Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving hacks

So this year I had my best Thanksgiving ever. Honest, it was great.

Last week reading back on old Thanksgivings I kept remembering how stressful a lot of them were! But this year ... What went right?


One thing, I have discovered a variety of Thanksgiving hacks. Some by accident. This year...

1. I roasted the turkey the night before. Never had it occurred to me to do this, but I read online where you could do it, and so I did it. My sister brought over a home-raised turkey on Wednesday, and by Wednesday night that big bird was cooked and sliced up and wrapped up in the fridge. And the bones were making stock in a Crock Pot. Why the heck not? You never see the big roasted turkey anyway. That vision of the turkey on the table, venerated by all, that is only in books and magazines. I used the stock for stuffing. Which leads me to hack No. 2 ...

2. Cook the stuffing separately from the turkey. I used to be a total purist about this because darn it, I grew up with stuffing in the turkey, and that's how it should be. But I changed my mind. I did the stuffing in another Crock Pot with this bread my brother George brought over from the Turkey Trot. It was the best stuffing I ever made and there were no leftovers.

You could also use your fresh stock for gravy however I did not do that because...

3.  I had made the gravy in advance!! Always do that. Gravy is not hard to make but it is hard when you are tripping over kids and a cat and people are racing through the kitchen and the turkey is out of the oven and everyone is hungry.

4. Make your red cabbage in advance. You don't make red cabbage? You should. Red cabbage and apples is our tradition. That is the German version and goes great with turkey. The Polish have a cousin to this version which does not have apples but has something else, I forget what, but I am sure it is yummy. Anyway, whatever version you make, do it in advance and put it into another Crock Pot.

5. The potatoes were cooked on the stove and mashed up with butter in a fourth Crock Pot. Needless to say these were Smashed Potatoes. I cannot peel eight pounds of potatoes, absolutely cannot.

6.  My niece Barbara came over and helped me get ready. That is she in the picture up above, right before my phone died. Looking at my kitchen you can see, ahem, signs of a struggle. But all's well that ends well.

A great Thanksgiving!

A miracle!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Thinking Thanksgiving

I have been hosting the family Thanksgiving for a long time. There were only two years in maybe the last 20 that I did not hold it. One was because I was in California with Leonard Pennario and the other was... I do not remember what the situation was but my sister Katie held it instead. I remember there was a reason for that but I do not remember what that reason was.

There was one Thanksgiving before I was married when a storm blew in and I was not sure if anyone would make it. Buffalo has a way with storms.. we tend to get them on holidays, Thanksgiving and, especially, Christmas Eve. This Thanksgiving storm was a bad storm and my sister Katie and her family were coming in from East Aurora. Ah, single life! I remember dressing for dinner, putting on a nice dress, thinking: I might be eating this 24-pound turkey all by my own damn self! And I am OK with that, I thought as I opened a bottle of wine.

However everyone made it! That is Buffalo.

Our Thanksgivings are always chaotic but I look forward to them and I love preparing for them. I love this time of year, the promise of Advent and Christmas, the early darkness.

I love planning the Thanksgiving menu. I like how it is traditional it is, how simple, how cheap. Turkeys are cheap. The supermarkets practically give them away. Pies are cheap, even if you buy a pre-made crust. I personally am making mine with lard. But that is another story for another day.

Potatoes are cheap and so is squash and cranberry sauce and pretty much everything else. It really is, when you get down to it, what might at one time have been considered a simple Sunday dinner.

Over years of subscribing to cooking magazines I have been happy to see that efforts to chip away at the Thanksgiving tradition have failed. Thanksgiving is always under attack. An old Cooking Light suggested beef tenderloin (very expensive by the way) replacing the turkey. Other cooking writers can't wait to tell you they really don't like turkey that much (I love it!) and why don't you roast something else instead?

But the turkey is here to stay. And so is the cranberry sauce. With which, my first Thanksgiving recipe for this year's feast:

Baked Cranberries With Rum!

It is in the oven as we speak.

We are off and running!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A walk into winter

Today I was getting over a migraine brought on by recent dental derring-do. It was really no big deal, I had this deep cleaning, pretty much describes it. I get migraines in response to anything. They are not terrible migraines. They do not put me out of business.

Still I would rather be without them, you know? And so today I went for a walk in the park.

This walk in the park was no walk in the park!

It started out nice and sunny. I loved it. I slipped back my hood and got me some Vitamin D. There was a smoky aroma in the air. I could not remember when I had enjoyed a walk so much. Blissing out, I took the picture up above.

And this picture, of Ashker's in the Park all shuttered for the season.

This was in contrast to my summer sketch of Ashker's in the Park ...

...  that led in a roundabout way to my show going on now at Ashker's on Elmwood.

I loved doing that drawing, sitting on a tree stump on a summer day. But I love winter too. I love the stillness, the snow. Thinking thoughts like this I rounded the corner by the bathrooms and continued counter-clockwise parallel to the expressway.

That was about when things began to go south. I mean north! Because it got colder and windier. The sun was still out but somehow it was not hitting me.

I worried I would slip on black ice. Trying to walk in the snow to avoid that I got snow in my boots. Yikes and zut alors!

I struggled on. This being Buffalo I kept passing a bicyclist. Of course people were bicycling in the park, you know? You have to love this town. The thought made me smile as I entered the home stretch. Finally, finally. With the end in sight, I began enjoying myself again. The view really was stunning. I mean, if you showed someone this picture ...

... and said you took it in Greenland, that person would believe you.

The bison did not care what kind of day it was.

Watch that ice!

And a picture of the walkway because I love this view and take pictures of it in all seasons. And this being winter there were no cars ruining the view.

Wow, look at this gallery! Pushing a button on my camera is a lot easier than drawing, I will tell you that right now! And one other thing, my head had stopped aching.

A winter walk will work miracles! And when you get home you can have brandy.

That makes it even better!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The first snow

Today is the first snow and we are supposed to get several inches before tomorrow morning. Luckily it is ending about 6 a.m. and then we can plow out.

I always have great sympathy with people who have to get out and go somewhere because so often that has been me! I come from a family of teachers and when a snowstorm blows in, they are all la la la la la la la, because if it gets bad, odds are they will have off, and they can sit around and make snowmen and bake cookies.

Not me! I always had to get to work and even now I have to do work related things a lot. And I have to get to church for various things too. There is always something. Reminds me, I am fascinated by that song, "Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." I did a Let it Snow Christmas card, with a sketch I did of Hertel Avenue digging out after a storm.

But the lyrics, they have little in common with my life. Granted I think too much. But a few days ago I heard ...

It doesn't show signs of stopping
But I've bought some corn for popping...
The lamps are turned way down low..
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

And I was thinking: I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where I could just say, let it snow, let it snow. There is always something! If not tonight then next morning. Or next afternoon. You would have to be on vacation or something.


I am very lucky in that Howard is out getting the plow in order. He took that picture at the top of the plow, deployed just today, and my old Crown Vic next to it. Howard drives the Vic now.

I am sentimental about the Vic because Leonard Pennario rode in it and so did my mom. But the Vic is terrible in snow and looking at it I remembered terrible times in it. Such as once when I was coming home from The Buffalo News in a snowstorm. I was driving the Vic over the bridge on Michigan Street right by Scott Street and I was stuck in traffic and all I could think was, I am going to slide all the way down this bridge hitting all these cars.


So what I did was, I called Howard from the top of the bridge. As if that was going to do any good! But somehow I think it did. He calmed me down and then miraculously the Vic did not slide. Things went OK and I made it home ... hours later, but I got there. That was not a long time ago. That was pretty recent. It was funny, I was thinking: This is the worst snow drive of my life. And that included the time I was driving home from the Niagara Gazette and did a donut on the Robert Moses.

Ah, the memories.

The memories that a first snow brings!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The sketch calendar

Fast away the old year passes! Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

Also hail my first calendar!

I love calendars and planners as I have surely written about before. I keep a bullet journal. And I thought it would be fun to fit some of my sketches onto calendar month cards.

Hilarious experience putting it together. When I thought everything was in the bag I realized that in three different months, the days were off. Then I kept going back and forth about type faces. There are all these details you never think of.

Luckily having worked for years as a newspaper writer I have all kinds of safeguards in place. You learn to check everything out of necessity.

Here are some of the months lined up like the Rockettes.

The calendar posing on my desk.

Flush with success I added the calendar to the products at I also put it in our Etsy store, Buffalo Donut.

May I take this opportunity to say I cannot believe how the year has flown. I cannot believe we are looking at 2020.

Here we are back in Eastern Standard Time, plunged into darkness! And we have already passed All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I heard a priest at church say once that at this time of year, the readings at Mass all turn to matters pertaining to the end of the world. It is a time of year that I confess, I love.

But it all goes so fast!

I will be using my new calendar before I know it!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

My first art show

Yesterday I celebrated the opening of my first art show. It was a life experience.

That is how I keep describing it. It is true! The show is on till the end of the month. That is right, the show must go on! Meanwhile we opened it last night with style.

People are so nice. I keep thinking that. Friends I had no idea would show up showed up. My friend Gary held a party for me after it. Strangers came in off the street.

These were all pictures I had drawn in the last year. It started in Inktober when I discovered how much I loved going out and drawing from life in pen and ink. Now the walls of Ashker's, this beautiful coffee shop on Elmwood Avenue, were covered with my drawings.

The show itself made me realize how much work goes on behind the scenes in the art world the same as in every other world. At The Buffalo News we would joke about how actual writing was only about 10 percent of our job, if that. The rest was ... oh, returning phone calls, making phone calls, getting sources to talk to you, schmoozing people so they would tell you what you needed to know, keeping your calendar in order, fact-checking yourself, thinking up new ideas, going to meetings, it never ended.

So it is in art too. I do not even want to talk about the work that led up to this. But it had to be, you know? I read that Leonard Bernstein said that the secret to success was "a great idea, and not quite enough time to do it."

Nothing gets done without a deadline!

Look at Mozart. They had to lock him up to get him to finish "The Magic Flute." If they had not locked him into a hut someone else would have had to finish it.

Anyway. I had my deadline and I worked. To steady my nerves I listened to "Die Meistersinger," this production I found on YouTube with Berndt Weikl and Siegfried Jerusalem.  Then on Friday I went in to Ashker's and the curator, Julia, and I put the show together.

All day we worked, getting pictures up on the walls, and there are a lot of pictures, because I do a lot of drawing. Finally in the late afternoon I left and scooted downtown to get to Mass for All Saints' Day. Of course it was a holy day!

The actual day itself was more stressful than my wedding day. I was in a complete daze. At church today I had trouble praying because I kept thinking about stupid things I had said, duh. But people were great and I got through it. Everything worked out great and I feel exhilarated now that the opening is over and went so well.

The, ahem, art will be on the walls until the end of November. You will have to go and see it if you are curious because I have discovered that the picture mechanism on this Web log is not working for now. No pictures, for now.

But they are at Ashker's, 1002 Elmwood Ave.

On the wall!