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!




Tuesday, June 25, 2019

David Bellavia, at the White House and on the air


Here in Buffalo we were all excited today because one of our own, David Bellavia, received the Medal of Honor. We all tuned in to watch President Trump confer on him this great citation.

Buffalo City Hall is lit up white, blue and gold right now in celebration!

And here is what I really loved:

In between wall-to-wall coverage on the radio of Bellavia and his courage and this honor, we got to hear Bellavia talking about what we should do if we owe the IRS over $10,000!

That is only one of a number of commercials he does on WBEN, where he co-hosts the afternoon show with Tom Bauerle. And just because Bellavia was getting the Medal of Honor today did not mean that we would stop airing his commercials.

It is as if he is family.

That is so Buffalo!

Here is the footage, for the record, of the great man and his great moment. I have to warn you, it does start with a commercial. And it is not one of Bellavia's.

It should be!


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.

Cheers!


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!




Saturday, June 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!



Wednesday, June 5, 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!







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!


Sunday, May 26, 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.


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.

So.

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.

Anyway.

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.

Pennario!!

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!

Alleluia!




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.

However!

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!