Monday, April 16, 2018

Puff the Magic Pastry, Part 2

It is the middle of April but still snowing to beat the band. And raining. And flooding!

Yesterday for the first time I can remember, and we are talking years, the Latin Mass was called off at St. Anthony's. A monsignor was coming in from the country and he could not make it.

So my brother George and I and my niece and nephew Barbara and Georgie and I all piled into the Georgemobile and went to the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Louis. It is not Latin but they have a wonderful choir. And the church is so gorgeous. That is it up above. I took that picture after Mass.

Two of our friends from St. Anthony's joined us at St. Louis. It was funny in a way, our Mass getting canceled. Facebook was alive and jumping with everyone from the congregation trying to figure out what to do. And all the while it never stopped snowing or sleeting or whatever it was doing, this glop falling down from the sky.

When I opened the door at midnight last night it was still falling!

But anyway. The important thing is, when the going gets tough, the tough get baking. Back at my house after church, Barbara and I made cream puffs.

I have always wanted to try making these and since I had just made puff pastry for the first time, it seemed like a great idea. Barbara agreed although for a little while it was a kind of tough decision between cream puffs and the lemon meringue cupcakes in Martha Stewart's cupcake book.

We used the recipe out of my old Betty Crocker cookbook. When the puffs came out of the oven we both gasped with delight.

They were beautiful!

Then we did what Betty Crocker said and cut off the tops, put in this cream filling...

... and closed them back up again. We made the cream filling too. It is kind of a Bavarian cream and it is a whole separate story.

The finished product. All we needed was a white bakery box!

What an adventure. Is there anything more fun than baking?

They even looked good after we started to eat them.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Puff, the magic pastry

Today I did my first puff pastry!

King Arthur Flour have a #BakeAlong every month and this month it was this flaky pastry with jam and icing on top. Kind of like a Danish, it looked like.

They called it "incredibly easy," which, I have to say, it was definitely not. It is amazing the mistakes you can find to make the first time around. But next time I do puff pastry I will know what I am doing and it will go faster.

And as for this one, it was a neat adventure and I enjoyed it. I have been wanting to make puff pastry. I have been wanting to take our Latin Mass coffee hour to the next level. I said that last Sunday to my friend Lou as we were washing dishes in the kitchen and cleaning up.

I said, "Lou, I have been thinking, I would like to take our coffee hour to the next level."

I loved how Lou did not laugh at me. Instead he nodded and began proposing the idea of chafing dishes which would allow us to serve scrambled eggs and other fancier dishes.

Periodically we float the idea of a mimosa bar as well. That always makes everyone light up.

We are making grandiose plans! And as long as I am getting puffed up here, I may as well take the puff pastry step.

Not as easy as I had hoped, as I said. But interesting. 

The bottom layer finally came into place, not without a struggle.

The puff pastry layer was not hard. It came together quickly in the saucepan. Then it went into the bowl of the World War II Mixmaster, as instructed. I added the eggs.

However here is where things went off the rails. The dough was beautiful but it glopped itself into the mixers so the mixer stopped. I had to clean the dough out of the mixers with a spatula and get it into a bowl. They should have foreseen that happening, fie.

The puff pastry also did not really puff up. People who commented on the recipe said that too. Still it seemed flaky when it came out of the oven after an hour or something. I topped it with my own trademark Blackheart Plum Jam.

Then I toasted the slivered almonds and topped the pastry with them and that is what you see at the top of this post.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo .... yum!

I am up for the next challenge!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Urban Sketching

The other day, Sunday, I went Urban Sketching. I like to draw and paint, I have mentioned that. And on Sunday there was a Sketchmeet happening at Forest Lawn Cemetery. To my astonishment I went.

I did not know any of the people involved in this Sketchmeet. But here is the thing. At the trad Catholic church I go to, a lot of things are forbidden on Sundays. You are not supposed to work. Or go to the gym, because by going to the gym you are forcing other people to work on Sundays. You are not supposed to shop. This bugs me, not just because shopping is one of my main hobbies, but because my mother didn't mind shopping on Sunday, and she was one of the holiest people I have known. But whatever. Better to err on the side of caution, you know?

Anyway, there I was, back home after coffee hour, asking myself: What do I do?

I couldn't clean the house. That was work. I couldn't do the book. That was work.

Then I remembered the Sketchmeet. And I went!

Long story short, it was just me and the Sketchmeet leader. Reason being, it was freezing, and snowing. Only a fool would sketch on a day like this. But we did!

We were fools for art!

Actually it could not have gone better. The leader of the group is an excellent artist, and I received free instruction. She took a picture of me hard at work. That is it at the top of this post!

I struggled through this picture of the Birge memorial, with its columns. ...

... and then, ready for something new, I took out an ink pen and drew the geese and swans that were hanging around Mirror Lake.

The group leader got cold and had to go into her car to warm up. When she came back, I told her she didn't have to stick around. It was really pretty bad and she was sitting on the cold bench. I had brought a folding chair, lucky me.

After she left I drew this sculpture called "Sisters." It is by Larry Griffis III.

You will not be able to tell this from my rough sketch -- in my defense, I was pretty freezing by this time -- but that sculpture is beautiful. Larry Griffis III is the son of the Larry Griffis of the Griffis Sculpture Park. I actually think the son had even more on the ball than the dad did. IMHO as people write. I got a bit choked up drawing "Sisters" because it reminded me of me and my sisters.

I did a pencil version of "Sisters" too.

When I was through with that I got up to walk to my car and that was when I realized I could not feel my feet.

I had been so absorbed I had not noticed that hypothermia was setting in!

That was a learning experience for me and since then I have tried every day to go outside and draw something. If I am at work I take a quick walk outside and try to draw something. Today I drew seagulls. It was sort of raining so I did not go far.

I will get good.

It might take some time, but in 15 minutes a day, I will get there!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Chick flick

Yesterday we went to Easter dinner at my sister Katie's in East Aurora.As soon as we walked in we heard all this chirping.

Soon we could see why.

There were all these chicks!!

Chicks as in chickens. They were in an incubator in the dining room. Howard made friends with one of them. That is Howard in the picture, chickening out!

Howard said later that once those chicks grew up, he could never eat one of those chickens. He feels too affectionate toward them and sorry for them.

He said, "They are born to be food."

Now I feel bad thinking of that. Because guess what is in the oven for dinner tonight. You guessed it, chicken!

A big roast chicken because I gave up meat for Lent and I missed it. I bought that chicken on Holy Saturday for this express purpose. At my sister's we had delicious turkey and venison and now it is time for chicken.

When Howard sees the chicken I do not know if he will think back on those chicks he met last night.

Jeoffry would not care one whit, I will tell you that. The cat in the picture with Howard is my sister's family's cat, Jinx. Jinx has no problem with the chicks. Jinx co-exists.

Jeoffry would not, that is for sure.

Meanwhile as I chew on these dilemmas everyone else in Buffalo is at Dyngus Day. I wrote a story about it in the paper. It is on the front page today! It is "A Newbie's Guide to Dyngus Day."

I should be at Dyngus Day basking in my glory and marching with the contingent from St. Adalbert's who invited me. But I am getting over a muscle sprain, darn it. I hurt my leg somehow and exacerbated it sitting for hours on end at work and then visiting the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday. I did a story on that, too! The Seven Churches tradition fascinates me.

Anyway, these are the wages of that. All my friends, and all my friends from church, and my brother, and everyone else I know, they are all at Dyngus Day. OK, there is one friend who got a bad cold and she has to sit it out, too. But other than that everyone is there.

Well, I will look on the bright side. There is this chicken. Even if Howard does not eat it, I sure will.

Plus there is just the fact of Easter week.

Is there any happier time??

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Working squid

All day today I was working on a story about St. Joseph's Day. I will link to it when it runs in the paper!

I have strong feelings for St. Joseph. Maybe it goes back to when I bought that statue at that estate sale in Amherst. That statue is still here in my home. St. Joseph has been making new friends as you can see from this picture.

When I got home today I just had to have Italian food. I went and got out one of my old coffee table Italian cookbooks. I loved these cookbooks. There was a series of them and I would get them at Barnes & Noble. You could find them in the discount section, probably because I was the only person in the world who would actually cook out of them. 

The "Italy" cookbook in this series was by Lorenza di Medici, a cookbook author I loved because I had another book she wrote, another coffee table book I must point out, on Italian cooking. Again I could not imagine anyone else cooking out of this book. I would have it propped up on the counter behind plastic so I wouldn't spill anything on it. Howard laughed at me once when he came home and there I was with this insane beautiful book, trying to cook out of it.

Anyway tonight I made di Medici's recipe for Seppie in Zimino. It is Squid With Vegetables! "In Zimino" means "with vegetables." You learn something new every day!

Being German I had to sub in a little green cabbage, I admit, because I did not have the spinach that was called for. Otherwise I think I am in the ballpark.

I would like to get back to cooking more out of these cookbooks. I was 10 pounds skinnier back when I did. This kind of food is good for you.

One other thing happened today that I must note. At one point I was in the home of these two Italian sisters, and with a friend from church who is also Italian, Sicilian. And I began talking about Leonard Pennario.

And I Could. Not. Stop.

It is amazing this still happens to me. I have been on this project for so long. I am kind of embarrassed about it because the world at large does not know that things like this sometimes take so long to complete, especially when you have this all-consuming full time job. I do not mention him every day on the Web log on account of that. But it still happens. There is something beautiful in that, you know?

And there is something beautiful about this Seppie in Zimino.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Switchin' in the kitchen

Today is Demo Week.

I am demo-ing my kitchen!

My kitchen is awful. It was OK when I bought this house. It had a kind of '80s look, but you know me, I have nothing against the '80s. Leonard Pennario achieved some neat things in the '80s. However.

The kitchen has just fallen apart!

The cabinets have just broken. The fronts fell off several of the drawers. There is this funny cabinet over the stove, over the hood. One of those cabinet doors actually split in half. You can see some of these details in the picture up above.

Home kitchens are not made for people who actually cook!

I do. I cook breakfast and dinner and I pack lunches for Howard and me. For years I packed lunch only for myself but then Howard got wise to it and now I have to do for him, too. And I have always liked having people over. When the house was in better shape and before everybody got married, people would come over from work. No big deal, no planning, we would just hang out and drink wine and make dinner.

Now I still cook for other people. My brother comes over for breakfast on Saturdays. I cook for the St. Anthony's coffee hour.  I took this picture one week before running over to Mass.

Long Web log post short, the kitchen is just .... well, it has just collapsed.

No matter. By next week it will all be gone. Those weak old cabinets, gone. I am going to put in restaurant stuff. Stainless steel tables, big ol' stainless steel restaurant sink.

That is my plan.

Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I must continue this Web log because the last post I had written was: "The Christmas Tree Quandary." And here it is, 60 degrees today!

Well, it was raining. We cannot get things right this early in the year. We cannot have warmth without rain. Still, it feels good.

And may I point out, that quandary did not last for long. Almost right after I wrote that post I went and took the tree down. I was not quite sure why. It was a very snowy day. But I must have felt something because that very evening, it began warming up, and the next day the snow began to melt. And I did a check for the daffodils and you know what? They were up!

I took a picture and that is it, at the top of this post. OK, so they will be only an inch high for a couple of months. Still.

Now I have no choice but to consider it spring. Lenz, to use the old word that gave us Lent. I got through Ash Wednesday even though it was the same day as St. Valentine's Day, an unfortunate coincidence I got to explore in the paper. We celebrated the good saint's day the Thursday after Valentine's Day. Howard took the picture at left. Look, that is a Cinnamon Pecan Swirl candle. Remember the snowy night I went out shopping for those? I will never forget that. It is a funny thing to remember, but I remember it.  "It crossed my mind that maybe I was dead." I remember that moment!

Meanwhile there was Ash Wednesday to deal with.

I got the mother lode of ashes on my forehead. I had a dentist appointment and I actually apologized for them.

"I'm sorry I am covered with these ashes," I said.

I mean, I had to say something! It was the elephant in the room. Here I was lying under these lights with all these ashes.

Clearly this is going to be one of these Lents. I know, I know, it is a holy time of year, a time of renewal, and still, I cannot handle Ash Wednesday, I just cannot. I lost five pounds out of stress and then gained them back out of stress.

The good news: Forward we go now into spring.

Next quandary: Gardening!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Christmas tree quandary

I have a terrible confession: My Christmas tree -- pictured at left when it was still bright white -- is still up.

I keep promising myself I will take it down but then I do not.
Part of the problem is, it is still snowy outside. When it goes up into the 40s or something, then you can think spring, and that is the time to take down the tree. When you get into Lent, Lent means spring, and that is the time to take down the tree.

Not now!

Last week I went past some of the better houses, on Nottingham and streets like that, and some of them still had trees lit up outside. So I am not alone.

Still I feel a little funny plugging in the tree. I know it is time to take it down. We have passed Septuagesima Sunday and Sexagesima -- hee hee -- Sunday. Candlemas is past.

What is wrong with me?

It is not even a real tree. It does not have to go out on the curb or die a terrible death like the tree in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree."

It simply goes into its box and is put away, in preparation for coming out in again in what, a few months?

Why can't I take down my tree?

Hahaha... I am laughing over all my old Christmas tree stories.

There was one year I went without. Unbelievable but true.

There was another year when it was the Fourth Sunday of Advent and I did not have a tree and rushed out to get one and wound up in Christmas tree stand emergency mode.

There was the year I put the tree up on Christmas Eve. I could not get to it before then!

Oh, look! There was one year I did not take the tree down till Ash Wednesday. And Ash Wednesday that year was March 9!!

That is what I will do this year. I will take the tree down on Ash Wednesday.

I must be strong!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Charles Burchfield and the Cheerios plant

I love industry. I do not know why this is.

I love observing and taking pictures of factories and such!

Once when I worked at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, I went to an art exhibit that was called "Smoke." The person took pictures of smokestacks and the smoke coming out of them, smokestacks that belonged to big plants. They were huge photos, beautifully framed.

Looking back now I am sure he or she aimed to make some kind of statement. I do seem to remember there was something, about pollution. But the message was lost on me. I am standing there staring, thinking: These pictures are beautiful! I want to do that!

So I packed up my Instamatic and the next day on the way to work I detoured down Buffalo Avenue so I could look at all the factories and take pictures.

I wish I knew where those pictures are now! But I do not. So I am sharing a picture I took a week or so ago, of a landscape including the Cheerios plant in downtown Buffalo, near where I work.

I used the above picture as my Facebook cover photo. Everyone was really nice with their kind words. One friend said it looked, ahem, like the work of Charles Burchfield. After that I was walking around with this big ego, I can tell you that.

And today I got a great surprise.

My friend Barry is turning my photo into a painting!

I believe Barry works in oils. He already posted a picture on Facebook of my photo roughed out.

I was thrilled. I asked him if he could post pictures of the painting's progress. It would be like "Sunday in the Park With George," where you see a painting coming to life!

Being into watercolors I would like to try my hand at my photo. Maybe some day. Right now I am too busy with Leonard Pennario, plus I think I should try easier stuff first, like wildflowers or a cup of coffee or something. The other day I painted my oatmeal. That is more my speed.

I will let Barry do the heavy lifting.

And I promise to post his progress!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A walk in the park

I went for a walk yesterday in Delaware Park and I could not stop taking pictures.

The colors were just so beautiful!

I took the picture up above, I think, on my way home. But before that I took other pictures.

The one is slightly different from the one up above. I think it was taken a few minutes earlier.

Then there is this.

Such exquisite pictures! I am sorry, I am not being a big ego. Taking pictures like that is stupid easy these days. You just aim your phone in the general direction and hit the shutter, or whatever it is they call it now.

It is almost a pain because you feel obliged to take pictures wherever you go. Pennario told me that back in the day when he made concert tours all over the world he did not bother. He said, "Because the pictures in my head were so much better than any pictures I would have taken." Which, I totally understand that.

But now that we have these darned phones, you cannot help it.

You have to take pictures!

So you are skiing, or whatever, and all of a sudden you have to stop and fish in your pocket for your phone and take a picture. Well, I have to fish in my pocket. Other people probably have their phones more accessible. Whatever, it is a pain.

Until you see the pictures. I have to say this, I am looking at that sunset picture and I like it.

I am a camera!