Saturday, May 25, 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.

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.

On the other hand the cabbage looked dandy. I mentioned the cauli on the phone just because I wanted to give Instacart honest feedback on how they were doing. One problem they might have is nobody can read, and nobody knows anything about vegetables. Another problem is that they promise you the moon. In the days leading up to this I have been getting emails saying things in the subject line like, "Mary, prepare to be amazed!" Honest, that was one.

What really bugged me was I realized I felt bad after making the phone call and stuff. 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 complain, you know? 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.

 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, but I had not realized it because 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? 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!"


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!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Sleepless at the computer

A lot of today went into working on my Leonard Pennario project.

Come heck or high water I am going to have it done and out by this fall. I will have something out by then anyway. It might be more than one volume.

There is one thing I can do that always gets me psyched and that is listen to him. Today I tapped into Pennario performing the Rachmaninoff Second

The only trouble is, it is amazing and distracts me.

Just the opening chords. Did any other pianist get them perfect like that? Every one builds on the one before, so perfectly.


He is just so great!

Well, I got through some work anyway. I should mention this work began at 5 a.m. I was up early! I could not sleep and so I got up.

May I say that sleepless that I was I managed to work for two hours without spilling coffee all over the computer keyboard as Howard did this morning when he sat down at it after a full night's sleep. You should see me trying to type this now. Not pretty!

While Howard was working on his stuff and spilling hs coffee I went for a walk in the park to wake up. The sun was out!

There are worse times to do editing, which is pretty much what this has come down to, than when you have not had much sleep. You are a little impatient and tend to cut stuff more willingly than when you have slept soundly. Do not worry however. It is like clothes bound for Amvets. They sit in the car trunk for a few days to give me time to reconsider.

Things that are deleted may always return.

In the meantime things are going well. It helps not working this huge job, you know? You have a little more time to think. Also, I have to say this, I love to write about music. I love to draw too, and I do not have to cut that out, I cannot. But I can do both.

Speaking of music and art is that not a dandy portrait of Pennario on the cover of that album?

The maestro!

I can hardly wait for the book!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sketching on Niagara Street

I do not know what attracts me to old factories but something does.

Yesterday when the temperature was in the 80s -- gasp! -- and it felt for once like summer, I celebrated by grabbing one of those red rent-a-bikes and pedaling down Niagara Street. My niece calls these bikes "city bikes." I like that term.

I stopped and did some city sketching!

Today it is back in the 40s and 50s so it kills me with nostalgia, remembering. The city had gone crazy because of the warmth. Boom cars were blaring and people were roaring around on those awful loud motorcycles and even the average person who passed you on the sidewalk had some kind of stupid personal stereo blasting. But still.

I was so happy to be out and drawing I hardly noticed!

Plus I had to keep reminding myself I was not in the best and quietest part of town. Niagara Street just calls to me. I love the smell of the river. I love the old industry. Everywhere I looked I saw something I wanted to tackle.

Eventually I zeroed in on this beauty.

I am not sure what they used to make there. More accurately, I have no idea. But I liked the shape of the place and the stuff on the roof. Plus there was a bus stop right there and I could sit on the bench outside it.

Tomorrow I will post the picture I did. Looking at it I just want to do a couple more things with it.

Just look at that old place.

I wish it were yesterday!

Monday, May 13, 2019

I saved a life today

I saved a life today. It was only a fish, but still.

I was walking around Hoyt Lake early this morning in the cold drizzle. This is a terrible spring we are having here in Buffalo but I care not seeing that I have all this work to do. As I was walking I saw something lying on the bank. It was a little fish, a carp I think.

The fish was lying there and I thought he was dead but then I saw his gills barely moving.

You have to act fast in situations like this and I picked the fish up. I have to admit I said, "Eeeuww." I had on these green gloves I love. But how bad can they smell, you know? They only touched the fish for a couple of seconds. The fish looked as if he had a little bit of blood on him so I do not know what exactly happened but I stayed away from that blood, is all I can tell you. I picked him up gingerly and I got him back in the water.

"There you go, little guy," I said. I call my cat Jeoffry "little guy" so I am in the habit.

Good thing Jeoffry was not along on this expedition!

Anyway. I worried the fish might sink like a stone but no.

He swam joyously and zestily away!

That felt good. I was so happy I could do that, you know? Nobody was out walking because of this bad weather but I was. And I was not wearing a headset and I was aware of what was around me and I saw the fish.

Above is a picture of the lake with the fish in it because of me.

Little fish. It reminds me of my religion teacher in high school whose name was Miss Piscitello. My dad was a Latin teacher who knew what was what and he told me it was Italian for "little fish." My friends and I had a riot with that. We would say Little Fish and that was code for our religion teacher.

A piscitello swims in Delaware Park Lake tonight because of me. I am a Good Samaritan.

Choose life!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hamming it up with Betty Crocker

Yesterday I made my first Chiffon Cake, for church coffee hour. It was the Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake out of the classic Betty Crocker Guide to Easy Entertaining!

It is a rule I have for coffee hour: Every week I make at least one thing that is new. It keeps things exciting.

Above is a picture of the Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake going into the oven. And here it is coming out:

Beautiful as the cake is, I could not help laughing about the chapter the recipe came from. It was going piously to church, yet it came from the chapter titled Stag Parties.

How many cookbooks these days will you find with a chapter called Stag Parties?

It is funny because sex is everywhere, much more than it was several decades ago, but oh, you cannot mention stag parties. But anyway.

"Most men have a weakness for chocolate cake," Betty Crocker writes in this cookbook.

And sure enough!

The guys at St. Anthony's, they loved this cake! Well, the ladies did, too. And the children. But I am not about to contradict Betty Crocker. She was right!

You know me, I am always behind, and I was making the frosting at literally the last minute -- i.e., this morning before church. So I made a frosting that Betty recommended called Chocolate Fluff. You took two cups of heavy cream and whipped it up with a cup of powdered sugar and a half cup of cocoa. The result was amazing. Like ice cream. Addictive. Amazing.

You had to sit the cake in the fridge until it was time to serve it. And so during Mass the cake sat in the fridge in the St. Anthony's social hall. It tastes good cold, I discovered. There is something very satisfying about this sweet, chilled cake.

But next time I will make the other icing Betty recommended.

It is White Mountain Icing!

My Facebook friend Janice is a professional pastry chef and she was urging me to try it. She said it was old school but it will be so worth it! Plus, what I love about it is you get to use -- shhhhh -- corn syrup.

It is just a little more complicated than I had time for this morning. In addition I should get a candy thermometer. Why does someone like me not have a candy thermometer? Yet I do not.

The cake shared the buffet with another St. Anthony's novelty -- ham.

We got a couple of hams at Albrecht Discount and heated them up in the oven! This was another first for me. We were doing this because it was the Octave of Easter. Lou, one of the gentlemen of St. Anthony's, had to help me.

We hit a snag when I realized there were no roasting pans in the kitchen. What to do? What to do??? But miraculously in a cupboard we found a beat-up cookie sheet. Wait, it was my cookie sheet! I had been wondering what had happened to it. Here it was. And right when and where I needed it!

And so we roasted the hams -- in foil pans, set on the cookie sheet. Lou said they would be done by the time we got out of Mass and sure enough.

Lou being a prince among men also made the glaze in a saucepan he found God knows where.

I slipped out during the sermon to apply the glaze to the ham.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, there was much rejoicing.

Ham. Is there anything better?

And 99 cents a pound at Aldi.

We will be doing this again!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mr. Blue Bird on my shoulder

Today in between baking for church and working on other things that needed working on, I managed to get in a walk around Hoyt Lake.

It is always a great victory to get in a walk on a cold and dreary day! You feel like Beethoven, triumphing over the elements. And as I walked in the park the sky brightened and the sun peeked out here and there.

Not only that but there were these blue birds that fascinated me.

They were zipping around over the water and around me, twisting and turning, so fast it was hard to get a good look at them. I did see that they were a kind of iridescent blue.

Zip, dive, twist, turn.

I made this valiant attempt to take their picture.

Ha, ha! This is one instance when a sketchbook would serve better. Let us admit it, there are many such instances.

When I got home I looked them up and I do believe they are tree swallows.

Above is a tree swallow from the august Audubon Society. I would not have recognized it because it never saw one sitting still as that one is.

How did they get that bird to sit still?

This was more like what I saw.

But still, I never got that clear of a look. I was just trying to get in my head what I could. Blue back, white underbelly -- yep, that's him.

These birds felt magical. They were swooping and dipping everywhere, just zipping around. Nobody else seemed to notice. Everyone else was looking at screens and listening to headphones.

Those poor folks.

They just could not swallow the Tree Swallow!

Monday, April 22, 2019

An Easter worth waiting for

Mass on Easter Sunday is always one of the highlights of the year. And this year ... this year ....

I never remember the altar looking more beautiful!

What is it about the flowers? Studying them from the choir loft I wondered if it was the orange flowers in among the yellow.

Here was our opening procession. We got to sing the Vidi Aquam which is something I always look forward to. "I saw water flowing out of the temple, from the right side ..." God knows what that all means, you know? But I do not need to know exactly. It is about water and baptism and new life, is all you can think. It is from Ezekiel.

These are not my pictures. They are from Facebook. I was in such an Easter daze I forgot my camera. It is strange to forget your camera! It is like being back in Biblical times.

Not only that but I cried so much in the Gloria that I could hardly sing. I was not the only one. Half the choir was in tears. And all the bells were ringing.

It had been just such an intense Holy Week. I did the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday. I did have my camera then and I did take a few pictures. I will have to post them.

Then on Good Friday I went to Stations of the Cross and the first Good Friday service I can remember going to. For all these years I was working on Good Friday. I could not get my act together to have the day off. There was always something. This year I went. The service, or the Good Friday Office as it was called in the missal, began with the priest lying face down on the floor and it went from there. It was unbelievably stark.

Ergo, on Easter, it was like coming out of a tunnel. Into the light! That is why you have to max yourself out in the days beforehand. You feel it!


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My mother, Our Lady, and me

No one reads my Web log these days. I do not promote it -- at least not now, because after letting it go for a long time, I am giving myself time to find my voice again. Long story short, I can write freely.

It is funny reading back on it. There are all these little things I would have completely forgotten had not I written them down. I would recommend this to anyone. Particularly I love it when it comes to my mother, gone now for about six years. I would never have remembered half the situations we were in together or half the things we talked about. Half? More like 90 percent, I think, I would have forgotten.

My mom was with me twice when I saw Notre Dame Cathedral, my preoccupation for the last few days.

I think of her in Holy Week because I remember how we would not only go to sales together, as shown in the picture above, we would go to church together. I would often go, I must confess, a little unwillingly. But I did go with my mother and I am happy for that now. And I would rise to the occasion.

There is something strange about Holy Week. You feel a little hushed, a little off. This year it coincides with Passover which I imagine has a similar effect on our Jewish brothers and sisters, to use a phrase Catholics use a lot.

Plus there was the whole Notre Dame Cathedral business. It totally threw me off kilter. Over the past 24 hours though it has been not so bad. Here are a few more things that have struck me...

1. When they went into the church to see what was what, the votive candles were still burning! One friend wrote last night on Facebook, "I am going to sleep with the lights on."

2. Someone thought she saw Jesus in the flames. The picture she cited went around social media and was studied by many. It was discussed on the radio.

3. In the trad Catholic community it has been noted that the high altar survived unscathed while the post-Vatican II so-called altar was buried under rubble. That "so-called" is my terminology. Do not blame the others!

Poor Notre Dame. But perhaps its story is not over.

I have my favorite conspiracy theories which perhaps I will air at a later date. Do not blame me! I ask questions. I am a newspaper girl and as we say in our business, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Did my mother love me? I have to ask that question to bring the post full circle.

I better read back on this blog to make sure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The smoke clears in Paris

I am feeling a lot better about Notre Dame with the news that the relics have been saved and the ancient walls are standing and money is coming in to rebuild it.

Still probably not as much money as we here in Buffalo were given to put an addition on our Albright-Knox Art Gallery. As Howard would put it about the gallery, "What are they making it into, Dallas?" But still, impressive.

I am not going to be one of those Polyannas who go, "Oh, what the heck, all these churches all go through a lot, they're always burning," etc. This is the 21st century when we have a lot more firefighting resources than we had 500 years ago. The cathedral is in ruins. I still cannot help crying seeing video of Parisians on their knees in the streets, Rosaries in their hands, singing songs to Our Lady, or should I say Notre Dame, as they watched the cathedral burn and feared this was the end.

But at the same time that makes me think that good things can come out of bad and one thing we might see in Paris is increased faith. It is unfortunately human nature to take a church like this for granted until all of a sudden you think it will be taken away from you.

Notre Dame heard their prayers and interceded and God spared the cathedral, is all I can think.

A few other good things ...

1. You have to love that amazing daredevil priest who ran into the burning cathedral, damn the torpedoes, to save the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns. Father Fournier. I am a fan.

2. Who knew that Notre Dame was in possession of the Crown of Thorns? I did not, I will tell you that, and it blows my mind. We have all learned things out of this. Apparently King Louis IX bought it in Byzantium back in the day for some gigantic sum of money.

3. And you have to love the priest for dashing to get the Blessed Sacrament as well, for having his priorities more straight than I would probably have them under such pressure.

4. It is great to hear news readers on TV talking of the tunic of St. Louis and other obscure medieval matters of faith.

5. The organ seems to have made it.

6.  Can I add something Buffalo? Reading back on what I wrote yesterday when I was in pieces, something else cool strikes me. I was irritated, as I wrote, at the long lines for confession, because I realized early in the day I would not get my chance, and I had to come back later. But upon reflection, reading back, it hit me ...

... There were lines for confession! How cool is that?

Maybe it will be that way in Paris. Maybe they are already lining up.

I would, if I were they.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The burning of Notre Dame

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral -- as I said to a friend, there are no words.

The news came to me, as news like this does, in the middle of a hurried and mundane day. I was just coming from the dentist -- which, incidentally, was supposed to be today's story, and a great story it is, but it will have to wait. I had just gone to Albrecht Discount -- another story that will have to wait for another day -- and I got back in the car to head downtown to St. Michael's to go to confession because I had tried to go before the dentist but the lines were too long. As I turned onto Main Street from the Aldi parking lot I turned on the car radio and that was when I heard.

I could not, cannot believe it.

I have been to Notre Dame, thank God, but you just cannot imagine a world with it gone. As I put on Facebook it makes you wonder if the wheels really have come off in Europe.

As I wrote to someone on Facebook, what in the world kind of carelessness could have caused this?

This is Notre Dame! As in the old painting up above. As in a thousand old paintings. People over almost a thousand years have looked up at it, have walked in its shadow, have admired its beauty.

How could this have happened?

I guess it is best if it were an accident because then there is nobody to blame directly. But an accident is ominous in its own way. Perhaps as a friend said it was miraculous that Notre Dame never burned before. But the fact remained, it never did.

I have always thought of Notre Dame as a kind of cousin of Germany's Cologne Cathedral. As I told a friend, you can picture the two of them going through the centuries together. They were reminders of how although their respective nations were often warring, there was this faith in common.

It is hard not to see it as a metaphor, as some kind of warning. I am feeling this especially acutely because yesterday for the first time I saw "The Passion of the Christ," the Mel Gibson movie. That was one reason I was on my way to confession, that I was making it such a priority. I had these images in my head. I was thinking of times when I had laughed when I should not have laughed and mocked things I should not have mocked and in general behaved with stupidity and disrespect and that is why I was heading to confession. It is like what I have heard happened when people saw "The Exorcist" -- they went to confession. "The Passion of the Christ" had some stuff in it that can make you think of "The Exorcist." That is something too for another day. The point is, I had been upset this morning when the confession lines were too long and were moving too slowly and I had to get to the dentist. I had made up my mind to go back later.

Then I hear this.

Let me tell you, I not only went to confession, I stayed for the entire Mass!

Where, I should mention, they prayed for the burning cathedral. The priest mentioned it during the Prayer of the Faithful, and I was so grateful he included it.

It is just unbelievable, in this day and age. I know, churches have always burned through history, but we have better equipment now, and better fire detection, and better everything.

Well, not better everything. Sometimes you have to wonder.

Today I wonder. It is just so ominous, so unthinkable, that cathedral in ashes.

Well, I am talked out. I was writing things on Facebook about it and Facebook friends, so many of them are such beautiful people, and they were chiming in with thoughts and sympathy and their own grief -- not just Christians, either, but other people, too, who sent their love. They made me feel good that I was not alone and we went back and forth and back and forth and on and on, as you can tell from me writing here repeatedly, "As I said to a friend...." Now I have a kind of emotional hangover from it all. I guess I should let it go. I guess I have to let it go.

But tough day, you know? That was how my sportswriter friend Budd Bailey put it. Sportswriters have a way of distilling things to their essence.

Tough day!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

She takes the cake

So, yesterday, my baking marathon, it was worth it!

Good thing I did it! Because we had over 50 people at coffee hour.

We needed that food!

It is funny because it is hard to predict what kind of crowd we will have. I brought two Crock Pots and I felt stupid, doing that. I thought: It is Palm Sunday, the Mass will be long considering the procession and the Passion and everything, no one will come.


As if in a dream I saw everyone heading for the hall. Which makes me very happy. If there is one thing I hate it is seeing people getting into their cars and heading for home instead of to coffee hour.

Here is another thing that made me happy. Everything went smoothly with my friend Margaret doing a lot of the set-up ...

... and I was able to make the tail end of the Palm Sunday procession. Here I had been thinking I would miss all of it. I kind of gave up on it and perhaps that calmed me down because I was resigned to that. I worked calmly getting things together, no hurry, and lo and behold, there I was, in the procession. Not for all of it, but for some of it. That was neat.

There was one other year when I was late and experienced the procession from the inside out. Now THAT was really cool.

I stood there in the church with my usher friend Mike and we waited in silence. It was Mike's job to open the door when he heard the knock.

The priest raps on the door. That is how it has gone for centuries and so we were upholding this ancient tradition. We waited, not knowing when the procession would arrive.

And all of a sudden, the knock!!

And we opened the door. And Father Justus was standing there, surrounded by pomp and circumstance and all the parishioners behind him in this great procession.

I was telling my usher friend Joe today, I cannot believe traditions like that have been lost in the modern Catholic Church. I cannot believe I did not grow up with them. I was deprived.

I should sue!! Because there is nothing like this. It is beautiful and magical. Better late than never, you know, that I have come to experience it.

That and, I got to hear the lines about the horns of the unicorns.

A perfect Palm Sunday!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Ich backe - I bake!

Yikes, almost all I did all day was cook and bake!

My friend Lizzie posted something about baking on Facebook that has stuck with me. It was some joke going around and the punch line was "Procrasti-baking." That is baking when you are supposed to be doing something else. We have all been known to do that!

Everyone except my sister Katie who for some reason -- get this! -- does not like baking. Imagine that! I cannot. She must be the only person in the world who does not like baking. It is unimaginable.

But whether or not I like baking I have to do it on Saturday because Sunday is the church coffee hour. And that is my ministry. It is my donation. I bake.

The Prince of Wales' motto is "Ich dien." I serve.

I want a German motto too! Mine could be "Ich backe." I bake.

Hmmm. The pianist Wilhelm Backhaus, whose Beethoven I love, his name must mean bakery. Bill Bakery.

Bakery should be my last name!

Today I made blueberry muffins, utilizing my historic Buffalo George Urban muffin tins. And spice muffins, a bigger size because I do not like everything on the buffet looking alike.

I also made banana bread from bananas that my friend Lizzie left with me when she had to fly down to Florida a few days ago. Haha, that was funny. Because Lizzie had had these bananas for weeks and kept talking about them. She was going to make chocolate chip banana bread because our friend Oscar likes that, and she was going to make normal banana bread, and then there was a loaf that she made that did not turn out to meet her extremely high standards, and --

And then, you guessed it. I was taking Lizzie to the airport and what did she toss into my trunk? The bananas. I just burst out laughing. After all that!

So, banana bread. What else? I also made a pumpkin cranberry bread with pumpkin I had frozen a couple of months ago. It is autumn's last gasp before we head into the -- hurrah! -- Easter season. And I made Whiskey Squash Cake in my Bundt pan. That sounds rather decadent for Lent but though it is delicious -- I have made it many times, with different twists -- it is really not that boozy.

I also made soup. The kitchen was alive with both Crock Pots and the bread machine all in play. And in between I took care of some Leonard Pennario correspondence with Capitol Records. But that also is a story for another day.

So I guess the entire day was not baking after all. I did get some other stuff done.

It was not all Procrast-Baking!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Shoes, shoes, shoes

Today, with the robins singing, was the day of an important pre-summer ritual.

It is the day of the Weeding of the Shoes!

There are shoes strewn around all over the house and today is the day when I promised myself I would go through them and de-accession that which is battered or pinchy or hopelessly salt-stained.

I sound joyous reporting about this but it is something I dread. I am just not a shoe person. There are shoes I love but in general shoe shopping stresses me out. Something can feel good in the store but when you go to wear them, they do not! That and, you can get a great pair of shoes, but after months of not wearing them you realize they go with nothing.

There is nothing for it however but to get to work. I went through boxes of dozens and dozens of shoes. I had to set aside a Shoe Morgue for shoes without mates. It is still there now that the monumental task is completed. There are seven shoes in the Shoe Morgue. I will give them a month or two and if they mates have not turned up they will have to go.

There is always a pair of shoes bound for Amvets that gets a last minute reprieve. It is like the president pardoning a turkey. Today that honor went to a pair of boots that was ancient, that I had found heaven knows where, and the boots made it outside -- but then back inside. They read "Made in USA" and "Waterproof" and I seemed to remember they were indeed waterproof. You never know when you will need something like that. I get pretty desperate in the winter sometimes.

A few other shoes, I have to be honest, hung on for sentimental reasons. Well, one pair. I bought them at Spiegel when I went to compete in the Van Cliburn Amateur Competition. They are three colors, bright colors. I was on the copy desk when I did that competition and I wore the shoes to work and my late boss Stan Lipsey, the publisher, was passing by and called out to me, "Now that's what I call shoes!!"

How can I toss them? They are a classic design and they are in great condition, is another thing -- aside from the tip of the toe, which is slightly scuffed on both shoes. I wonder if someone can fix that. Hmmm.

A cobbler might also come in handy to fix the heels of the sandals I bought in California that I used to wear when I was there with Leonard Pennario. They are quality and they have held up all these years.

Well, all these repairs will have to wait till another day.

Today I cannot bear to see another shoe!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Springtime in Buffalo

For a man-made lake, you know, Hoyt Lake is not bad!

I love walking in the park and it takes me about 20 minutes to get to this lake but that is going the long way. If I went the short way it would be more like 10 minutes.

It can get mighty quiet around Hoyt Lake this time of year. A miracle in Buffalo! This is where I learned the chirp of the red-winged blackbird. I love that bird's harsh drawn-out call. That is the sound of summer.

You can see the spring in the picture up above! And in this one.

On the other hand I took these pictures just last week. Heck, not even a week ago! Four days ago.

You will notice there are more wintry pictures than spring pictures. I am afraid I prefer the weather the wintry way when you get down to it. I have many more pictures that I took on cold days than on beautiful idyllic summer days.

I loved taking that wintry walk four days ago. It was colder than a well-digger's ass, as Tom Waits would put it. Well, not quite as cold, but I love quoting that song. And it was just about as cold.

There was nobody in the park! I ran into one gentleman going east when I was going west. We said good morning, as Buffalonians will.

Then he said, "Beautiful day."

And I agreed.

It was!

I am trying to see if I took pictures on the drizzly day I walked this week. Yes! I did!

Another shot.

I do love brooding days! Here is another.

This is a Buffalo spring for you. My brother Tony described it well once. He said that in spring in Buffalo it is as if winter and summer are in a battle for every single day. That is true.

And you know what the say about March. It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion.

I am fine with it.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Prisoner of Prismacolor

I got these new Prismacolor pencils and could not put them down!

As I have written before I love keeping a bullet journal and have been doing that for several years. It is a way to wedge extra creativity into your life and it makes life look fun and not onerous. Even dentist appointments!

A good-looking BuJo, the hipster abbreviation for Bullet Journal, can help you get your life together in other ways too. I use mine to track projects and ideas and things and the colors make you happy as opposed to stressed out.

Enough excuses, I just could not put these pencils down, is the long and short of it. And so I jumped the gun on April and Easter. The butterflies on the tin got me thinking. I sort of borrowed them and then went from there.

I wish I could just keep going! I wish I could color this website with these Prismacolors.

But first things first. Is there anything more fun to color than Easter eggs? No.

What about Easter Yeggs?

That should be next year's theme!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Blackbird singing....

This morning, taking a quick walk around the park, I heard the song of what turned out to be the Red-Winged Blackbird.

Elementary to bird watchers, but new to me!

I mean, I know the bird's call. I love it because I associate it with high summer. You can listen to it here on the Audubon site.

But I did not know what bird it was I was hearing. I had to stare up into the tree where it came from, and keep staring, until I realized the call was coming from the tree next door. That second tree was a lot smaller and it was then that I could easily behold the blackbird sitting on a branch.

I do not think I have ever been able to identify the blackbird before. I believe this is its debut on this Web log.

There was the goldfinch.

And the robin that built its nest on the windowsill right by Howard's desk.

And the mourning doves Jeoffry scared away.

But the red-winged blackbird? It is common. It is abundant. But before this it was a mystery.

Red-winged Blackbird, I am happy to add you to my list of birds I now know.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Green day

Yesterday I had to take a picture of my purchases at Amvets before they were even in the bag.

They were just so pretty! Full of the colors of spring. Even if spring is not here yet. The pitcher in the pitcher (ha, could not help that) is covered with flowers that you cannot see. The records on the right, I had actually picked them out the day before. But I could not handle the checkout line on that day so I put them back in the record bin and went on my way.

No one else wanted the records I wanted! And I put them right in the front and everything.

I am insulted!

But happy to find them right where I had stashed them, I will say that. We had no coffee hour at church because the Italian Mass congregation had the hall for their massive St. Joseph's Table. And so my friend Lizzie and I went from church to Amvets where we met our friend Ryan. And then all three of us went to Buffalo Cider Hall...

.... in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

We agreed that Amvets is a great place to meet. That way if your friend is late, no worries. You may amuse yourself indefinitely.

I was happy because I had the best St. Patrick's Day outfit I had ever had. The piece de resistance was a bright green Liz Claiborne sweater. It had been sitting for months at the top of a pile of clothes in a box destined for Amvets. But the box never seemed to make its way to Amvets and so I thought, I may as well get a wear out of it, I mean, as long as it is here.

"You should keep it," said my Irish friend Bill Kearney at church. And I do believe I will.

There are times when you need something Kelly green and even if that happens only once or twice a year, it is worth having something for those occasions!

Back to the Buffalo Cider Hall. While we were drinking cider with varying percentages of alcohol Ryan had to tell me about this St. Patrick cartoon which now I will never get out of my head. Here I had admired St. Patrick in the choir loft of St. Anthony's ...

... and had even said a prayer: St. Patrick, pray for us!

But now when I think of St. Patrick all I can think of is this.

Ha, ha!

A happy St. Patrick's Day it was. And now back to work, with unfinished business clamoring for my attention.

Are we there yet?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sketching a shoeshine

My friend Meghan and I were downtown yesterday sketching and I drew a picture of her getting a shoeshine in the downtown Buffalo Athletic Club building at 69 Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo.

That is it up above!

It is fun to draw whatever happens to be going on. I am starting to see that.

If you have a sketchbook you are never bored!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The thrift shopping we do in the spring

Even though it's freezing out I know it is spring.

There is the matter of the daffodils, up above. It may take a sharp eye to spot them but they are there!

There is also the matter of  I cannot stay away from thrift shops.

I have a lot of work to do so I do not go special. But I work in a quick stop on my way from somewhere I have to be. For instance yesterday I went to the chiropractor. On my way home I could not resist popping into Goodwill.

Hardly had I stepped inside when from across the crowded room I saw it -- a gigantic framed print of John Singer Sargent's "Daughters of Edward Darley Boit." Here is a picture of it from the Boston Museum of Fine Art, where I believe the picture lives.

And I have to say, it was darn near as big as in that photo. And framed the same way, too. I recognized it as soon as I walked in. I have been studying Sargent recently because I have been noticing that he and I have in common certain ways of thinking and perceiving things. Howard laughs at me because I am cooking dinner and listening to curators and other eggheads giving lectures about him.

Back to "Daughters of Edward Darley Boit." It was $15, purple price tag, darn.

That was not the color that was half price! Yellow was half price if memory serves me.

Where would I put it? That was another consideration. I just have so much stuff, you know?

I could have overruled both those considerations. However, that fine ostentatious frame was chipped pretty visibly in spots. That was what finally made me make the decision I did, which was ...


That evening Howard said, "I'm surprised you could resist it."

"Me, too," I admitted. "If the frame were OK I would have bought it."

Howard asked, "Was it an original?"

I said, "Howard, no, it was not an original! People pay millions for this guy's stuff!"

I had to pause to imagine the greatness of the situation were I to be able to reply, "Yes, it was an original. And I like the idea of having an original Sargent. But where would I put it? And it had a purple price tag --

Howard stuck to his guns. "It could have been an original. You never know. People don't know what they have in their houses."

Watch, he will turn out to be right. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts will all of a sudden report that "Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" is missing.

And here it is at the Town of Tonawanda Goodwill. Turned down by me because the price tag was purple and not yellow.

Howard would sure have the last laugh!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The five people you meet on Ash Wednesday

This is a an uncompromising Ash Wednesday. As my brother George said it does not matter that it is the middle of March, it is the dead of winter.

I took that picture yesterday before my fingers froze and my phone died. 

Ash Wednesday stresses me out so much that I cannot be around people. Today instead of going to my usual church I went to St. Benedict's for my ashes. I have done that other years too. Every time I go there, I behold things that amaze me.

St. Benedict's as I have written before has a free-wheeling Ash Wednesday atmosphere. Laity distribute ashes. A girl welcomed me at the door with a bright smile and an invitation to check out their prayer resources, also there was a priest hearing confessions, and --

Suddenly the priest was at her elbow. "I was just going to say, I'm going on break," he said.

Ha, ha! He must have seen me approaching!

I went to get my ashes from this one lady who administered them simultaneously to me and to this big handsome guy my dad would have called "Mountain Man." We had to recite a psalm together.

All the while this girl was at the piano -- they have a piano at St. Ben's -- playing New Age music. That is the way this church is. It just is.

Now comes the greatest thing. After getting my ashes I was kneeling in the pew trying to pray the Rosary, which I try to do every day anyway. And right in the middle of a decade, which for the record was the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this young man approaches me.

"Hi!" he called out, with a big smile, as if he knew me.

And I figured he did. Because I am terrible with names and I am always embarrassed about it. But luckily all I did was say "Hi!" in return, and smile back.

Then I realized he was doing that with everyone. He would call out "Hi!" or "Hey!" exactly as if he knew them! And sometimes he would say, "Welcome to St. Benedict's," sometimes not.

He was not this dweeb, either. He looked like a popular kind of party guy. I admired him for taking on this role so fearlessly. Then what happened was, the girl at the piano began singing from her distant corner. You could not really hear her so this guy began chiming in, helping out.

"Lord, be with me, I can't do this alone," was one lyric, I think. I can't really remember. I was too awestruck.

I have never seen anyone with such self-confidence! He was just sauntering around the church, doing his thing.

Next to him, we are all mere church mice!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Back to Aqua Fit

On Saturday I went back to Aqua Fit class after a rather long absence.

I think it was the winter. All of a sudden when it's cold out, a class in the pool is a major time investment. You can't just run out into the parking lot with wet hair and a sun dress and go about your life. You must dry your hair, get dressed, all that jazz, and before you know it an extra hour has passed.

So on Saturday I had to talk myself into it. Here is your hair dryer, here is your swimsuit, you're going to like this, go.

And I did like it! Until this morning.

That was when I woke up and hurt!

It felt as if I had been in Body Sculpt class. It's funny, I have seen discussion threads on MyFitnessPal and whatnot, about whether to take this class, about whether it is more than just fun. Which, it is fun to be in the pool, let's admit it.

It does do you good!! Take it from me.

Plus you can use someone else's shower and you do not have to squander your own hot water.

Plus, after class the other day, I sketched the street corner. That is it above!

Howard liked it and put it for sale in our gallery.

I liked it, too. I love this side of town, near the gym. The houses have such personality and I love the power lines. It was all great fun. Even if I was a little sore afterwards.

I went back this morning.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The art store to end all art stores

The most wonderful and terrible thing has happened. The nation's biggest art supply store has opened about a mile from my house.

I mean, I could walk there!

Not that I am going to. I will have to do the ugly American thing and bring the car. Because of all the stuff I will buy there!

It is this magical place. It is just a big old steel building in truth, but in spirit, when I encountered it ... well, it was just as in the picture at left, by Gustave Dore, may I point out.

How did this happen??

I speak, of course, of Hyatt's All Things Creative, a family-owned Buffalo store that has been around forever except I never went there. Do not ask me why I never went there. What it was, I think, was that you had to go out of your way, and I was in the habit of going other places, and you had to pay to park because it was downtown, but it was not quite downtown, not so I could walk there easily on my lunch break, and --

Who cares why I did not go there. The point is, now it is practically right next door, and in a part of town where I live half my life. The gym I go to is there, and the Amvets I go to, and Albrecht Discount, and, well, everything.

It is a struggle not to go there all the time!

I have been there only once so far. I made the mistake of going there several days ago with Meghan, my friend and sketching buddy. We took this selfie of ourselves entering the store.

Well, it was not really a mistake because had I not gone with Meghan, I would still be there.

I cannot wait to go back by myself and just wander forever. It has taken a great force of will not to. Because I could not believe my eyes.

It is being described as the nation's biggest art store and I am not going to argue. There were watercolors there that I had never seen in person! That is what I told Howard. Paints I had only heard about but never seen.

There was about a quarter of a mile devoted just to journals!

By the time I left -- peacefully but reluctantly -- I was beginning to agree with people who have been telling me I should illustrate my book on Leonard Pennario. I have to give myself an excuse to go this store!

But how I would I work in a picture along the lines of Arthur Rackham's "By Day She Turned Herself Into a Cat"?

That is the question. And it must be answered because if you cannot aspire to a picture like that, what is the point?

Once I answer that question, though, one thing is certain:

I will have what I need!