Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Bosch gets the kabosh

We put the kabosh on the Bosch, b'gosh.

The Bosch stove this is! Not the dishwasher. The Bosch dischwascher -- sorry, you just have to spell it that way, you know? -- is the light of my life. I treat it like gold and buy it expensive rinse aid because it is the one appliance that has not betrayed me.

How did Bosch make such a great dischwascher but blow it with the stove?

Anyway. The saga of the Bosch has been chronicled extensively on this Weblog. It kicked two years after I first bought it, and then, well, it just kept kicking.

Finally I kicked it!

The other day it began leaking gas and that was the last straw. Up until then Howard had been fixing it whenever it broke, which was often. We kept ordering parts. But a gas leak is no joke and so as of today the Bosch was out the door. While I was waiting for the new stove I gave the Bosch the ceremonial kick.

Not long after that the phone rang and it was my Aunt Marce. I told her about the Bosch and how it was finally outta here.

She said, "Well, I hope you gave it a ceremonial burial."

I said: "I did. I kicked it."

Aunt Marce is a wonderful cook and that conversation was a pleasure because I knew that she understood me on a visceral level.

The thing was, that Bosch, it would desert me without a moment's notice. I do my church coffee hour and I could not go on like this, the thing dying on  Friday or a Saturday right when I was prepping for it. It had gotten to the point where it kicked several times a year. What if it kicked on Thanksgiving? Fie on it! Fie!!

So the Bosch got the kabosh.

Because of bad experiences I had had with Orville's over this Bosch, I went with Lowe's this time. Burned by this luxury stove that did me dirt, I am now going with a bare-bones model. It is a no-frilled General Electric with not so much as a clock. Something like this ...

It is just this big blank white stove. No controls. Not only that, it has a broiler drawer. Down at the bottom! I could not believe that.The last time I had a broiler drawer down at the bottom of the stove, I think I was in college.

When I realized that what I thought was the warming drawer was actually the broiler, I could not stop smiling. It is like memory lane! In my college apartments, we had these ancient Laurel and Hardy appliances, and the stove always had the broiler in this bottom drawer. I had forgotten all about that.

Well, you must excuse me now, but I have an Italian pork loin braising slowly on the front burner of my new stove.

A new day dawns!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The new Aldi

There is a glitch with the system tonight and it would not let me upload the pictures I wanted to upload. The only thing I could get to work was "Upload pictures from blog." So I did that and I saw the picture up above and I posted it.

On account of you cannot have a blog post without a picture!

What I wanted to report on was, our new Albrecht Discount reopened after its remodeling. And I went to it!

It is still a work in progress. It still managed to be a bit woebegone even with its remodeling. I think it needs to fill out a bit more. I have been to Aldis in worse neighborhoods than mine and they have looked better.

Also I could not find what I was looking for. It took me forever to find coffee and when I did, they were out of the Beaumont brand, the cheap brand, that I always buy. I had to settle for the 100 Percent Colombian. Which, I do not mind trying it, because I might like it. But still.

There were no good markdowns.

The checkout was slow. Lots of people in line. O look! The blog is letting me post a picture I took.

What other pictures can I post?

I guess I was not in a big enough hurry to catch these limited-time specials.

The view across the store. You see what I mean? It still looks kind of lackluster.

Another picture I took. Photography is sure easier than sketching!

I should have taken more pictures. But once in Price-Rite I was reprimanded for taking pictures. That was funny because I was taking admiring pictures of their spice department. I love their spice department and I wanted to tell the world. Plus, how can a store tell you not to take pictures? You are allowed to take pictures.

Ever since then I err on the side of caution. I do not like conflict.

But next time I go to this Aldi I will be bold and I will take more pictures. Perhaps it will have changed!

Perhaps the Limited Time Better Hurry case will be better stocked. Either that or perhaps I will be earlier.

Perhaps the Beaumont Coffee will be in stock.

Perhaps the checkout lines will be shorter.

I cannot wait to find out!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Summer in the city

As I write this, thunder is booming outside and rain is pouring down. The cat is in the window, fascinated.

We have been having this wonderful summer of weather and this sudden storm bears it out. It is like Camelot. The rain can never come till after sundown.

This evening I got on a bike and went to our historic Buffalo tavern, Ulrich's. I sketched Ulrich's from across the street. I had only about an hour before it began to get dark and I got back on the bike and pedaled home. Before I left I took the picture up above, just for reference. Tomorrow I will post my sketch. It is awesome! Well, I was happy with it, I will say that.

While I was drawing I was thinking: Grover Cleveland drank in that tavern! Odds are my great-grandfather drank in that tavern!

Did my great-grandfather know Grover Cleveland? That is a question to ponder.

When I was nearing my house it was the most amazing thing. There were people everywhere. Kids were swinging on the swings across the street from my house. Couples were walking with baby carriages. People were walking their dogs. All along the street you saw people on the sidewalks, people on their porches.

The city was alive!

It is like this all summer but especially in the last days of summer. The motorcycles too are roaring down the streets. Writing that, I am all of a sudden affectionate toward them. Everyone feels the summer is leaving.

We must enjoy it while we can!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The art of Kmart

I did another Buzz column -- yikes, what is this, week five?

I cannot believe I can be this consistent! Of course miracles happen when someone is holding you to a deadline and Howard is. I am like a trained horse. I need deadlines.

One thing I loved about this week's column is I got to work in my sketch of Kmart, up above, which I am crazy about. Urban sketching at its finest!

Kmarts are falling right and left but ours here in North Buffalo has been dodging the bullets rather well. I did the above picture from my car on a cold day last winter.

Kmart is not Monet's pond of water lilies but it is something. I loved drawing the carts. I always love the details.

I did the Kmart sketch for my friend Ryan who loves Kmart but I would have drawn it in any case and Ryan knows that.

One day I will paint Kmart in the style of Monet, Van Gogh, and John Singer Sargent.

That reminds me.. I may have mentioned, I have that kind of New Age-y habit of writing my goals, every morning. You write things in the present tense, as if they have already happened. And lo, it comes to pass! At least that is the idea.

Every day I write: "I draw and paint like John Singer Sargent. I play the piano like Leonard Pennario."

Now we shall wait and see!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Castle in the air

I just did my fourth weekly edition of the Buzz Column! It is my new weekly sketch diary modeled after the column I did for years for The Buffalo News.

I realize I am falling back into my old ways!

Just today I caught myself emailing notes to myself for the next go-round. I always used to do that.

I began jotting down a few things people told me.

It is nice because along with working on the book I am working on, it reminds me that I write.

It also allows me to track what I have done. This week I made the main drawing the sketch I did a few days ago of the Connecticut Street Armory.

When I drew the Connecticut Street Armory I had special fun drawing the bus shelter. I love the contrast between the big medieval-looking castle and the mundane NFTA shelter. The people on their phones.

Why is everyone always on a phone, you know? This morning I was walking around the park and you know how you get when your mind wanders, you can get brooding over something. I was brooding over I forget what, and I passed one of the million people you pass who are on their phones. And suddenly I brightened.

I said to myself, "At least I'm not oblivious."

Now that I look at that picture I drew, it is like one of those Charles Addams cartoons you used to see in the New Yorker. These people are on their phones oblivious to this giant castle rising over their heads. It is as if they did not know it was there.

Looking at it with that in mind it is almost as if I dreamed it. What an amazing, absurd creation that place is.

At least I'm not oblivious!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The most beautiful German word ...

... is, admittedly, an honor for which the competition is keen.

There is Busgruss, or "bus greeting," referring to when two buses pass and the drivers wave at each other. I think that one was the result of a contest.

There is "schuft."

There is my dad's favorite German word, "Auspuhfsrohr," which means exhaust pipe. I am not sure I spelled it right but I sure know how to say it -- "Owss - poofs -- roar!"

I love all those words, love them from the bottom of my heart. But now I have a word that eclipses them all, at least for now.

It is Balkongestaltung!

I do not even know exactly what that means but I think it means "balcony porn." There is a Pinterest board with that title that I have fallen in love with.

Having given that link I will poach from that board freely.

Can you stand it?

It is not just the porches themselves. It is the landscapes that surround them. These high rises. The architecture.

There are whole movies you can watch. This is my favorite. It is like "Gone With the Wind." I have already watched it three times.

I mean, 4:59. Where in the world is that?

5:13. Sometimes I just stop the film and stare.


7:23 is one of my favorites. I like the evening pictures.

7:39. What a vista!

I am trying to decorate my back porch as I may have mentioned. The month of August is going to be a big one for me. There is much work to be done. I need to get a lot in order before September.

Hence my porch. I want it to be a haven of relaxation for when I need it.

I began researching ideas for low-budget things I could do. Note: I realize that if you have a small porch, as I do, it helps to use the word "balcony." Otherwise you get pictures of huge wraparound porches with tons of furniture and rocking chairs and tables and everything. "Small Balcony" does the trick.

Now I am beginning to wonder: Who needs that haven of relaxation when I can just look at these pictures?

Take me away!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Warming Drawer

So today my life felt as if it were spinning out of control and so I cleaned the house.

That is what it takes for me to clean the house!

One thing I did was scrub the Bosch stove. I always mean well, intending to clean the Bosch daily or at least once a week. Which, I never do that. And so it gets dirty.

I felt like the gal in the picture at left! Except my stove is a Bosch. And it was no so easy to scrub as the oven in the picture. I want that oven.

I was scrubbing the Bosch and I did the range part of it. And then what I did was, I pulled out the Warming Drawer. That is the drawer at the bottom where you keep all your baking pans.

The drawer was unbelievably scuzzy!

I mopped it down. I mopped down the drawer where it comes out, and then I swabbed down the entire drawer. The drawer was unbelievably dirty. I took all the pans out of it and washed them. Then I thought ...

Why don't I leave this empty, as the Warming Drawer?

What is a Warming Drawer, anyway?

Bosch says it is to keep meals warm before you serve them.

It would be nice to see if the Warming Drawer works. There is always something on the Bosch that does not work and right now that is the broiler. If the Warming Drawer worked that would be a plus for the stove. I have never used the Warming Drawer but it has never been empty so I could use it. Perhaps if it were empty and clear of all the pans you store there, I could use it.

Whatever, now the Warming Drawer is empty, and clean.

Perhaps I can use it now!

Friday, July 26, 2019

We discover Columbus

Yesterday my friend Meghan and I went to Columbus Park and drew the statue there. I sent Howard the photo up above and Howard posted it on Facebook with the title, "On this day, Mary discovered Columbus."

Which I love! But it goes deeper than that.

You never know when that statue of Columbus will be gone!

Every year Columbus is back in the limelight on Columbus Day. He has been dodging bullets for years. Somebody does something, douses the statue in red paint, vandalizes it somehow. He stays standing there stoically, handsome in his Renaissance pantaloons, holding the territory. Every year, after Columbus Day, there is a kind of thanksgiving. Columbus lives to see another year.

Whether that will happen again is uncertain. I understand a sign is nearby saying Columbus is to be removed. I did not see that sign.

Who is going to get the statue?

Can I have it?

Just a few weeks ago we all saw the reproduction of the Santa Maria in the harbor and we all loved it, as you can see in my picture.

About the statue of Columbus, can we all just get our heads together here?

People demanding this statue come down should take a step back and admit something -- that they do not know the first thing about it. Nobody does.

We all would have to do our homework and go back and read Columbus' original letters which, who has the time to do that. We cannot believe everything we read these days. Heck, we cannot believe anything we read. We have to check it out for ourselves. We have to do research and read centuries-old documents.

Until we have a chance to do that, can we just leave the statue up? Just an idea.

It is a beautiful statue. The foundation reads that it was dedicated by the Federation of Italian-American Societies and by the Public-Spirited Citizens of the City of Buffalo. That is a description I love.

Columbus Park was beautiful when we were there. A woman was sitting on a bench reading a book. Hours passed and she was still there and so were we. It was quiet.

Except -- I almost forgot this -- this big brown-and-white bird kept swooping around, making this big loud call I never remember hearing. It was magical, this day, this place.

I want this place to stay, as it is. With the statue.

I want Columbus to stay so I can sketch him again!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ron Moss -- a boss, and a very sad loss

A sad thing has happened. We have lost Ron Moss.

People who have read this Web log for a while will know that Ron Moss, pictured above on my couch, is Howard's cousin. He had a long and colorful career as a cab driver and more recently was known for pushing shopping carts around town. Always he asked you a million personal questions. Always he made you laugh.

There was a graveside service this morning and I could not believe it, Ron Moss no longer among us. It was a Jewish service and it did not pull punches. I threw a shovelful of dirt on the coffin like in "Doctor Zhivago." I was not sure if I was supposed to participate both as a woman and as a Catholic but I went ahead and participated.

You almost had to, or you would not believe it.  Half way through the brief ceremony Howard's phone rang and he whispered, "Maybe it's Moss."

It would be like Moss for it to be Moss, that is for sure!

Anyway. Back home from the cemetery I went onto the Web log and began looking up Ron Moss stories. I got teary reading them. Each was more loony than the last.

There was the time Ron Moss pushed a gift under the fence of Howard's garage. 

Moss's words of wisdom: "It can be postponed!"

Ron Moss Participates in City Crackdown. I remember Howard wrote that headline.

There is this classic:

Moss cracks up a Metro Bus full of people.

A list of Moss-isms, inspired by him yelling obscenities at an officer.

And the time Moss appeared at Occupy Buffalo.

One story I found and really loved did not even directly involve Moss. Moss ...

was not there. This story was about Howard on a patio wearing a Moss T-shirt and -- well, read it, I insist. was laughing and laughing.

In between these highlights were lots of littler things.

 A scheme we had to get Ron Moss operating a ride service.

The time we considered having Ron Moss living in the Tillinghast Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Moss getting his flu shot and asking everyone at CVS if they knew "union boy" Len Lenahan.

Just a garden-variety sighting of Moss and his shopping cart on Hertel was classic.

As was Ron's initial appearance in "Cast of Characters," way back in 2008.

The way you could always threaten to put people or businesses who annoyed you or cheated you onto Ron Moss's daily calling list. I considered that once.

The picture I took of the back of Ron Moss's head.

One thing makes me happy on this sad day. I am very happy I have kept this online diary all of these years. It started out as a way to promote my book about Leonard Pennario but it took on a life of its own. It took on my life, is what it did. Because of it I have all these things written down that I would have otherwise forgotten. Speaking of which here is Moss with my brother George.

Howard has posted a million pictures of Ron Moss on the Weblog over the years. He used to write these funny captions for them. They are all over the place including in many of the posts I just linked to.

This post is too long already but I am telling you, start a blog. Do it for yourself. Don't worry if nobody reads it. When my mother passed I loved all the stories I had about her, because of writing in this more or less every day. (I did that for a long time and am planning on doing that again.)

You remember the big occasions on your own but you forget all the little everyday things, the little conversations you had, the funny things that made you laugh. When you lose someone you still have that and I am telling you, it is a big comfort, and it is fun, and it makes you smile.

It almost makes me think that when Howard's phone rang this morning it really could have been Moss.

Ron Moss lives!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Back to the Clinton Bailey Market

For a few years now, certain of my friends and I have had our eye on this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. It is Tutti Frutti!

It is also known as Brandied Fruit as this article states. And its real name is Rumtopf which in German means "Rum Pot."

"The Joy of Cooking" is a great go-to German cookbook. It is loaded with German recipes because the Rombauers who wrote it were German. Another thing I like about the Rombauers was Erma Rombauer was friends with the conductor George Szell. You have to figure that being into classical music on that level she knew who Leonard Pennario was. I like that in a person.

The Rombauers named their Rumtopf recipe Tutti Frutti Cockaigne, named for their summer home. They would attach that name "Cockaigne" to their favorite recipes.

That is something I hope is not being lost. In those formal old Gourmet magazines people would write in letters with their family recipes, or recipes they had come up with and loved and they would attach their last name to the recipe. For instance if I came up with a Rumtopf recipe of my own it would be Rumtopf Goldman.

That has a ring to it!


Today I went to the Clinton Bailey Market to shop for our Rumtopf.

I took a break in my shopping to sketch the fire station across the way. That is a picture of it up above! Other than that I shopped diligently.

I bought strawberries and raspberries and cherries and apricots. You are supposed to start with your liquor -- rum or brancy -- and then add these fruits one at a time as they come into season. It will be ready by Christmas. Although traditionally you are allowed to take a nip here and there starting on the first Sunday of Advent.

And so it begins.

Our friend Zach has come up with a crock for it so that is our green light. Zach found the crock at Clarence Antiques. He paid $40 for it. He is investing in Tutti Frutti!

The crock is with Zach and it is big and heavy and hard to move so I will have to get him the fruit. Meanwhile I tossed the strawberries with sugar and stored them gently in the fridge. The cherries can wait a day or two. They are stored carefully. They do not need to be pitted. That is what I read.

It is funny reading anything about how to make something like this because online recipes are all full of warnings. No one wants to trust in old science. They are always throwing in this or that complication and finally I said, you know what? People have been making this for centuries. It works. It is not rocket science. You do not have to be Wernher von Braun to make Rumtopf!

The one important thing is the fruit has to be perfect. That is what The Joy of Cooking said.

"Use only perfect fruit." We were all laughing about that.

I have a feeling the Rumtopf will be fine no matter what!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Back to the Buzz

Once upon a time I wrote the Buzz column for The Buffalo News. It was a kind of gossip and humor column, things going on around town, lots of fun.

I am bringing it back.

For fun!

My friends have been asking for it, I am happy to say, ever since Howard raised the possibility of me writing it again on a lark. We could now incorporate my drawings.

It sounded nuts at first but then there is nothing wrong with that. And when I got to thinking about it I realized it could be a kind of a sketch diary for me. I could do pictures and riff from there.

Here is my first.

There will be another next week.

People on Facebook have been great about sharing it. It really warms my heart. The first column featured for starters the sketch up above. That is of the Parkside Meadow, this tavern near my house. It is kind of my corner tavern. If someone says, "Let's go grab a glass of wine," that is often where we go.

It may take a few weeks for the new Buzz column to reach equilibrium but I have no doubt it will happen. I did that column for a million years. Week after week. It hardly lapsed at all. I guess it lapsed for a few months while I was in California with Leonard Pennario but otherwise it kept going. When I went on vacation I wrote it in advance. When I got married I Buzzed my own wedding, writing about ways in which the ceremony and reception ran off the rails. I will have no problem picking it back up.

I am looking forward to it!

Monday, July 15, 2019

An alley in the sun

The other day I went sketching with my friend Meghan and we wound up in an alley off Edward Street. That was where I drew the picture at left.

I think it was off Edward Street because later we went walking up the street and drew Founding Fathers Pub and I do not remember turning any corners. I will have to learn to take notes in these situations because in the future biographers will be interested in them.

It is like Leonard Pennario taking notes because one day he knew I would want to see them. I am not making that up. He told me that.

You must always take notes because you never know what your biographer might need.

Back to Edward Street, at least where I think I was. The sun was bright and I loved the shadow on the wall of the house on the right. I also loved how the fire escape on the house at left cast shadows on the brick. We are seeing too little of the sun this year if you ask me. Whenever the sun is out I want to go out and make hay and that is what I did.

It was chilly but sunny and you know what, I do not care if it is chilly, I just want that sun.

I wonder if the weather this summer will ever pull itself out of the crapper. I kind of think not.

But so what. Whatever it is, I will roll with it.

Just give me some sun here and there, and I will be happy!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A morning in the Japanese garden

This morning the sun was out and so I took my sketchbook when I went walking in the morning. I found myself at the Japanese garden.

Decades from now when scholars debate the deep meaning of my work they will point out that this picture has philosophy behind it. In the foreground is the Zen of the Japanese garden. In the background you may make out trucks and cars barreling along the expressway.

Yin and yang! That is not Japanese, I do not think, but it is close.

That is a strange little sculpture and yet I love drawing it. I love the curve of the legs it stands on. It is a funny thing, drawing in ink. You do not get a second chance if you goof something. Well, you can turn the page and start again. But that is the only second chance you get.

And so I get in the zone. I make sure that the line is supposed to go where I am about to draw it. That is what makes pen better than pencil to my way of thinking. I discovered that last fall when I did Inktober. With pencil you get too sketchy and just start anywhere. With a pen you must have a plan.

Somehow the legs of this sculpture just draw themselves. And pen does stone so well.

The rocks were fun and so was the grass.

Here I am working on it.

The sun had gone in by that point. It was there and then it was not and then it was again.

La la la la la la la.

It was a beautiful hour or so I passed drawing that picture. It was warm and sunny for once and I feel good that I was out there in it. I was so relaxed and the air was so fragrant and now that it is raining again as usual I wish it were this morning again.

I wish I were back in the Zen zone!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A foggy day in Buffalo town

Today was the Buffalo Marathon and I used that as an excuse to bike to my 9 a.m. Mass. Usually I help out with the coffee hour and have to bring baked goods but today the hall was rented and so there was no coffee hour. And so I was at liberty to bike.

It was fun biking. Your day feels different. At 8 a.m. the city was swathed in fog. It was like San Francisco! Or like that beautiful little poem by Carl Sandburg you learn in school.

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.

I had that memorized! When I reached downtown and got to Big Blue I sent this picture to Howard.

I thought of the Sandburg poem and also Bismarck "Bix" Beiderbecke's "In a Mist."

Wow, listen to that. Bix on piano!

Mass was long because we are singing a lot of Gregorian chant these days and just taking our time. We are in no hurry. Summertime, and the living is easy. It was almost 11 a.m. when I returned to my bike. The fog was still there. It had not gone anywhere!

I pedaled leisurely in the direction of home, more or less. I went along the Riverwalk.

There is an amazing juncture where you get a panoramic view of the Niagara River. The Peace Bridge had gradually appeared from the mist and here it is.

Eventually I found my way to Unity Island, formerly Squaw Island. I love railroad bridges and the one to this island is a beauty. So I sat on a curb and took out my new ink pens and drew the picture at the top of this post.

I sort of wanted to wash in the clouds later but I like the lines of the picture, its angular nature, so I will think about that. While I was thinking I biked over the bridge. As I wrote on Instagram it felt like family now that I had sketched it.

On Unity Island I found the bike path and it takes you right by the river's edge.

Unfortunately at this point it also got really cold! It felt like summer in the Arctic circle. It looked like that too. The waves of the river just disappeared into the sky and you could not tell which was which.

Next time I go there I will draw that beautiful International Railroad Bridge that appears in the mist in that last picture. OK, to tell you the truth, I already did draw it. I could not resist. It was so dramatic and I drew my picture in the presence of several Border Patrol agents. They were parked there keeping an eye on the bridge.

I loved this foggy Sunday.

I am glad I have so many pictures so I can remember it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Sketching in Allentown

I went sketching with my friend Meghan in Allentown on Friday. This was one of the pictures I drew.

Allentown is fun and funky -- sort of Buffalo's version of Haight Ashbury. There were posters around hyping a series of talks exploring the legacy of long-dead anarchist Emma Goldman. The famous music bar Nietzsche's is just down the street. People kept stopping by to talk with us. We had a wonderful time. And we felt like part of the scene. Folks who were antique shopping and eating lunch would stop and look at our work. I like to think it added to their Allentown experience, to see us standing on the sidewalk, drawing.

I love just getting down on paper what is before my eyes. Maybe it comes from being a reporter, from working for The Buffalo News for so long. I love to be truthful and I find it enjoyable.

Speaking of enjoyable, the drawing was accompanied by a continual volley of laughter from across the street, emanating from the staff of the restaurant Gabriel's Gate, pictured at left. The cooks and waiters and whoever were always coming out of the building on their breaks or whatever. I drew one of them in because I wanted to remember that. They were laughing and joking and you could hear it up and down the street. The day was sort of chilly but not as freezing as it had been and spirits were high.

So much fun!

These buildings are among the oldest in Buffalo and it is a privilege to draw them. Also I love their beautiful light posts.

I will have to go back.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The pants-free adventure continues

I have received inquiries as to whether I am still adhering to the Skirts Only rule.

The answer is yes!

How long has it been now? Maybe a month? For the most part I have been having fun with it. I cannot resist a game. That was a problem back in Lent because I was treating this fast I was on as a game, and I kept trying to look for ways to make it easier while still sticking to the rules. Finally I had to tell myself, Uh, Mary? The point of this fast is not to outsmart it!

But that was the only way I could stick with it!

Anyway, this skirt thing. I am going the extra mile and wearing only floor-length skirts because that was what was suggested and without that it would be too easy because I was never really a pants person to begin with.

There is also the matter of the sleeves. Again, it is not as if we are bound by this at church or anything, but the suggestion was for sleeves to be elbow length.

For the first two weeks or so I just used what was in my closet. I combined things different ways. And it was fun because I wore things I had never worn. Two dresses in particular that I had never worn before became staples of my wardrobe. One is a pink Izod cotton maxi and the other is a loose ivory-colored rayon sleeveless gown by All That Jazz.

The problem with both of those dresses had been, they were too skimpy to wear out for most occasions, probably for any occasions, now that I think about it. Yet it had never occurred to me to wear anything over them. Until now! Now, I needed all hands on deck, and these dresses, not being polyester, were called into play.

Now, they are out and about! So are these cotton halter dresses I have. I have always loved these dresses and now they have a new look worn under an array of lacy tops and cotton shirts and jackets.

After about two weeks though I could see I needed some stuff, mostly in the sleeves department because that is a bigger challenge than the skirt. If anything would make me give this up it would be the sleeves rule, because in the heat it is no joke, and also I love going sleeveless. It just feels so good.

But I went shopping and that helped. Shopping always helps. I went to Amvets and Goodwill and acquired a range of loose cotton tops for this heat wave we are in. Oh! And I went to Salvation Army and I struck gold with some gorgeous colorful light vintage cotton shirts from Buffalo's own Chain's India Boutique. I wear them a lot with the Izod and the All That Jazz dresses. Score!

Today at Amvets I found a cotton flowered jacket from Spain. It is like wearing a cloud.

I will have to photograph and post pictures of these items. Meanwhile... good news!

Since I have done this, not only have I suffered no sunburn, I have received a ton of compliments!

Strangers have asked me where I shop!

I went and drew the Tall Ships on the Buffalo waterfront ,,, this is one ...

... and I was in one of those long white flowered halter dresses and one of my cotton white smocks and a straw hat -- and people thought I was part of the show! I guess I looked vaguely 19th century.

A passer-by took this snapshot of me.

And as I stood there sketching, folks treated me like this celebrity. The crew of the Nova Scotia ship invited me on board. I was in this daze. I had never foreseen any of that happening. I had simply been hoping to get in some good drawings.

Would any of this had happened were I wearing shorts, as I think I would have a few weeks ago? Or even a shorter skirt? I am not sure.

But one thing I am pretty sure of.

I am going to stick with this!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Goodbye, jeans! Hello, cocktails

I made my first pants re-use item. Remember, I am ceasing to wear pants, and so I was going to upcycle all my old pants and shorts. I do not exactly have sewing skills so finding an initial project was a challenge. But I did it!

I made a Denim Ice Crushing Bag. The inspiration came from online. From the site The Kitchn.

The recipe required a minimum of sewing which, any normal person would use a sewing machine, but I could not get either of my sewing machines to start, so I hand-sewed it. That is my handiwork up above.

I sewed it out on the porch, in my long dress. I felt a little nostalgic, I have to say, cutting up these old jeans. They were vintage Calvin Kleins and they had been with me a long time and let me tell you this, they fit me again after all these years, and I looked pretty good in them, too. But they were ripped -- naturally and unfortunately, not on purpose the way all these fake ripped jeans are. I am really not a ripped jeans person. Plus I am hereafter not wearing pants. So, goodbye jeans.

Hello ice crushing bag!

Do read the little writeup on the Kitchn. It is funny. Plus the bag was a present. I gave it to the priest who advised that we stop wearing pants. A bunch of us gals got together and decided we would give him something made out of our now-cast-off garments. We have been laughing and laughing over it. The challenge in this situation, of course, is to find some craft that is not girly. Googling around you can find a million things to make out of your old jeans but most of them are girly.

My friend Amy made the priest a beer caddy. Well, her daughter sewed it. They are amazing and my ice-crushing bag had nothing on the beer caddy. The beer caddy even came with a Buffalo bottle opener! They fitted it out with one.

Impressive as the beer caddy is, I think the ice crushing bag should prove extremely useful.

I am going to make myself one! Out of the other leg.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

No more shorts -- I'm maxing out

My clothing adventure continues.

The long dresses are not a big deal. I love maxi dresses. However it is a big deal that shorts are out, and also I am supposed to be covering up and not going sleeveless, which is something that, darn it all, I love to do.

Normally when I walk in the park, I wear shorts. What to do? I wanted to go for a walk in the morning.

What happened was, I was rifling through my closet and this pink maxi called to me, just a long pink maxi with tie-dyed white trim around the bottom. The label is Izod, which impressed me when I picked it up heaven knows where. But I have never worn it. It is too skimpy on top, was the reason. It needs something over it. But I never tried to find something to go over it until now. Because now, I have to.

I found a pink striped top which looked kind of nice. But then I hit on this denim jacket, this flowered denim jacket I had found at Amvets. I had never worn the jacket either. It is pretty as all get out but it never seemed to go with anything. I tried it on over the dress.

Hmmm, I thought, studying it. Too wacky. Not me.

I was going to take it off and try something else but right at that moment Howard appeared.

"Wow," he said. "Nice outfit! That looks great."

Howard does not compliment my clothes as a matter of course and I loved that. Then he said, "Want to walk in the park?" He does not normally walk in the park with me either. He usually has to get on with the workday.

So I felt happy as a puppy being taken out walking. I put on sneakers with the dress -- what the heck, at this point. Then the dress and the jacket both left the house for the first time. The dress is very long so I was holding it up so as not to fall over it.

Howard had the idea to take my picture on the swings.

I was so happy with how things went that I kept this outfit on all day. Sneakers and all. I had to go to the chiro and run some errands. All day long people complimented me! The receptionist at the chiro told me my outfit was beautiful and said she wanted to shop where I shop.

I had a blast!

The jacket got a little bit warm as the temps approached 80 degrees but it was cotton so it was not too bad. And you know what, I'll take it.

My brother George has joked that whenever the Catholic Church gives you rules there is a reason for it and you would do best to follow them. I was thinking, things do seem to work out.

At least it did today!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Mowing and glowing

Today I bit the bullet and cut the grass with the hand mower. I have been doing this for a few weeks now! But today I did something that raised the bar.

I mowed the grass wearing a skirt!

It is like Ginger Rogers doing what Fred Austerlitz did only backwards and in high heels, as the old joke goes.

I wore a skirt because I can no longer wear pants and that includes shorts. I got through it. One thing, though, it was a little harder at first than I remembered it. I almost gave up. Then I got to thinking, there is something about wearing a skirt that makes you a little more relaxed, a little less inclined to sweat and hard work. I had to get past that.

The job gets easier the deeper you get into it. Half way through the lawn you are feeling better. Two thirds of the way in, you get happy. Triumph is in sight.

Here is a beautiful song by Gustav Mahler about cutting grass.

It does not begin until 40 seconds in but it has a translation, is why I used this video.

Here is one thing that cracked me up as I pushed the mower back and forth on the front lawn, glowing. (Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.)

The other day I bragged to Howard that my arms were getting stronger because I had reason to believe that they were. I credited my Aqua Fit class at the gym. I could not think of anything else I had been doing differently.

It was not the stupid Aqua Fit class.

It was this lawn mowing!!

Well, one thing I will have to do is do it every few days, not every few weeks.

You cannot have too much of a good thing!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The pants reuse project

At Mass today we were advised that it is better if ladies not wear pants. They are unfeminine. They lead to various ills.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I have a couple of boxes' worth of pants and jeans I need to reuse.

This is not the end of the world for me, far from it. I only wear pants about once a year anyway. For some other ladies it is a much greater sacrifice.

But for some reason I have ended up with a lot of pants. I just took a whole bunch of them to Amvets last week because I got skinny enough for them to fit me, only to realize that I did not like how they looked. I hate when that happens!

I am not in love with jeans because I find them hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Plus I just have problems wearing pants. I do not have things that go with them. I have trouble putting an outfit together involving them. Now, take away my maxidresses, and we would have a problem. But as things are, I can live with this.

The only question facing me is, what to do with these pants? I cannot exactly throw them out.

And so I have come up with a catalog of things I want to make with them.

One is rag curtains, for my back porch.

You can get away with stuff out on a porch that would look really weird inside the house! So that is where my new rag curtains will go.

And there is that awesome wine bag at the top of this post that I found in this list of crafts you can make from jeans.

People make this unbelievably professional-looking things. I need something simple because I have a lot of other things going on.

However another thing on my list is an artist's bag. I will have to invent this because I have not found a picture of one. There are tote bag ideas out there I can adapt.

So ... curtains, wine bag, artist's bag. Also I want a sketchbook cover. I can craft that to match my artist's bag.

It is going to be no picnic at first to start cutting up my pants. But once I get going I will be all right with it. Other gals at church are going through the same thing. We are thinking we will have a contest for the best reuse.

Cushions are a no-brainer. I can use those on the porch.

Those two look a little advanced for me but I can manage something. Howard gave me a sewing machine once and we also have a dandy ornate early 20th century Singer.

I am thinking of making the porch a theme of this project. I need to furnish it somehow now that it is all renovated and ready to go.

Oh! And a bulletin board. You can cover some kind of board with the fabric from your pants.

Jeoffry has no problem re-purposing a pair of shorts.

One way or another I, too, will make use of these garments.

I cannot part with them!

Monday, June 3, 2019

'Yucky, yet functional'

I continue to glory in having the nation's largest art supply store right in my own back yard.

It is home to the nation's largest art supply scratch-and-dent department!

Today I went to Hyatt's, as the store is called, and picked up an, ahem, portfolio.

I have all kinds of sketchbooks of various sizes I work with including a gigantic size, 18 by 24 inches. Well, it is gigantic to me. For my birthday the other day Howard got me a drawing board big enough to fit one of those sheets, so I will be doing more work within these generous dimensions. And when I am through with something, now I have somewhere to put it!

Because today in the scratch and dent department of Hyatt's I found a portfolio that is that size.

Normally these portfolios cost $40 to $60. But not in this case!

Mine was $5!

"Yucky, yet functional," read the tag.

That is one thing I love about this place.

All 24 sleeves -- there are 48 pages -- are in great condition. There was a problem with the bottom of the spine. A bit was chipped away. I do not care. I can use this at home to store my art and if I ever want to take it out somewhere so people can go through it, I can shrug prettily and say, oh, it gets a lot of wear. People are always turning its pages and sometimes they turn them a little too eagerly. That is what I can say.

Upon getting my yucky, yet functional portfolio home I got busy. I grabbed two pieces of art that have been kicking around the house forever and put them in the first sleeve. These are two drawings that are not my usual style. This is going to be a diversified portfolio!

Then I turned the page and slipped in the Turgeon Brothers Cheesecake recipe I am honored to display on the website They Draw and Cook.

It is great to be able to store things like this before they get wrecked.

Now I want to go on and fill up the rest of this portfolio. It really does not take up a lot of space. I will just stand it up somewhere and when it is full I will crowd in a few more things, as we tend to do here in Buffalo, and then I will get another one.

I will have a hard time getting a deal like this one, though. This one is special. When I was leaving Hyatt's they offered me a bag.

"No, thank you," I demurred. I added: "It's already beat up!" And we all got a laugh out of that.

Scratch and dent.

Two of the most beautiful words in the English language, that is for sure.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The not-so-secret garden

This morning I went with my friend Lauren to explore the new Dash's Market. We walked over there and later I thought it was funny, how little I am using my auto these days. I biked to church yesterday and today we walked to the greengrocer.

Greengrocer! That is a term we should use more often.

All I bought was green things!

For the record -- I bought leeks, zucchini, Savoy cabbage and .... what else? There was one more thing. It was green. Oh! Cucumber.

After shopping we sat in the upstairs Dash Cafe, or whatever they call it. It is spacious and lovely and because it was early in the morning not a lot of people were there and we scored a seat on the patio where we ate muffins and Lauren fed a snack to her baby daughter. I did a sketch of the street below.

When I got home I worked like a fieldhand on my garden. But first..

What got me going on the garden was seeing Lauren's garden. She and her husband bought this beautiful house in Parkside. It is the perfect house. It has no lawn in front. The front steps go right down to the sidewalk! So, no lawn mowing! Plus ... it has a garden in back. I mean a real garden, with huge raised beds and -- get this! -- a gate. A garden gate!

It is like The Secret Garden! As in the picture up above, by the great Tasha Tudor.

I could not get over it. I can tell that Lauren and her garden are going to be an inspiration for me all summer long.

I said, "Lauren, I am so glad you live in the city."

Is there anything better? We may walk to each other's houses and to the greengrocer.

And everything we need is right here. That is another thing to think about.

In contrast to Lauren I do not have a secret garden. I have a public garden! My garden is my front lawn on a busy street full of motorcycles and boom cars.

But you know what, I love it. I was out there today pulling up bishop's weed -- I love bishop's weed, but I have a huge patch of it that I am not going to touch. The bishop's weed in the front has to go to make room for other things.

Son of a sea cook, I am going to be seeing bishop's weed in my sleep, I pulled up so much of it. I also brutally pruned the rose bushes. I am sorry to say brutally but there is no other word for it.

I was scratched but not bleeding. Eventually I was bleeding but it took a long time to get to that point. By then I had been working for hours. I declared victory, cleaned myself up, and went to Home Depot for tomato plants.

I bought eight, for $20. That is going to be the only money I spend on my garden. But it will be beautiful.

For weeks now I have been writing as one of my goals, "I have a gorgeous garden."

It has begun!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

My experience with Aldi delivery

Anyone who knows me or has ever read this Web log knows of my love for Albrecht Discount, affectionately known as Aldi. I adore Aldi.

I wish I could charter it the way my mother told me that the Queen of England charters Harrod's! When the Queen goes Christmas shopping, so my mother said to me, Harrod's would be blocked off just for her.

Unfortunately that is not the case with Aldi and the one I go to is small and overdue for a makeover and expansion, which thank heavens it is getting. It is getting cramped and one aisle is even so narrow now that I cannot get down it comfortably even with the 10 pounds I lost over Lent. And it is super-crowded.


Today I tried Aldi delivery!

No more chatting, here is the report. It was easy to do the online shopping. The menu of items is easy to navigate and I happily shopped away. You cannot buy markdowns online but you know what, there have been a million times I went to Aldi and did not find any markdowns I wanted.

Placing the order was easy and there is this promo code on the delivery site which gives you $10 off. That made up for the nickels and dimes that turn up added to the prices online. However, 89 cents for a dozen of those fine Goldhen eggs, who can argue with that?

I shopped my way up to about $50 and then placed my order. After that Instacart got really chatty, texting me to tell me that my order was placed, that it had been delayed, that it would be there soon, and then -- ta da! -- that my shopper was in my driveway!

End result, as we say here in Buffalo: Two items out of the 15 or so I ordered were wrong. I ordered the 1-pound clamshell of the organic spring mix. I am not an organic fanatic but I do like organic lettuce. Instead the shopper gave me the, ahem, Artisan Lettuce ...

...  that smaller clamshell with four heads of lettuce. I felt I had to kvetch about that seeing that the price was very different.

Then I had to call about a discrepancy with the chicken, too.

The cauliflower had spots and would not have been the one I would have selected.

Everything else looked pretty good. The cabbage looked dandy and the eggs were unbroken, no problem there.

It took a while for me to figure out how to address my grievances. That surprised me, because I am good with computers. It just was not intuitive. Eventually, I managed to find a phone number, and so I called.

They refunded me the money for my organic greens. The chicken was actually a trade-up -- I had ordered a normal chicken, and they had given me some kind of snobby free-range bird that would have cost more. So I was the winner there, and we let that be.

I did go ahead and mention the spotted cauliflower, just because I wanted to give Instacart honest feedback on how they were doing. To tell you the truth I do not see this situation improving. People can't read. You can put one item on your list and they will bring you another. Also, nobody knows anything about vegetables. I am sure my shopper could not tell one cauli from another. So if you get delivery you have to brace yourself for some problems.

It did not help that Instacart promises you the moon. In the days leading up to this they had been strutting their stuff sending me emails with things in the subject line like, "Mary, prepare to be amazed!" Honest, that was one. I am quoting it exactly.

Now here is where things get psychological.

I realized I felt bad after making the phone call. I hated being seen as a crabby complainer. Also, on the Web site, the only way you can report an "issue" with your order is to give your delivery person a "bad" rating. There seems to be no other way. It is weird.

I did not want to say that my shopper had been bad or that the experience had been bad. It was not exactly bad. Also I think as a Catholic I should be patient and kind and I did not want to have to be a pain, you know?

 And then there was the matter of the tip. I had not realized the tipping is electronic. They add in 5 percent and if you want to give more you can do that after you get your order, add it in the way I think people do on Uber.

I actually like this feature, but they were not clear about it, and so I had given the shopper and her friend $5 cash. Then I saw that online I had already given them $2.50 or something so I canceled that. I thought: I gave them twice that amount, and they screwed up my order. I'm not going to give them, like, $7.50. Then I felt bad, as you do in these situations. Would Instacart be angry with them when they saw the tip was canceled? God knows I have had my share of lowdown jobs, I mean back in the day, and I sympathize, and I do not want to make a blot on anyone's record. Could I have handled that differently? I should have read things more carefully. I should have --

Finally I stopped and said, oh, for Pete's sake!

Why am I feeling as if this is somehow my fault?

If the shopper had only brought me what I asked for, I would not be going over and over and over all this!

Why am I worrying about these people? They are not worrying about me!

Get it together, Instacart! You told me, "Mary, prepare to be amazed!" Well, I am amazed. I am amazed at how I can order grocery delivery and it can still eat my day.


Will I try this again? Yes, because the promo code gives you $10 off three different orders and I have two to go. Also I am credited $4 something for the lettuce. I will say this for Instacart, they have good customer service. The trick is to figure out how to report an issue but once you do that, they are very nice.

The only thing is, you do not want it to shoot your day. That is what you are trying to avoid by getting the delivery. I had all this work to do, plus I had to go to church at 5 p.m. for Gregorian chant practice. I did not feel I could budget all the time to go to Aldi and back.

The work went well, is the good news. So, worth it. I'll try this again, and report.

But one thing, could Aldi please start carrying wine?

You kind of need it, after all this!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The mysteries of Delaware Park

I love walking in Delaware Park early in the morning, around the Ring Road, around Hoyt Lake, an occasional excursion around the Rose Garden.

The mysteries you encounter!

For a few days there was a tent pitched on the bank of Hoyt Lake.

It is there if you look closely! There was a bicycle parked consistently next to it, with a pack attached to it. You do not want to get too close to these things because you never know who or what is inhabiting such a dwelling. But I did get this picture.

For three or four days the tent was there. Then one day it was gone.

In its place was a sign that had clearly been lifted from the Marcy Casino down the way.

There is that and also there is the mystery of the two-colored apple trees.

One of my park friends told me about them and lo! There are apple trees that have pink or purple blossoms and white blossoms. Here is one. There are more, trust me.

Add in the fish whose life I saved and the iridescent blue birds and it is no wonder I have managed to take off a few pounds walking ...

...  around the park every morning.

It is just so entertaining!