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!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Latin lettering challenge

My New Year's Eve resolutions include getting better with lettering. And while I was at church on Sunday, thinking about Latin, I had the idea to put together a Latin lettering challenge.

Everyone else initiates these challenges. Why not me?

Well, one reason why not is I am not techie enough to print out the challenge neatly on a computer the way everyone else does. My printer is kaput. However where there is a will there is a way and so I printed it myself. That is it up above.

You have to start somewhere! It was Dec. 31 and I did not want to wait.

I squared my shoulders and put it up on Instagram. It was liked by 10 people! That is a relief. It is not a lot of likes but enough so that it has something, you know? So people do not look at my little grassroots challenge and say, "Look at that loser, nobody likes what she put up there."

Then I set to work actually doing my challenge.

That was easier said than done!

But I am thinking, if you are the host of a challenge, you have to put something up there so something is there, even if no one else is doing it. Which, if no one else is joining me on my Latin challenge, I can totally understand that.

The first phrase was purposely short but a challenge nonetheless. It being the Seventh Day of Christmas I had gone with "In Excelsis Deo." I am trying to work on my flourishing and tying letters together and arranging them artfully. On the other hand I did not have all day to fuss. I had many other things that had to be done.

Signs of a struggle ....

But the beauty of these challenges is that you have to get something done. It does not have to be perfect. You do your best.

This is good therapy for me because I tend to hesitate too much on certain things. I ask Howard what he thinks. I ask all my friends what they think. I waffle.

At work at The Buffalo News I fortunately have deadlines. Because then things get done whether you are ready or not. And about this Latin challenge, you know what, maybe nobody else will do it. But I am happy that I had the idea and then just went forward with it, without consulting anyone, and just got it done and up there, within an hour.

Veni, vidi, vici!

Now for Day Two. It is "Dona nobis pacem."

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Low Mass

Today we had a Low Mass, on account of we could not get our music act together. The organist was sick and there were not enough choir members.

Well... Perhaps there were enough choir members. I showed up at the last minute and by that time they had canceled the choir and the Low Mass was just beginning. The door to the choir loft was locked. Darn, because I had left my missal there the day before, duh.

This has to be the day there is no choir. Plus, of course someone has to be all correct and lock the organ loft. Now I cannot get my missal.

This was one of the many times when I feel like one of the Foolish Bridesmaids. Any one of these gals, that is me. Totally.

So.... the lowdown on the Low Mass is that what happens is pretty much complete silence, broken only by the squeaking of kneelers and an occasional word spoken aloud by the priest. From time to time, in sync and in silence, everyone kneels, or everyone stands, or everyone makes the Sign of the Cross. This goes on for, oh, 45 minutes. Anyone looking in would think we were crazy.

As I was participating in the Low Mass, missal-less, I begin -- well, I know this is a stretch seeing we are talking about the Catholic Church, but I began feeling guilty.

What if I had arrived earlier? Maybe we would have had enough singers in the choir.

What if I hadn't slid in at the last minute the way I had the day before?

As it was, I had gotten only about four hours' sleep. But what if I had left the party I was at a little bit earlier? It would not have been easy because it was at my friend Gary's, and Guy Boleri was playing, and it was all we could do to leave at 1:30 a.m. Try leaving when Guy is launching into a set of Cole Porter. What's a girl to do? But whatever, I should have done it. I should have left at a decent God-fearing hour and then I would not have gotten here earlier and we would have been able to sing.

The choir members who were here earlier must all hate me, I thought, looking around the church uneasily.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, as Pennario said once when we were arguing about something.

Finally I thought: Mary. Get a grip. So we had a Low Mass.

It is not the end of the world!

No one is dead or bankrupted because you slid into church at the last minute.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, when after Mass I was approached by my choir buddy Dominic, I was ready.

Dominic said, "Mary! If you had only gotten here earlier --"

"Oh, Dominic," I said. "It's New Year's Day at 9 a.m. for heaven's sake. What do they expect?"

A woman's got to know her limitations!

Hahahaha ... I just happened to look back and came upon this other New Year's Day when I was late. Two years ago. And Dominic figured in this one, too.

I never grow up!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

On the Third Day of Christmas

Today, the Third Day of Christmas, I mailed my Christmas cards. Well, I mailed seven of them. I took them to the North Buffalo Post Office. It was about zero degrees. There was a line, how about that? Perhaps others too are observing the 12 Days of Christmas!

Carefully I selected a variety of Christmas designs. Stamps are kind of cheesy these days but the Madonna and Child stamps are not too bad, and I kind of like the caroling stamps too. Or I did before I saw how tiny and cheap they are. Well, still cute, with the "Fa la la."

Fa la la la la la la.

I wished the clerk Merry Christmas and she said the same to me. When I mailed my cards I asked if she would take my picture and kindly she complied. That was nice of her! Now we have that nifty picture up above.

The seven envelopes I did get done looked spiffy.

Anyway. Seven down, about 107 to go. That is all right!

I am enjoying myself!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On the Second Day of Christmas...

Today I celebrated the Second Day of Christmas by writing and addressing a few Christmas cards. It is not as easy as it looks!

Now I see why all these years I never get around to sending Christmas cards. Leonard Pennario used to send Christmas cards and if he could find time to do it, I can, you know?


Where do you find people's addresses these days? I have some close friends who, I do not have their addresses.

Not only that but, my slogan in life should be: "It is never time for the artist to lift her brush."

I am never done!

I am making touches on the card I am mailing. I drew and painted them myself, which does not help things along. My sister and I began drawing our own cards to send to each other and that started it. This is one design of about 20 I have --

... and now I have become obsessed with decorating envelopes. These people I am sending cards to will be so embarrassed! The whole neighborhood will notice these cards.

On the other hand ... on the other hand ....

I do not devote huge portions of my life to this. I had to work today. I had to do other writing. Doing cards is something you can do with shards of time here and there. When Howard is on the computer. When he is watching a video of some pianist lecturing you on how to play Schubert. I can listen while doodling around with this stuff.

Late at night is also a good time to do this.

You will go to bed with visions of sugarplums!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Buon Natale!

I wish I had been doing a better job of chronicling my Christmas season. I will get better at that!

Meanwhile, I have been having the best time. Besides getting done things that need to get done, I have -- let me think -- gone tobogganing at Chestnut Ridge, gone cross-country skiing in Delaware Park, baked cookies, painted my own Christmas cards, had a Tom & Jerry's at Rohall's Corner, gone Christmas caroling TWICE, with 20 friends each time -- and what else? I made peppermint ice cream with my niece. I have been enjoying all of the Celestial Seasonings Christmas teas. On a dramatic snowy night, I viewed the Festival of Lights at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine.

And best of all --

This morning, going to Mass at St. Anthony's, I got to tell people "Buon Natale."

We did not have a coffee hour today, it being Christmas Eve, and a lot of people being in too big of a hurry. I was not one of those people! Had I had my druthers we would have held the coffee hour. But anyway, I hung around long enough after Mass to greet the people arriving for the next Mass, the Italian Mass.

And I got to tell them "Buon Natale!"

"Buon Natale," I told my friend Peter LoJacono, who was setting up for the Mass. That is he in the picture up above! I did not mean to take his picture but he turned up in it. Peter said it back to me and he said it beautifully and musically and authoritatively, so I got to emulate him.

In front of the church when I was leaving I greeted people coming in.

"Buon Natale," I sang out, hoping I would sound like Peter.

And I must have succeeded, because this couple coming in totally acted as if it were business as usual.

"Grazie, grazie," the husband said. He and his wife then wished me Buon Natale.

Is that great or what?

You could shell out to go to Italy or you can do this.

Surely Leonard Pennario was looking down on me smiling, this being the church where he was baptized and everything. He loved Christmas, and still does, I am sure. It is funny to think I was with him 10 years ago tonight on Christmas Eve. You do not have to ask what we were doing. We were eating!

And I was wishing him Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The first "The Sound of Music"

 I found this movie, "The Trapp Family." Long story why I found it, but it was "The Sound of Music" before "The Sound of Music."

It was a German movie, made in 1956 and based on Maria von Trapp's memoirs. It's fascinating to see. You don't have the songs, of course. But I was surprised by how well I liked it. I haven't watched the whole thing, I must admit. I watched it until a little bit after their wedding. But still.

The Maria in this movie looks sort of like Julie Andrews. She was a German actress named Ruth Leweurik. Being a classical music nerd I happen to know she was briefly married to my favorite singer, the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Watching the movie I see why. What a beautiful actress. She died last year at 91, yikes. But anyway...

This movie is really interesting to see. Scene by scene it is a lot like "The Sound of Music." I have to think it influenced "The Sound of Music." How could it not?

There is a beautiful scene where Maria is leaving the convent and hears the nuns singing the Salve Regina. We sing that Salve Regina a lot at St. Anthony's. It is fun in the wedding scene how the sisters get Maria dressed up and it looks as if the Mother Superior is giving her away.

Also, being that today I put up my Christmas tree, I have to alert you to amazing Christmas footage in this movie. It begins 33 minutes in.

You have Captain von Trapp, up on a ladder, trimming this gigantic Christmas tree. By the way, this Captain von Trapp, I do not know who he is but he is really cute. Really. Actually the scene where he and Maria fall in love is as good as in "The Sound of Music."

Anyway, back to Christmas, you see him up in this ladder, attending to this big tree. Then you have the candles on the tree. And the singing of Christmas carols. All in this breathtaking mansion. Then Christmas Eve with all these presents, and a lavish dinner. ...

Why can't my life be like this??

Immediately I set about putting up my tree and doing the lights just right. Here is a trail of lights leading up to my Christmas tree for the great work of art in progress.

There is no way in the world that I am going to measure up.

But I must try!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Back to the drawing board

I am doing a watercolor challenge. I love these art challenges you find on the Internet, and I have hooked onto one of them.

This is from Doodlewash, an international group of, ahem, watercolorists. I like that they are better than I am. I want to play with the big kids. I did some painting when I was a kid but I have no pretentions. I would like to learn from people who are better at it than I am.

So every day I do a watercolor. It really only takes minutes. The one I did today, Tree, I did in the morning between eating breakfast and making Howard's lunch.

But seriously, you do learn. You try this and you try that and eventually you find something you like. The picture at the top of this post is my painting of, ahem, Holly. That was the prompt the other day.

And before that was "Lights." I was kind of proud of these lights, you know?

OK, so the green one was a little bit whacked. The rest look pretty good.

There is something so relaxing about watercolors. They just know where to go. You dip your brush in water and you dip them in the paint, and then the paints take it from there. In my humble and limited experience.

Also doing something like this ever day reminds you that you can work more artistry into your everyday life. Leonard Pennario told me that when he was a kid he decided that he wanted to enjoy everything he did. This is cousin to that.

For instance last Sunday I enjoyed making my coffee hour signs.

What is next for me? That question is easy to answer.

Tomorrow is "Star."

Another day, another drawing!