

Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for at least 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (I baked for a little bit less because my pan was bigger.)


Friday night had been torpid and I had not slept in the heat. Howard and I live the Giverny life -- no air conditioner. So I was a total zombie on Saturday after dinner when I made this cake. At first I did not think I had it in me, that was how zonked I was. I was amazed when I saw myself  taking the first steps, beating the sugar into the butter -- by hand, again, living the Giverny life. After that, though, it was fun! And easy, even when I diligently followed all the instructions.

It took about 15 minutes of work and then I put it in the oven. Immediately, I mean within two minutes, this wonderful aroma filled the kitchen. I have never had a cake become so fragrant so fast!

Above is the cake when it came out of the oven. It looks unprepossessing, I admit that. However I wrapped it prettily in parchment paper, and when I got it to church this morning I unwrapped it and shook powdered sugar on it, then wrapped it up again. By that time it looked like something purchased at a fine Parisian patisserie.

Powdered sugar -- I prefer the term "confectioners' sugar" -- will dress anything up!

After Mass I ran over to coffee hour with a little sign reading: "Gateau (Cake) With Raisins and Dried Cranberries. Claude Monet's Recipe From Giverny." I had prepared that sign up in the choir loft.

Betsy, our coffee hour czarina, was cutting the cake into tiny squares. People at our coffee hour love that because we love to try everything, and there is a lot to try. I never did get to try the cake because it was gone in 60 seconds. It was a small pan. I should have moved faster.

I will just have to make this cake again!


Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Home Library

I am in the middle of a project to turn a junk room in my house into a home library. That picture up above... that is not it! That is just something I saw on Pinterest. However it is inspiration.

This room that will be my library has been a junk room forever! It is one of two rooms in the house that you do just not go into. For a long time I have been meaning to clear it out. However my dreams were not big enough. That is what I am learning, that in order to get anything done, you have to make your plans big and exciting, perhaps even impossible. 

You have to dream the impossible dream!

Which is what my home library is. I would like this room to be a library in the Dark Academia, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" tradition. I want tall bookcases that go with each other. A globe. A Victorian bird cage. A beverage cooler and a bar.

When all these things are in place, this ancient library table will come up from the basement. This used to be our dining room table in the apartment where I used to live at 435 West Delavan. We bought it at an antique store on Niagara Street.

The table is still in the basement. I checked. It took me a while to find it however I finally located it covered in cobwebs.

Speaking of cobwebs, this room has been no picnic to clean out. It was actually an emotional moment when I was able to get to the window and open it. I honestly do not think the window had been opened for 20 years.

I actually had to vacuum books. There were books covered in cobwebs! I inherited my father's library so all of this situation is not my fault. However it got extremely discouraging confronting the dirt and disorder. At times I got very hot in the summer heat, and I felt like giving up.

Had I just been thinking, "I need to clean this room up," I would have quit.

However I would just picture my home library.

Think of it! Like out of "Brideshead Revisited." Like out of "The Secret Garden." I picture it. I imagine having my friends over for drinks in my home library. And I get back to work.

My home library! I will post my progress.

It will happen!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Secret Garden

This morning Howard and I had to buckle down and do yard work. He is always doing yard work however most of what he does is at his other properties. Yesterday he brought his chain saw home and today we got rid of some monster weeds.

One thing we got rid of is this tree that keeps growing and growing. I should have taken a picture before it went. Oh well. It will be back and I can take its picture then.

This tree is some kind of a nuisance tree -- some kind of walnut nuisance tree but of course there are no walnuts. I cannot believe I have never written about it. Once maybe two years ago I pruned it into a beautiful shape and it looked for a while like something out of Beverly Hills. However a better way is just to get rid of it.

So we did, albeit temporarily. Also I pulled up a lot of bishop's weed in the, ahem, herb garden. I found the sage plant and a variety of mints that I put in a couple of years ago. 

The catnip plant is out of control so I pulled a little of it and took it in to Jeoffry. He was munching on it last I looked. I will have to dry some of it and put it away for him. The dried stuff must be stronger.

Now for the biggest challenge.

That picture at the top, that is the space behind the garage!

I am looking at it and I do believe it has good bones, as they say. It is more private than most areas on my property. Where I live, your life is lived in public.

What if I transformed this space?

Howard said: "We can clear it out so it isn't that bad."

However I have been reading about the 10x Rule and I the part of it I really like is that you take an unexciting modest goal and blow it up into outrageous proportions.

I said: "This space is going to be a showplace. People will be begging to see it on the Parkside Garden Walk. I will be hearing from strangers hoping to arrange to cater an event there. It will be famous throughout the city."

Shall we begin?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Doh! A deer


My naturalist adventures continue. Today was kind of dark and threatening however still I managed to work in a walk at Forest Lawn.

And I bagged a deer!

I mean on my Seek app that I have been carrying on about. There were all these noisy gardening machines going in the cemetery and so to get away from them I had climbed up on this ridge. I was walking along looking at trees and thinking about -- OK, this is like old times, but I was thinking about Leonard Pennario and his composition "Midnight on the Cliffs." That was what I was writing about this morning. Suddenly -- there in front of me -- oh, deer!

See him in the distance?

The seek camera is finicky. Usually the camera is blurry when you try to zoom in and you do not know what the picture will look like until you snap it. So as time was of the essence I switched to my phone camera. This was pretty good...

... however not good enough for Seek, perhaps because of the gravestone behind the deer.

Snap! Again.

Oh, deer me!


 Finally I struck gold with the Seek camera.

This is nice that the Seek camera photos show up among my normal photos. I used to worry I would not be able to share them. However yes, this is the magic picture. The app identified it. 

I could not believe that the app identified the deer. I could not believe it. And the deer has a beautiful name.

It is Western Roe Deer!

This is a Eurasian species. I am not sure how it got here. And a male Roe Deer is, you guessed it, a Roebuck!

This one must be a doe because it has no antlers.

A Roe Doe!