Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Prepping for Inktober


I want to do Inktober this year. It is a 30-day art challenge and all you have to do is draw in ink.

That could even be a ballpoint pen!

Of course I do like to complicate things. That is why my Leonard Pennario book project has taken me 10 years and also why I am drawn toward those fine inks from Germany pictured above. Drawn to the inks, get it? Ahem.

Also I had to go complicate things by getting a sheaf of colored inks and I would like to try painting with them. At the same time, though, I like that ink can be simple. Plus I love how ink goes with October. Way back in '08 I celebrated October by telling tales of the supernatural ever day.

Yikes, that was 10 years ago!

It is high time I did that again!

Along with Inktober. I can post my pictures too.

Anyway today, downtown, we sold out our donuts in only half an hour or so, and I had extra time, so I biked by Forest Lawn and began prepping for Inktober. I drew mausoleums and statues.

Ink might be simple but it is a challenge in that I did not let myself use pencil. I have to learn to wing it. I used a narrow little drawing pen.

I drew these things.


That was a stone mausoleum and on the right is this statue which I believe is called Aspiration. Forest Lawn is kind of strange like that, you find statues to things like Aspiration.

Aspiration was a doozy to draw. It got discouraging because when I get to work in pencil and erase, I am capable of better stuff. Several times drawing in ink I almost gave up. But I made myself keep going.

I did not want to take forever on any one thing because I have all kinds of work to do. So after a little while I turned the page and began again.

And again.


Technically these are not much better. The picture on the right, I almost ripped the page out in disgust. But I kept going.

And now, you know what, I like it!

I got home and first thing I did was get out my sketchbook and look things over. Funny thing, at the cemetery I had felt like a loser because I was thinking everything I had done was kind of a failure. Then I saw that picture and thought, I have something going on with this one.

This picture, I kind of liked it. I liked its swirls and its long lines and the weird look on Aspiration's face.

Clearly Aspiration was thinking, What in the world?

This picture was one percent Aspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

Perfect for Inktober.

This will be fun!



Monday, September 10, 2018

The secrets of the garden

You know what is almost as much fun as identifying mystery birds?

Identifying mystery trees!

Through what amounts to a supernatural act of God, the back yard is being cleaned out. We are cutting back some trees to encourage others. A tree that has pressed against the garage roof forever is now ausgegangen. That is German for "outta here"! My dad used to use it frequently.

The apple tree is being rehabilitated. Remember the apple tree? It has been so hopeless for so long. Now things are different. Dead branches are ausgegangen and so is a vine that it turns out was choking it and depriving it of sun. It will produce apples again!

Honest, it is like "The Secret Garden." And my name is Mary! Just like in the book. Plus, I have the book. And I have the coloring book. It is only fitting that now I have the garden too.

Speaking of Victorian literature, one thing we have found is Hibiscus Syriacus "Blue Bird," or "Oiseau Bleu" if you are feeling French.

Not only one but two of them!

This flowering shrub, which I worked hard to identify, was popular in Victorian gardens. Tomorrow when it is light I will post a picture of the real thing. Meanwhile there is this.



I cannot wait to tell my friend Ari because we always used to joke about the Hibiscus Room. I cannot remember exactly where or what the Hibiscus Room was because the entire joke was that Ari would say, "The Hibiscus Room," and I would laugh.

Now my back yard can be the Hibiscus Room.

I am on my way!




Sunday, September 9, 2018

Like a Bos


You know how people ask you, "And what did you get out of Mass today?"

Today I have an answer!

Sleepy as I was, and preoccupied with the coffee hour as I was, nevertheless this Mass taught me something I will never forget.

In the Gospel today there is something about a cow. And the Latin word for cow is "bos."

I gazed at that word charmed.

Bos!

That explains "bovine."

And even better, it explains "Bossy."

That is why people have historically named their cows Bossy!

Remember the bossy Lutherans and the bossy estate sale people? "Bos" does not explain them. Nothing can explain them! But cows named Bossy, the Latin word has to be the reason.

It has to be!!

Naturally I could not wait to share this observation -- or should we say rumination -- with a couple of my fellow choristers up in the organ loft. A few minutes later I felt terrible. Here I am diverting their attention from the Gospel. What is it in me that makes me want to disturb people's devotions?

But still, Bos.

They will remember it.

They will thank me!


Thursday, August 23, 2018

A day of croquet


The other night our family had a picnic. My brother Tony brought a croquet set and after dining in the open air, we played croquet. That is us up above, enjoying our sport. My brother Tony is at left.

Fooled you! Actually this is us.


From left to right you are seeing my brother Tony, my nephew Georgie, my niece Barb, and Tony's friend Jacquie. You may wonder at Tony's look of grave concentration! It was his job to instruct us all as to the rules and keep the game moving. Not easy!

If you could not see the wickets in the picture we could not either. But that is part of the challenge of croquet.

We used to play croquet years ago in our family. We went to Emory Park in East Aurora, to the exact same location shown in the picture, and would play croquet as the sun was going down. We would play until it was too dark to see.

Once Tony, who was about 12 then, missed a shot and he threw his mallet into the air in frustration. My dad filmed it on this camera he had and he would play it in when we had Home Movie night. Then he would play it in reverse so you could see the mallet airborne, then returning to Tony's hand. Ha, ha! Tony tells the story hilariously.

Now, I will tell you this, I can understand his frustration.

There is nothing like whacking that ball toward the wicket and it just grazes it and rolls off into an utterly inconvenient direction. The other day that kept happening to me.

I lost that game fair and square!

I put the "croke" in croquet!

But I am looking forward to next time. And there will be a next time. This is the second family picnic we have had and everyone is psyched for another.

I will be working on my game.

No more sticky wickets!


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My encounter with Aretha Franklin


I was sad to hear a few days ago of the passing of Aretha Franklin. She died so young. And it gets me on a personal level, because of the time my path crossed hers.

It was a unique encounter! The saga began with a phone interview I did for The Buffalo News.

This particular call was an accident. Our pop music critic, Jeff Miers, happened to be on vacation when Aretha's publicist called offering the interview. We did not want to say no to an interview with Aretha Franklin, seeing that she lived in Buffalo as a girl. So I stepped up to the plate. I put myself through a quick crash course on her career -- I was an expert on Leonard Pennario, not on Aretha Franklin -- and then the diva and I spoke.

Here is the interview I did. Reading back on the interview I smiled remembering how when I mentioned I played the piano, and began asking her about her own playing, she seemed to relax and brighten. Pianists love to talk to other pianists!

But the real fun began afterwards.

It was right as I was telling her goodbye -- isn't it funny how that is when people come out with stuff? Aretha began talking about the friends she had as a little girl in Buffalo.

She wondered if I could help her get in touch with this family. And so I did. First I put together a story, a kind of shout-out to them. Blassingame, the name was.

Subsequently I was able to get a hold of Wayne Blassingame on Facebook. We had a bunch of friends in common and so I was able to message him. Aretha had remembered him as the baby of the family. She had been sort of sweet on his older brother, Gordon.

Aretha came to town and as you can see in The News' photos, was delighted that she was able to meet Wayne, who still lives in Buffalo and, may I add, is still my Facebook friend. Meanwhile, I got to talk with Gordon Blassingame.

We ran that story under the subtle title, "Aretha Franklin's Childhood Crush Tells All." I believe I wrote that headline.

The whole experience really touched me. You could tell Aretha was taking stock of her life. You could tell she was looking back wondering what things might have been like if her life had been different. This boy Gordon Blassingame -- well, he was now, like her, in his 70s -- she had tried to reconnect with him a couple of times in his single days, after their paths separated. Once, when she showed up looking for him in a limo, he was out of town.

He struck me as a salt-of-the-earth guy, the kind of man every girl would be lucky to marry. He had been in the military, joining the Marines. Then he had settled down to a job in public transit, and retired with what I imagine must be a good pension. He had been married to his wife for 41 years and hoped to top his parents' record of 50 years of marriage. He chuckled that he and his wife joked about Aretha from time to time, affectionately.

No wonder Aretha had seen something in him. A celebrity's life can be lonely and I bet you wish for that kind of normalcy, for a good faithful man to stand between you and the world.

My Aretha Franklin story did not end when her concert did.

A few days later, this gigantic bouquet of flowers arrived at work. That is the bouquet in the picture at the top! Howard found it. The flowers were from Aretha, with a note thanking me for helping her reconnect with her friends.

I think we did an email back-and-forth after that. I know I wrote her to thank her, and she mentioned to me that when she next came to Buffalo maybe I could give her a tour of The Buffalo News. Which, we all would have loved that. But she did not come back here, at least not that she knew. She did come back from time to time, we heard, to visit her mother's grave in Forest Lawn.

It got so I liked to go to Forest Lawn too! Too bad we never realized we had that in common.

I sort of thought I would get to meet her one day. She had invited me to say hello at Artpark, but I think I had to be at the Philharmonic or someplace. Plus I learned a long time ago not really to listen when artists invite you to meet them backstage. Who needs another stranger backstage, you know? And those situations do not bring out the best in me.

I still cannot actually name one Aretha Franklin song aside from "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." But I began jokingly to think of her as my buddy. My buddy, Aretha. I said a prayer for her when, in the car, I heard she had died. We should all say our prayers for Aretha Franklin, pray that she makes it to heaven. I have a feeling she will.

She was more than the Queen of Soul.

She was a gracious lady.




Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sunday baking report


One reason I went for that bike ride yesterday was that I was relaxing after my church coffee hour baking.

It is hard to believe I have been baking for the coffee hour for two years now. Two and a half years! What is really funny is I still get a real kick out of it.

Yesterday my theme was, I was baking out of a cookbook called "Breakfast at Nine, Tea at Four." It is put out by, ahem, the Mainstay Inn in Cape May, New Jersey.

With us it is more like, Mass at Nine, Coffee Hour at Ten Fifteen. But it is all good. I made Orange Kuchen and Blueberry Breakfast Cake, both from that cookbook. They were part of a larger buffet that also included banana bread, corn bread, eggs with sausage and veggies ...



... and my trademark Jackson Pollack coffee wreath pictured way up above. This week I made a chocolate filling.

Also on the groaning board were Lizzie's brownies and yummy zucchini bread, and watermelon that our friends Bill and Margaret bought. That is life at St. Anthony of Padua's Latin Mass! Every week is like Babette's Feast. Other people bring stuff, too. We do love to eat.

Yesterday to the pleasant surprise of Team Coffee, the turnout was great even though it was a summer day and our Latin Mass Picnic was last week so you would have thought people would have had enough of each other for the time being.

We went through almost all the food!

And my friend Alenka who is from London praised in particular the Orange Kuchen. Alenka does not care for cinnamon and deplores that here in America it is everywhere. And so I had subbed in allspice for cinnamon in the recipe, all on account of her.

I was particularly proud of the eggs because they were a last minute sub for something that, uncharacteristic for me, had not worked out. I threw this dish together and prayed it would bake fast enough to get me to the church on time, as the song goes.

My prayers were answered! I was on time! Well, almost on time. The priest and the altar boys ...



... made it in just before I did, darn. I had to stand back.

But still. Such fun, you know? Sometimes at Mass it is hard for me to keep my mind on the prayers because I am thinking about the food.

I am not Mary, I find myself thinking on those occasions.

I am Martha!



Sunday, August 12, 2018

My favorite fountain


This being Sunday when we are supposed to relax and enjoy, I went on an evening bike ride.

I love biking through Buffalo's Central Park neighborhood. It reminds me of when I was a kid and used to bike around Snyder, only it is, dare I say, perhaps just a little bit nicer. Vast stretches of it are so quiet, which makes it wonderful this time of year. In August you get the crickets and the cicadas.

This evening I pedaled around aimlessly on my Huffy Harvard Limited. Did I tell the story of this Huffy? I do not think I did. I will have to. Anyway, I came to a stop at this idyllic little park where I took the picture above.

I always admire this park when I pass it. I keep meaning to stop one of these days, and sit on that bench, and attempt a painting or a sketch.

Here is the park from another angle.


I was so happy to see the fountain going. The last couple of times I pedaled past, the fountain was not going, which made me worry. This may be the tony Central Park neighborhood but it is still Buffalo. And in Buffalo when something breaks it takes a long time to fix.

So, nice to see the fountain making a splash. And to pedal through the golden streets.

Besides being a peddler's helper I am also a pedaler.

What a beautiful summer this is!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I'm gonna wash that ceiling right outta my hair


I got tired of the popcorn ceiling in my bathroom so I took it out.

Yay me!!

I have read that no one should ever put a popcorn ceiling in the bathroom on account of it is wet in there and the wet brings the ceiling down. That seems to have been the situation in my house. That ceiling was coming down whether I wanted it to or not! There were a number of patches of no ceiling.

My sister Katie checked it out and said I could likely remove it with a putty knife. So I decided to do that.

Cost of the project: $2. One buck for a putty knife and another for a 10-pack of face masks, both from Dollar Tree. You can also get eye-protecting goggles at Dollar Tree for a buck but I had a pair already from making soap. Did you not know I made soap? There is a lot about me you do not know!

Honest, though, I never thought I could take down this ceiling. The secret is just to do it. Do not think too much about what is involved or you will just want to go lie down.

It was about 90 degrees. I was scraping away! They are right about you need the goggles and the mask. But it was tough going from time to time and I did not think I would finish.

I put a sheet over the sink to catch the ceiling bits.



Then I put the sheet over the tub.


Then things were going well enough so I decided not to give up on the part of the ceiling I had left. So the sheet moved back to the sink. In time it moved back to the tub. I could not complete each section in turn. That is just not how I roll. Several times I even gave up and did a complete clean-up, only to begin again.

It was thrilling when I realized I was winning!

It got so it was raining ceiling. Huge slabs of popcorn ceiling were coming down. At one point a slab hit the light switch and turned off the light. A lot of it also came down on my hair. When I was through I took this picture in celebration ....


... and then I had to take a shower in my cleaned-up tub.

Ergo you may take my headline literally. I'm gonna wash this ceiling right out of my hair! That is what I sang in the shower.

Next comes the task of painting the bathroom. I think I will do the kind of sage green it was so many years ago. The ceiling was the same color and I will do that too.

At the top of the post is a picture of the ceiling as it is now, sans popcorn. It is cracked but kind of pretty, you know? Like something you would see in an ancient building in Venice, along with a plaque saying that Wagner wrote "Tristan and Isolde" here, or Leonard Pennario stayed here.

Well, OK, you have to use your imagination. I do!

But as I said, I never imagined I could do this. And now as a woman I feel very proud.

I have shattered the popcorn ceiling!





Thursday, August 2, 2018

Farm girl


Remember my CSA, Porter Farms?

I am back with them!

Quietly P.F. and I have amassed quite a history. I seem to remember they got annoyed with me once years ago when I complained in the Buzz column that they gave us too much bad news. I complained on this web site too as I recollect. I do like to complain, something that Leonard Pennario and I had in common.

But I love Porter Farms and they know it. I joined it again last year because they were delivering to The Buffalo News. The bags came in Thursday and it was a ton of fun. The newsroom would turn into an Amish market as produce was laid out on desks and coworkers swapped with each other or split shares. Kohlrabi would be held up and puzzled over. People were going around carrying huge bags of greens.

This summer, since I took the buyout at the paper, I get my bag a few blocks away from my house. I am always in a hurry to go get it, always tripping over Howard and the cat.

Then I come home and lay the contents of the bag out on tables and counters. Sometimes I take pictures of it, i.e. the picture above. Occasionally I paint pictures of it. Just today I found a half-done painting attempt and I remembered why I had not finished it. Dinner time arrived and I had to clear all the farm vegetables off the table.

Another thing that makes the farm fun for me is, I do not want to know in advance what is in the bag. They send me emails and I am careful not to open them.

I insist on being surprised!

I was like that last year, too. Ha, ha! Three cheers for the farm that puts up with me.

I guess between that and the aversion to bad news, I am not a CSA's ideal customer.

But I am a faithful one!

Monday, July 23, 2018

The peddler's helper


It is official! I have been licensed by the City of Buffalo. I am now a Licensed Downtown Peddler's Helper.

That is the greatest! It is much cooler than being a Peddler, say I. My great-great-great grandfather, Meinrad Kunz, he was a peddler. I know because I found him once in the City Directory in the 1850s. But I am a Peddler's Helper.

Above is a picture of me helping at the City of Buffalo Department of Coffee and Donuts, our donut booth downtown. It is just a once-a-week thing so it is not as if it takes up all my time. The time it does take, I make that count. You can tell by looking at the picture that I am peddling as fast as I can!

Here is my license.


Because I can just tell that there are people who think I am making this up.

Now here is a funny donut story. Last time I checked in, it was Leonard Pennario's birthday. I had in mind that it would be a great day to resume this Web log, which had kind of hit the skids on account of my breakneck-pace work schedule. I was going to write about how the Pennario project was coming along, what a high priority it is for me right now, and celebrate his birthday that way.

Instead I celebrated his birthday with donuts, doh.

Oh well. Who knows, the donuts might help pay the bills while I am finishing the book.

Besides, Pennario liked his sweet treats.

He would have approved!

Monday, July 9, 2018

But first, donuts


Howard is making donuts. That is a picture of them up above, in progress.

We sold donuts the other day at our downtown booth. The spotlighted donut is, as seen in the picture, the "1901." It is a tribute to the Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo in 1901, where donuts such as ours, such as Howard's I mean, would have been in the offing.

The donuts are hearty. They could be a meal. I cannot allow them in the house, is all I can say. They are crunchy on the outside and dense and delicious on the inside.

A tantalizing closeup:



Here I am selling them at the booth. This is a celebrity shot with the poet Joe Dinki.


Because parking was impossible Howard and I took the train. He took this picture of me.


I am having fun living the bohemian life, I will tell you that.

Howard and I were selling donuts and Freezies on Saturday and in a rare lull, these two girls came up to me, two teenagers, and they said, "You are smiling so happily we thought you were smiling for a picture."

I said: "I am happy here in the donut booth."

We do not sell donuts every day so that leaves me time for my serious work. The folks at St. Anthony's where Leonard Pennario was baptized are pressuring me to get the book about him done and I have that on track for this year.

But first, donuts. 

He would approve.





Friday, June 22, 2018

Catnap


"For there is nothing so sweet as his peace when at rest."

That is a line I love from "My Cat Jeoffry."

Above is My Cat Jeoffry asleep on an armchair in the living room. I have these two beautiful red armchairs I was not appreciating on his account. One was upstairs well protected from Jeoffry by piles of stuff. Another, not matching the first but similar, was downstairs, but it was covered by an old quilt so Jeoffry would not claw it.

Finally a few weeks ago I said, I will bring these chairs out into the light.

Probably they will have a short lifespan but meanwhile I may as well enjoy them!

I have reason to be concerned because very early on after we got Jeoffry, we had to bring an armchair out to the curb. He had absolutely gutted it. Such was the damage that the garbage men stopped in their duties and just laughed openly. I observed them.

They understood: A cat lives here!

So far, though, the armchairs do not seem to have aroused the obsession in Jeoffry that the earlier chair did. He claws them now and then but not with any real commitment.

He does like to sleep on the one chair.



"For there is nothing so sweet as his peace when at rest."

Let us hope he remains at rest!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mausoleum of mystery


Today is the longest day of the year so I have time to write.

Make hay while the sun shines!

I recently accepted a buyout from The Buffalo News and no longer work there. But it is still tough to find extra minutes in the day. I am still trying to get a lot done. My project on Leonard Pennario, I have written and revised and written and revised for ten years, yikes, and now it is time to pull it together and get something out. And there is lots of other stuff on the side.

There is cooking. You gotta eat! There is house-related work. My house has long been falling down around my ears. There is ex (my phys ed teacher brother's slang for exercise).

That is where Forest Lawn comes in. When I do not go to the gym I like to walk and sketch in Forest Lawn.

You may recall the Monument of Mystery.

Today we come to the Mausoleum of Mystery!

Well, there are two that I have found. This is one. That is it pictured above.

It is being swallowed up by the earth!

The dead person is supposed to be buried. The building itself is not supposed to be buried. Well, that is how things normally go. This mausoleum is going its own way.

Whose is it? That is the mystery.

I see no name.

I have walked around and around it.

The deer ....


... want to know too what is the deal.

The mysteries in Forest Lawn are many. From my Catholic perspective the entire place is weird. In Catholic cemeteries you do not find sculptures of the deceased. You do not have the same emphasis on earthly achievements. You do not find monuments to things like Aspiration.

On the other hand you do not find all the interesting things to draw that you find at Forest Lawn. That is what brings me there. That and the quiet. It is the only place in the city you can actually hear the birds. You can think thoughts without having to hear passers-by swearing and yelling things like "Oh my God your butt is hanging out!"

Sorry, it has been too long since I alluded to that! That was one of the first things I wrote about.

I have missed this Weblog. I am going to write in it daily now. Starting today, the first day of summer. A fine time to write about a mausoleum of mystery.

I will continue to ruminate on that.

I will wonder as I wander!

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.

Mangia!