Friday, July 31, 2009

Light Dinner at Mona Lisa Cafe

Italian wedding soup, Greek salad and an amazing looking panini. Considering some gelato after this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Personal Book Club

For the past couple months I've been engaged in what I've jokingly called my "Personal Book Club." Ever since I began recording a newscast in the evening 4 years ago, the amount of reading I've engaged in dropped to almost zero. This has been rather disconcerting since aside from listening to music, reading as been my preferred method of escape. With everything I have going on at work and home, escape has become a necessity lest I further deteriorate into a sullen, bitter ball of stress. Thus was born the "Personal Book Club."

The premise was that I would go to Labyrinth, drink coffee, and read whatever book I chose from around 7-9pm once a week. I wouldn't fret about reading the book any other night of the week and it the outing would give me a solid 2 hours of no distractions from a staggering to-do list at home, the computer, my dogs, and Matt. I've tried keeping the night I do this to Mondays since it's one night I don't currently have anything else scheduled, but I've gone on Tuesdays when Mondays had other things infringing on my time.

Labyrinth's owner Jeff asked as I worked my way through my first book about whether I would be able to read enough to earn a pizza at the end of the summer ala the "Book-It" program. I told him I was hoping to get not just a pepperoni but a supreme pan pizza this time around.

I started the project almost skeptically, since I have a way of scheduling myself out of stuff like this. But as August approaches, and I realize I've read 3 books since May, I'm starting to think maybe I wasn't so crazy. The latest book, Julie & Julia, has me sneaking in pages outside the coffee shop which is ultimately what I hoped would happen once I knew I could relax with the idea that at least one night a week would be set aside for literary pursuits.

Here are the books I've read so far:
Without Reserverations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
The Ultimate Trophy: How the Impressionist Painting Conquered the World by Philip Hook
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Book In Progress (to be finished before end of day Finished on Lunch Hour)
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

Here are the books on list for the very near future:
A Room With A View by E.M. Forster
Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CD Review: Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Originally published in the Chautauqua Region Word (07/23/09 - 08/05/09 edition).

Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane and Sugarcane

"Secret, Profane and Sugarcane" opens with a twang so old that you're not sure if Elvis dropped us in the middle of the 1940s bluegrass movement or if he is a revived Civil War balladeer. It's easy to forget for a moment that this is the same Welsh guy that gave us driving rock songs like "Radio Radio" and "Pump It Up" back in the 1980s.

Admittedly, I am not a lover of bluegrass or country music and my knowledge of American folk music runs shallow. That doesn't matter when listening to this album. Costello gathered a group of fine musicians for his back-up band on this earthy release.

Themes of love lost, loneliness, and pain run deep; which is amusing when you consider that Costello landed himself a fine wife in Jazz Singer Diana Krall. Either way, he's tapped into the consciousness of a broken heart on tracks like "I Felt The Chill Before the Winter Came," "I Dreamed of My Old Lover," and "She Was No Good."

The timing of the album's release with the onslaught of the summer months is perfect as this is porch settin' music. Make a pitcher of sun tea, cut up some cantaloupe from the farmer's market, and pretend to set the needle down on the your iPod for an hour. Better yet, see if there's any tickets left and grab an amphitheater seat to hear some of these songs in Costello's act live at Chautauqua Institution on August 29th.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Morning After Recovery

Ali enjoys a Bloody Mary in a Wizard of Oz glass the morning after the John Hughes party. I believe those are Ian's cigarettes on the table. We all were hurting to some degree the next day but we agreed we had a fine time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Karaoke.. Of The Songs That Were Sung

Karaoke. Pick a song out of a basket and wing it.

Caught In The Act!

Dennis The Menace, AKA Ian, tries to steal a Gary Peters Jr. original from Shannon's kitchen. What he doesn't know is that we plan to make off with it first.

Unexpected Guests in Pontiac

Some Unexpected Guests, current and former, do a little show for the John Hughes Party. Where else can you get prosthetic glow in the dark horse legs, a business that involves crapping in cars as art installations, and kites stuck in uncomfortable places?

John Hughes Charactures Gather

Representatives from 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller, and Breakfast Club. My before (of Allison Reynolds) is here and her name is Julie. Too funny.

Caroline Before the Hair Incident

The host of the party. Shannon, playing the part of Caroline from "16 Candles."

Cousin Eddy and Iona

We are at a John Hughes themed party in Illinois. Some serious costume commitment going on.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy 5 Years!

Five years ago, we had impossibly perfect weather, a fine gathering of friends and family, a nice ceremony, great food, and a great DJ.

Five years ago, I told Matt he had my heart. He still has it today.

Happy Anniversary Love!

Monday, July 20, 2009

10 Things To Do This Summer - Mid-Season Update

I realized I have accomplished a lot on my to-do list for this summer (original post). Here's the mid-July update:

1. Have a drink whilst sitting in a rocking chair, watching the sun set at the Hotel Lenhart in Bemus Point. (UPDATE: We've watched sunsets while drinking, just not from Hotel Lenhart)

2. Plant dahlias, an azalea bush, and maybe some begonias and geraniums in my garden

3. Dance at three of the four weddings we're invited to before Labor Day (the fourth is a Muslim celebration, no drinking or dancing).

4. Read 2 books. I set my standards low when the weather is nice. (I've actually read 3 books since May since I can't count Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty. I congratulate myself on coming up with the concept of a personal book club night at Labyrinth Press Company)

5. Enjoy limoncello over frozen lemon ice on my porch (UPDATE: I've enjoyed limoncello several nights at Forte)

6. Play skee ball at Midway Park (UPDATE: Probably won't accomplish unless we make a special trip)

7. Eat chicken souvlaki at the Yassou! Festival

8. Drink a super chilled beer outside in the middle of a blazing hot day somewhere I can people watch. (UPDATE: It's an El Nino summer. Plenty of beer has been consumed but the weather hasn't been exactly hot)

9. Take a day trip somewhere near water and just hang out watching the water lap against the shore for a few hours (We didn't have to go far for this thanks to Gary Peters Sr.'s 4th of July party)

10. Make caprese salad at home and eat it with fresh Italian bread slathered with butter while drinking lots of red wine and hanging out with friends. (Okay, so friends weren't involved in this one but we did do this while hanging out on our front porch one night for dinner)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Come With Me.. To the Sea of Pink

My cousin's bridal shower is a sea of pink. Her wedding colors are actually pink and brown, which will make her wedding the second one we go to this year with those colors. My cousin is the one in the white dress standing just right of center in this hastily shot picture before it was my turn at the buffet table.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baby Whisperer?

Holding Lily while her mom eats pizza. Apparently she doesn't like other people holding her but she was pretty happy hanging out with me. Don't get your hopes up. Still not having kids.

Morning After

What do you get after a night of indulgence? Why Wegmans coffee and a breakfast sandwich of course! We needed some protein before we head over to Jade and Dave's apartment to help them move into their new house in Jamestown.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Last of Four Courses

Tiramisu fondue. And they brought us a complimentary glass of champagne to celebrate!

Early 5th Anniversary Dinner

Celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary (early) at The Melting Pot in Buffalo. We are doing the four course option.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

CD Review: Pet Shop Boys - Yes

Originally published in the Chautauqua Region Word 6/25-7/08/09 Issue

Pet Shop Boys - Yes

Yes is the tenth release by Pet Shop Boys. The 18-year old band has created an album that has a familiar, yet fresh sound. Overall, it plays like a soundtrack for happy hour at the local gay bar. You could dance to it but you prefer to just listen while enjoying your drink before heading home to your not-yet-legally recognized husband who is waiting with dinner on the table. It's fun, but it's grown up.

First single and opening track, "Love Etc.," off the new release is instantly recognizable even though you've never heard it before. The album begins with a statement about the things we surround ourselves with to make us happy when maybe we just need love.

A clip from Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" lends a demented edge to the otherwise anthemic, clap-along "All Over The World."

Neil Tennant has filled Yes with songs like "Did You See Me coming" that cause one to simultaneous smile and cringe: "..I think I'm starting to believe in fate because it delivered you.." Hopefully we all experience that crazy delight of falling in love and the unabashed lack of cynicism that causes rational people to start presenting their friends with metaphorical daisies in their bliss.

Mix in a few songs with a political bent and Yes tidies itself up nicely. It's an accessible album that PSB fans will enjoy thoroughly.

Guest Editorial - The Say

Originally appeared in the Chautauqua Region Word (5/28-6/10/09 Issue)

Ten years ago I graduated from college and was on the casual search for a job. By casual I mean I waited about three weeks after I crossed the stage at Commencement to start idly sifting through online job listings. I didn’t know that in another week and a half I’d be packing up my car and moving to Jamestown to start a job in radio news.

My first impressions of Chautauqua County were shaped by the people I met while interviewing. A future co-worker gave this ringing endorsement, “This may be a small town, but it’s a great place if you want to raise a family. The schools are great. It’s a beautiful area.”

Being 22 at the time, my immediate internal reaction was, “Well, they have a Wegman’s, so I’ll make do for now.” I realistically only planned to live in this county for two years. Plus, growing up near a city, I couldn’t fathom the idea of being away from the “civilization” of coffee shops open until midnight, radio stations that played music I liked, cool little restaurants of varying ethnic variety, and a Target.

I didn’t count on Chautauqua County being a place that had a way of sucking me in ever so slowly.

One hot summer day in 2001, I found myself eating lunch in Lakeside Park in Mayville. An idyllic scene floated in front of me. Kids fishing off the boat landing. The weeping willow dripping tendrils of leaves just above the water's surface. And the horizon shimmering in the summer's haze across the lake. I wondered how I had found this place. It was then that I realized I had fallen in love with Chautauqua County.

A few years later I married a guy I met at that first job. Questions of whether we’d stay here were quieted for awhile when we bought a house in Jamestown a year after that.

I’ve been blessed to meet so many people in this county. Living here is a bit like being part of a slow cooked meal. All the ingredients are in the pot. It’s just going to take some time and patience to make it all come together. When it does, it’ll be extraordinary.

During the past ten years, I’ve seen downtown Jamestown transform - with just the opening of a few places - into somewhere you can get a cup of coffee at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, catch an up-and-coming music act that’s doing a stop-over performance before a gig in New York City, watch a hockey game, or just hang out with friends over drinks in a bar sans televisions.

There’s the reality of living here. The county had a 9% unemployment rate in March. I’ve watched and read the news reports of lay offs in our community and the closures of some local businesses. Friends have lost their jobs, others are taking jobs they would never consider just because it’s preferable to unemployment. I don’t think it’s too pessimistic to think that given the current economic climate across the country that our county will continue to feel the economic pinch for some months to come, hopefully not years. I call it the reality of living in New York State and Western New York.

Despite this, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I think we have people here who have figured “it” out. “It” being that magical formula that can lead to a vibrant downtown, successful businesses, and less brain drain. “It” is that something that asks someone who has done it the same way, over and over, to change. And change is a bitch. It’s that whole slow-cooker notion again. We’ve got what we need. We just need to turn up the heat a little more and see what we can make out of this city and this county.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Deepening Skies

The sun set lasted forever. It started out in pinks and purples and kept deepening into reds. The moon rose behind us and you could even see stars in the sky. After a prolonged period of gray, cloudy weather, this vision of the heavens around us was welcomed.

Friends on the Fourth

Friends and a sun set. We had moved so our backs were to the Lake so as to avoid the smoke from the fire pit. Later, most of us turned to watch the fireworks while Ali and Shannon roasted strawberry marshmallows (that's all they had left at Wegmans) for s'mores.

Pie Consumed

Pie being enjoyed at a Fourth of July party. There was only one piece left at the end of the night.

Fun By The Lake

Princess Slea playing with her (off camera) kids at a Fourth of July picnic.


Rolling out the crusts. I'm making two pies. I'll have enough crust leftover to make a covered pie, so I'll have to decide if I want to make a fruit pie tomorrow. It feels funny to be making pie during the day in the summer since I'm so used to doing this on a November night before Thanksgiving.

Pie Crust

Pie dough is made and is going in the fridge for an hour. It's easier to roll out that way. My grandma's pie crust recipe makes two covered pies and one shell.

Memory Pie

I am about to start making pie. My Aunt Margie enjoyed pecan pie so that's what will go in the oven.

Friday, July 03, 2009

At the Liberty Street Cafe

Matt, Laura and me at the Liberty Street Cafe. For about 20 minutes, I wasn't sure if we were going to follow through with our dinner plans since I was bumming out about my Aunt Margie dying. Then I figured she'd kick my ass if I just sat around the house moping and crying. Dinner was the right choice. We got to see a lot of friends who we hadn't been in touch with for so long.

Time With Our Warren Friends

Hanging out in Warren with our friends at the Cafe. It was good to see everyone since we haven't been able to get together since New Year's Eve. Dinner was tasty too. I had the Vietnamese Pork Pho. Enough food for 4 people in one bowl.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pass The White-Out

Welcome to my world at work this afternoon. I thought the year was 2009, but it seems like I am really living in 1983.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tea for Tune

I have my cup of Constant Comment tea, my violin, some music and lots of lights on. I just need my violin student and I will be set.

Summer Storm

The river of rain down our street. The weather these past few weeks has been rough in terms of outdoor stuff like softball games and our city's summer band shell series. It also has kept me from working in the garden. Please ignore the maple tree that apparently is sprouting above my bushes.

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clift...