Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Monument of mystery

The other day in Forest Lawn, getting in my 10,000 steps, I found this monument that looked like a big, corrugated bell.

What was it??

Nobody's name was on it.

I walked around the other side to make sure.

Then I studied it from yet another side.

It was like this blank bell!

What in the world??

Forest Lawn is weird like that. You do find strange things. It is not like the Catholic cemeteries I knew growing up, such as the United German and French, and Mount Calvary. You find very strange things at Forest Lawn.

It does make it great to draw, I will tell you that. And you find many very moving things, like a grave I found of a gentleman identified as A Soldier Of The Revolution. A Soldier of the Revolution!! I deeply admire anyone who fought in the Revolutionary War. I said a prayer for that soldier, I will tell you that right now.

But you do run into things like this bell.

Or whatever it is.

Any ideas?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another day, another drawing

Yesterday I went back to the Lawn! That is how I think of Forest Lawn Cemetery because I am having such a great time drawing things here.

I have had a couple of days off from work so I am able to do this in addition to other work that needs to be done. Yesterday I drew an angel from a memorial near Mirror Lake. It would be hard to top that angel because that statue is just so graceful, so lovely.

However. Today there I am, driving very slowly down the path, Mozart on the car stereo, the sun shining, possibilities limitless, scanning the statues. And as if across a crowded room, I saw him.

Philip Bachert!

I knew instinctively, he was The One.

Of course I did not know his name. I found that out only when I approached the statue. It read: "Philip Bachert, 1840-1915. Wiedrich's Battery. 1st N.Y.L. Art. 1861-1865. G.A.R."

Before I began to draw I ate some lunch I had brought and I studied the statue. Then I got up and addressed Mr. Bachert. I thanked him for his service and then said that I hoped he would not mind if I drew him.

Is that statue amazing or what?

When I went home I looked everything up. Wiedrich's Battery was a Civil War outfit run by Michael Wiedrich, who came from Alsace-Lorraine where my mother's family came from, or Elsass as I have seen it spelled in German Catholic cemeteries. The whole battery was made up of German immigrants from Buffalo.

My friend at work Scott Scanlon even did a story about Wiedrich's Battery and what monsters they were on the battlefield of Gettysburg and Bull Run.

When I was leaving, I happened to see another Civil War monument. This other soldier fought in Mozart's Regiment.

Who knew there was a Mozart's Regiment in the Civil War?

The bad news: You have to go fight in the Civil War.

The good news: You get to be in Mozart's Regiment!

I will have to find out what is with that.

That will have to be a story for another day!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Afternoon in the cemetery

Remember my adventure Urban Sketching? Today I went back to Forest Lawn Cemetery and I did some more drawing.

It is very relaxing and sets a nice tone for the week ahead and all the work I am buried in, you know?

Speaking of burying, I have gotten more used to Forest Lawn. Once when I had to go for work a couple of years ago, it upset me being in there and I could not wait to get out.

But now I kind of like it. I like it because there are things to draw and it is quiet. Yesterday I went for a walk in Delaware Park and it was so loud and I kept hearing the "F" word.

At the cemetery there is hardly anyone. Not only that but there are all these rules about you have to behave with respect to let people rest in peace.

I like that!

You can hear the birds and the splashing of the water!

I drew the Schoellkopf memorial and then I drew a bunch of geese. Then I drew more geese. I am getting good at drawing geese! They are fun. I love the big fat shape of them.

Then I was going to leave because hours had passed and I was hungry. But on the way out I saw the Volunteer Firemen's Memorial and so I stopped and gave it the old college try. That is it at the top of the post!

You get absorbed when you are working and at one point I was so excited because I saw the firemen's coat coming into focus that I realized I was actually drawing with my mouth wide open. It is such a beautiful statue and such a pleasure to draw.

When I was through I got up and took a closer look at the statue.

They put it up in 1901. On the side of the monument, beneath the fireman, there were inscriptions and I began to read them. It turned out they listed firemen who died in some 19th century fires. One was the American Hotel, in 1865. They listed a number of men who died in that fire. There were a few other fires too but that was the big one.

All the firemen they listed were in their 20s. I backed up and took a look at the graves surrounding the monument I had just sketched. I started doing the math. 

Almost all of them were in their 20s or 30s. A few were in their 40s and 50s.

I was surrounded by the graves of firemen who had died fighting fires!

Son of a sea cook, I started to cry!!

This is why you do not go to cemeteries. 

Let us say a prayer for those brave firemen and then move on. 

We can always cheer ourselves up by looking at my pictures of geese.

Honk if you love geese! Haha, could not help that.

Next time I was thinking I could try drawing the Red Jacket statue, except he is right near the entrance and everyone would be looking at me. I saw some angels that looked interesting.

And when the chips are down there are always the geese. Comic relief in the cemetery.

Sometimes you need it!

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!