Thursday, January 16, 2020
It is funny considering how long I have been cooking, but today I made my first roux.
At least I think it was. I do not think I ever made a roux before. It is noux to me!
I was getting ready to make dinner, and I had a recipe planned out of the new Eating Well magazine. But all of a sudden I found this recipe for Gumbo Zeb in this vegetarian cookbook I had, by the hippie cookbook writer Crescent Dragonwagon. And I had to make it.
These things are unplanned, you know? It looked so onerous, this roux, and this spice blend, and this vegetable saute, and the rice, and what else? It seems there was one more thing. Oh, right, the pot of greens. There is that too. It was amazingly onerous and yet all of a sudden you are into it.
And it came together. I think it is coming together anyway.
It is still simmering on the stove. On three different burners.
I will have to report!
I am not exactly vegetarian so at the end of the recipe I am going to add shrimp. And maybe some sausage.I am not sure yet.
I do like trying different things. Last night I did an Eating Well recipe with roasted broccoli over pasta. I took liberties. I added roasted cauliflower to the broccoli because I did not have quite enough broccoli. I added anchovies because Howard and I both love them.
But at the end, I loved it. It reminded me of how I used to eat. Before I was married I made a lot of these slapdash vegetarian dishes. You get a husband, all of a sudden you have to add bacon to everything. Before that you do not.
Now, as long as all goes as planned, I will know how to make gumbo with roux. As opposed to gumbo with okra, the way I always made it.
It all made me remember fondly Bill Wharton, the Sauce Boss. That is a poster of him up above! He used to come to the Lafayette Tap Room and my friends and I would go.
The Sauce Boss would make a huge pot of gumbo on stage and at the end of the night you would eat it. Meanwhile you would assist in the preparation of it. It was a tremendous gimmick and my hope is that it is going on till this day.
You would get up on stage with your friends looking on and you would stir the gumbo with great pomp and circumstance, as the band played. Then you would hop down and resume drinking your beer.
The gumbo would be served at about 2 a.m. if memory serves me. And it was good!
I wonder if mine will be as good tonight.
I can only hope!!
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Today my friend Meghan and I went out drawing in Allentown. We stopped in a coffee shop where we found a good view of the city's oldest houses.
Buffalo's oldest houses sit on Allen Street one after another. There are three in a row, maybe more but I have always considered these three the oldest. I drew two of them. There they are up above.
As I worked I had to come to terms with an uncomfortable truth.
Pretty as the houses are, and old as they are, what really interested me was the "Do Not Enter" sign and the fire hydrant.
I am still a young enough artist that the bends in the street still amaze me. Every time I sketch a scene like this one, I cannot get over the scale of the houses that stretch down the street. I have to be very careful as I go forward. Those houses around the corner, they take up only a few millimeters beneath the eave of the house on the corner.
That is incredible!
I keep holding up my pen, checking, marveling.
Only when I got it down did I let myself sketch in the "Do Not Enter" sign.
Cool things to look at are everywhere. When I was taking a break I stopped in the coffee shop's restroom. and I saw this:
You have to wonder how many beers went into that logo.
And earlier today I took this picture of Jeoffry in his holder.
So many images.
So little time!
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Today to Howard's and my astonishment we sold the second record in a week from our record shop on Etsy, The Old House Downtown.
We sold a lot over Christmas but after Christmas Day you would think it would die down, the world not being privy to the fact that Christmas actually extends until Candlemas which is Feb. 2.
Perhaps the world is privy to the fact!
One record we sold had a Christmas theme, sort of. It was Ferrante and Teicher's "Snowbound."
That video is all well and good however the art is distorted. The record cover in reality is beautiful.
I will tell you one thing, listening to that YouTube recording I am bitterly regretting selling that record.
"Snowbound ... we're snowbound ...." That is amazing. Alas, the record I sold looked so perfect that I did not want to listen to it and maybe scratch it or something.
Anyway, now I am hoping.
Perhaps people are celebrating Christmas into January!
Perhaps they still have their trees lighted, as I do, and they were listening.
We have the art store on Etsy and that is the one I have been paying the most attention to. But I would like to make the record store a success too. On account of it can dovetail with the book about Leonard Pennario. If I run the world's most successful record shop that adds to my cred.
I will tell you one thing, I have learned a lot from being a record dealer. That was how I thought of it when I worked for The Buffalo News. I would leave after a long day at work and then remember my alter ego, as a record dealer. It was fun to switch gears.
And you learn a ton dealing in records. I love Capitol Records because that was Leonard's label, and face it, it was the coolest label. Founded by Johnny Mercer, need we say more?
But I also love the other labels at the time and the records they made. When I list one I will look up information about the artists involved, and the artists who designed the covers -- because of all my years at The Buffalo News, I learned to turn over rocks. You learn so much. When a big album of Leonard's came out, it is fascinating to see the world it entered. Who else was recording what. What else was going on.
Records are the greatest. I wish I had kept "Snowbound"!
Monday, January 6, 2020
I not only heard it, I sang it!
Not that it was easy. There was this 10th century Credo we sing that, the whole time I am singing it, all I can think of is skiing down a tricky hill, not that I have ever skied down a tricky hill but if I did this is what it would be like.
There is always something that makes you pray, "O God, let me not blow it."
And there is likely a time when you do blow it. That is a whole other story.
This Mass I have to admit was an uphill climb starting when on the way up to the choir loft, I ran into our youngest singer who is 12. And she told me, "Your veil is upside down."
Only I could wear a veil upside down!
But it is all worth it in the end. We ended Epiphany Mass with -- what else? -- "We Three Kings."
Someone else really should write an Epiphany carol because this one really has the stage to itself. However it was beautiful as we sang it. I sang alto, a part I learned on the fly at Sunday Mass yesterday. It was me and the 12-year-old and six kids in their 20s.
One gift I have is the most important vocal gift of all, and that is the gift of watching the director. I did that and was able to make up for that I had missed whatever rehearsal it was where they had covered this hymn. It was honestly giving me shivers. It was that beautiful. The guys came in one by one and sang solo the verses the Kings sing ... "Myrrh bring I, its bitter perfume..." And we all hummed our parts.
It made me think of Christmas Eve. At Midnight Mass we sang "Silent Night" as the procession was beginning the Mass. I happened to turn and look over my shoulder from the choir loft and the scene was so transfixing, I could not look away. The altar boys, the cross, the incense.
Today we also reprised "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," in Latin of course. The alto part is magical in that.
This Christmas has been unique in my life. One reason I will remember it is for the singing. How enchanting it was. The last-minute rehearsal on Dec. 23. The "O Magnum Mysterium" at 1 a.m at Midnight Mass. This beautiful Three Kings mass. The medieval chants that are like skiing down a tricky hill.
We were given holy water and blessed chalk and for the first time in my life, when I got home I did as I was directed and I sprinkled the rooms in the house with holy water, said prayers, and took the chalk and wrote over the door, "2020 + C + M + B + 2020." The letters stand for Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. That is their portrait up above on the cover of Success Magazine -- where they belong, being kings. If the Three Kings do not deserve to be on the cover of Success, who does?
We are blessed!
Sunday, January 5, 2020
I hate New Year's
What's wrong with the old one?
Who could ever hold one?
Our great friend the cabaret artist Guy Boleri penned those immortal lines in his musical version of "A Christmas Carol." Scrooge sings them.
Much as I love Guy's musical, I am no Scrooge. I love Christmas and I love New Year's.
Resolutions? I am full of them!
One is to write in this Web log every day in 2020.
Another is to sketch every day.
OK, with both resolutions I think I will make it six at least out of every seven days. Because there will be one day once in a while when you just cannot get to it and then you do not want to bog down.
But so far on the sketch front I am doing pretty much perfectly!
I have gone out every day in 2020, minus one because it was impossible. And I sketched the last three days of the old year as well.
One thing I drew was Holy Angels Church, pictured above, on Buffalo's West Side.
Now I will sound like my old Web logger self and point out that this was Leonard Pennario's church when he was a boy. And when he came back to Buffalo in the last year of my life and I met him, he asked to go back to the church and have a look. We did that.
Pennario had his moment and gazed at Holy Angels. He said, "She looks beautiful."
That is an old-fashioned thing that I love. Ships and churches are feminine and so are a lot of other things.
My great-uncle Andrew, the Rev. Andrew Kunz, was treasurer of the order of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Pennario always referred to them by that full formal name) and was at Holy Angels for something like 50 years starting in 1905 or thereabouts.
All these things were in my head as I sketched. So was F. Scott Fitzgerald who also went to Holy Angels School, for a little while anyway. I kept thinking of him, of Leonard, of my Uncle Andrew.
I also brooded about Holy Angels closing. It is scheduled to close next year, I mean this year. What a crying shame. I am glad it was still open when Pennario went looking for it. So I thought about that too.
Then gradually as happens, all the thoughts fell away and all I thought of was shadows and angles. That is a wonderful thing about drawing. Your mind gradually clears of everything except what you are working on.
Here is a photo I took when I was through in case I needed to refer to it. I try to remember to do that when I am folding up and getting ready to go home. The sun finally came out!
After drawing all week I can say that the sun has been out during that time for all of 10 minutes, total. This is bogus, you know? I can see why John Singer Sargent liked to work in Italy. I tried to get the sun in there when it came out. You always have to work fast because it will not be there long!
That happened again to me today, the sun coming out late and just for a bit, when I was drawing a shopping strip with a hair place and a halal market. Buffalonians can try guessing where I was. I think I will post that one tomorrow.
This is my year!
I will be unstoppable!
Saturday, December 28, 2019
In 2020 I want to write in this Web log every day. And so I am going to get warmed up now.
I cannot tell you how much it means to me now that I wrote every day for so long. My mother passed away and it is as if she lives on, because all these little conversations we had, all the fun we had, is right here. Plus all these things I would have forgotten, I remember them! Because I wrote them down.
Why everyone does not keep a Web log I will never know. But anyway. In the spirit of this new resolution...
My friend Meghan, pictured up above, and I made wreaths!
This was on the Second Day of Christmas, also known as the Feast of Stephen.
We went for a walk through Delaware Park and collected things we would need. We amassed pine boughs, several different kinds. And beautiful wintry berries, probably poisonous because they were sitting there having not been eaten even by birds. There were black and red berries.
As Meghan said later, the red berries were like gold, because there were so few of them. But the black berries were striking! And when we got back to my house we realized that I have growing by my front door -- drum roll please -- actual holly! With the red berries and the shiny leaves.
So we cut all this stuff up and we went to work at my dining room table.'
Later I swept everything up and I thought I had done pretty well. However Howard went to sit down for dinner and he goes, "What the heck?"
His chair was covered in pine needles!
Not so surprising considering not long before the table had looked like this ...
... but still.
Long story short I have a wreath on my door, better late than never. Howard admired it. And I am happy with it.
And today, the Fourth Day of Christmas, I actually sent out a couple of cards.
What will things be like by Twelfth Night?
You never know!
Saturday, December 14, 2019
Thursday was Howard's and my anniversary. We have been married 15 years!
I think the first year I had this Web log going it was only five years. We went to Fanny's that year. Haha, I laugh reading back on that. Fanny's was where we met. That was 2009.
The year after that, 2010, we went to an Asian restaurant called Orchid, because Fanny's had closed.
That was the year Howard showed his aplomb with chopsticks.
In 2011 we went to Oliver's.
In 2012 it seems we celebrated at home. Howard brought me roses and we had lobster from Wegman's.
In 2013 our anniversary coincided with this terrible snowstorm. Haha, I remember that snowstorm. I was just thinking about it the other day, because it was my worst drive home from work ever. I had forgotten it was our anniversary.
But it did! And after St. Christopher got me home in one piece we went to Tokyo II.
That was where we went on Thursday. It is hard to beat a Japanese restaurant. The yelling, the screaming of the birthday parties. The 18th century headdress they put on the birthday girl. The booze they spray into the mouths of the people gathered around the table. These birthday parties are always going on and it is so funny and so much fun.
Back home, Howard had special ordered a bottle of German caraway liqueur. It is called Kaiser Kummel. That name would make sense to anyone in Buffalo because we are used to Kaiser rolls and Kummelweck. Kummel is caraway!
I tried it without looking at the label. I sipped slowly and then I said: "That is caraway."
One of my favorite things.
Kaiser Kummel has been around for over 150 years which means Johannes Brahms could have tasted some. And he did, if I know Johannes Brahms and I do believe I do.
Sushi and caraway!
I wonder what the next 15 years will bring. I do not know but I believe I know one thing.
It will be good!
Sunday, December 8, 2019
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.
Thursday, December 5, 2019
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
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.
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
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
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!
Saturday, November 23, 2019
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!