Thursday, March 5, 2015


Single digits (again).
All bike racks buried under feet of snow.
The winter that goes on and on.

The desire to stop for a beer and a couple slices of pizza.
: to change your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation.
: to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Things that can be carried on a bike (#627)...

A tripod, a gym bag full of wet clothes, a camera bag with two cameras and an extra lens, a book, and four slices of spinach pizza in two boxes.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The view from my handlebars and a few words...

“Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter.”
~Ansel Adams

So I--along with about twenty other people--are partaking in Buffalo Fun-a-Day...doing some sort of art each day for the month of February (in my case, photography) and in March there will be a show at Sugar City. Anyhow, the reason I mention this, is that after work tonight I thought I would ride over to the Richardson Towers to take photos of them as the sun set (and to use as today's Fun-a-Day photo). To see previous photos of the Richardson Towers, click here or here. Anyhow, when I got there it was cold, really cold, as it has been. But the light wasn't hitting the towers as I had hoped...I probably had 15 or 20 minutes before it changed. And I didn't feel like standing there shivering while waiting for the light (in warmer temps I would). From where I was standing, looking at the towers were north, and then I glanced to my left (west, where the sun was setting) and saw the above photo perfectly framed and full of light. The tree of life, I thought. I have my photo, I also thought. So I snapped a few photos with stinging fingers (no need to set up a tripod as there was still enough light in the sky), and then rode to a local watering hole for a couple beers to warm up before my ride home.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Things that can be carried on a bike (#626)...

$158 worth of groceries...

So I've often wondered what my limit was, how much I could carry on a regular-sized bike. And today I found it. It's the heavy stuff--liquids such as milk and juice, and also flours--that really make it difficult. And I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a difficult ride home, uphill and in a heavy snowfall. But in nicer weather I'm sure I could carry more.

Urban Simplicity.

Five or eight quotes from Ansel Adams...

Photo Found Here 
February 20, 1902 - April 22, 1984

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

“You don't take a photograph, you make it.”

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

“Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter.”

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”

“There are two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer”

“The whole world is, to me, very much "alive" - all the little growing things, even the rocks. I can't look at a swell bit of grass and earth, for instance, without feeling the essential life - the things going on - within them. The same goes for a mountain, or a bit of the ocean, or a magnificent piece of old wood.”

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”

More in the Five Quotes series.
Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 I felt and what I saw...and on starting over (in words and pictures)

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late."
~Lee Iacocca 

So a couple things. One is....isn't color incredibly beautiful? The way the light changes. Sometimes I forget this. There is the phrase, the blue hour (or l'heure bleue), that refers to that point of morning or evening when the sun is just about to rise, or in this case, has just set but there is still light in the sky. And the angle of the light radiating from the sun through the hemisphere creates this incredibly beautiful blue hue (yes, post uploading processing helps, but just a little). But I'm jumping ahead as I often do. Let me begin again.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the symbolic day when Jesus went into the dessert to meditate for forty days, and when Christians are supposed to metaphorically replicate this and look within themselves (to step into their own personal desert), to assess, to renew, to serve. I really enjoy this time of year (and that may sound odd because it is sort of morose),but I do. Introspection suits me. But I'm jumping ahead, again. Let me start over, again.

In the times in which we live, to be a chef one must be an extrovert, or at least a pretend extrovert. I fall into the latter category. I am nearly 100% INFJ but on the job I have to act as an extrovert's extrovert...calling out orders all day, correcting, and even reprimanding, but also nourishing, complimenting, and encouraging. In short, it can and is exhausting some (most) days. And this is what I have been doing for more than half my life during this incarnation. Pretending to be an extrovert. Thus said, let me begin again.

I had such high hopes for the beginning of this Lenten season...high hopes of personal change. And then yesterday happened. I had an altercation with an employee that escalated to a yelling match dropping f-bombs left and right. I am no angel, I never said I was. Everyone has their buttons that can be pushed. And when this happens--when it's over--I internalize it. Last night I barely slept. And today I could not and cannot appreciate the depth and breadth of this sacred and mystical time of Lent. But I can start over. Begin again. We all can, I suppose. Every day.

This morning I worked my first job, and then rode my bike to a very short shift at my second job. And when that was over I got on my bike and rode in no particular direction. Not too far, mind you, as it was cold. But I just rode. And when I stopped I was facing the scene in the bottom photo. It took my breath away. I've taken many photos from that spot, which is Hoyt Lake at Delaware park, but I was there at just the right time tonight. It looked almost mystical. When I walked to the edge of the lake the snow was so deep it was up to my thighs, and when I set up my tripod it was stunted because I stood on the snow but the tripod's legs pushed down into it.

And as I stood there with my gloves off my fingers began to sting in the cold, my feet crunched in the cold snow, and my breath fogged up the camera view finder. But it was incredible; it was beautiful. For a few moments I just stood there. And at that moment nothing mattered or made sense to me. How silly, I thought to myself, it is that we humans treat each other (as an employee and I did yesterday as we yelled at each other in a heated argument)...even though we are interconnected.

So tomorrow I choose to start over. It is my choice, after all. Will things be perfect...nope. Will things be rectified with the employee in mention...doubtful. But I can begin again. Anew. Because in the finite time that we have on this planet in this current incarnation each day is like a little cross-section--a little slice--of our entire life. And I do not feel like wasting it. Standing in nearly the same spot, but trudging through snow while dragging my camera, tripod, and heavy bike, I took a few more photos, which really seemed to connect me to this time and the present.

Anyhow, this is what I was thinking as I stood in the cold while looking at the same blue that countless people and generations have seen before me. The thing is, sometimes I can see it and sometimes I can't. Tonight I did, and it was beautiful. Tomorrow I (and we) begin again. I just hope I don't screw it up.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Not since 1885...

The above photo is of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, which is where Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901. The building was originally built in 1839 as a a sort of army barracks outpost to ward of those crazy Anglo-Canadians (wink wink). But that's not what this post is about. This is about what happened--or didn't happen--in 1885, which actually has something to do with today. If you notice the photo above is on an ever so slight slant, that is because my fingers were in pain from the cold as I held the camera. Today nearly set a record. In February of 1885 Mark Twain (former Buffalonian) published the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Washington Monument was dedicated, and Grover Cleveland (former mayor of Buffalo) was inaugurated as the first democratic president since the Civil War.  But also, in the 145 years since the weather has been recorded there was only one day that was colder than today, and that was February 11, 1885 when the temperatures did not reach above -4F. Today it made it to -3F. That doesn't even make sense to me when I use it in a sentence..."today's high was minus 3"...I understand the words but how they are arranged seems confusing. The house I live in was built around 1860, and with my steam boiler churning away and logs roaring in the wood-burner it is nice and toasty, but I can only imagine how they kept warm 130 years ago. And with the roller-coaster weather we consistently have these days, if you happen to be a climate change denier please un-follow me and this blog because there is no longer anything to deny. Anyhow, below are a few more photos I took this evening. I was actually warm on the bike (which is pictured in the bottom photo), but when I took off my mitts for just a minute to control the camera my fingers began to sting; it hurt to breath sometimes so I kept a scarf around my face which froze with my body's own condensation; when I blinked my eyelashes would stick together from watering/freezing. Tonight's low is supposed to be -14 and I have a two mile ride at 8am, so please send positive energy my way. Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A few things I saw while walking in the snow today...

So I've said this before (regarding all-weather bike riding) but I have to say it again...I may be a little crazy--ok, a lot crazy--but I'm not stupid. If the weather gets too bad I just walk, and that's what I did today. This winter--even by Buffalo standards--has been a challenging one to say the least. I'm not sure when they started naming winter storms (is this something new?) but this one is called Winter Storm Neptune. Anyhow, I was feeling the effects of cabin fever this morning and took an elongated walk to a coffee shop. I took a few photos, these are my favorites. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Salade d'hiver...

So just because it is the middle of February and one of the most frigid nights of the year it doesn't mean you can't eat a salad. This is great as a side or hearty enough as a main dish. And with saffron-poached potatoes, French lentils, and a cumin-coriander vinaigrette, what's not to like. While this may look complicated at first, if you look at each step it is really simple.

Salade d'hiver
Serves 8-10

For the vinaigrette:
1 cup virgin olive oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and whisk together. Combine the cumin, coriander, and Aleppo pepper in a small dry skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Cook the spices for a couple minutes—until they begin to smoke and pop—and then stir them into the vinaigrette. Set the vinaigrette aside while you prepare the salad.

For the salad:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pinch saffron threads
½ pound French lentils
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
½ small red onion, sliced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped

Combine the potatoes and saffron in a small pot with just enough cold water to cover them. Place the pot over medium high heat and boil the potatoes until they are cooked but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes (reserve the liquid for a soup or discard it), spread them on a plate, and allow to cool to room temperature. 

 In another pot, boil the lentils for about 20 minutes, or until cooked but not mushy. Drain the lentils, spread them on a plate, and cool to room temperature.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, pour simmering water over the tomatoes, and let them rest for five minutes, then drain and dice them. 

 Roast the red pepper over and open flame, and then—after letting it steam in a bag—remove its skin under cool running water. Then dice the pepper. (Click here for step-by-step directions on how to roast a pepper.)

To assemble the salad, combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette and pour it over the salad. Gently fold the dressing into the salad ingredients. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

How to roast a pepper...

So it's February and one of the coldest nights of the year and I am thinking about peppers. Maybe I am thinking about summer...this is what I start to do this time of year. Roasted peppers are readily available in cans and jars but they are about as simple as things can be to prepare yourself and the flavor that it adds to a dish is worth the few minutes it takes. This is an ancient technique of cooking vegetables where the peppers are not actually roast in the oven but are “roast” over an open flame. The skin becomes charred black as night. With a little steam the skin just about falls off the pepper leaving only the tender cooked flesh with a light smoky flavor. This can be done outside over a grill or directly over the open flame of the burner on your stove.

The first time that I had seen this done was while I was at culinary school in the mid 1980’s. The chef-instructor had a thick German accent and when he told me to put the pepper over the flame of the burner I thought I had heard him wrong and instinctively reached for a skillet. After telling me again he became frustrated and grabbed the pepper from my hands and put it--almost throwing it--onto the bare flame. At the time I thought he was nuts, but when I tasted the resulting product I knew that he wasn’t. Okay, maybe he was a bit crazy. Anyhow, to roast a pepper do this:

Remove stickers from the pepper. Place the pepper directly on the grate of your gas stove with the flame adjusted to medium (as pictured above). Using a set of tongs turn the pepper every couple of minutes until the entire outside is completely black. 

Place the blackened pepper(s) into a small paper bag and seal it closed. Allow the pepper to rest for a couple of minutes. The steam that naturally occurs loosens the skin.

Remove the pepper, and while holding it under cold running water gently rub of the blackened skin (it’s wise, but not essential, to do this over a small colander to catch the skin, which may clog the drain).

 After the skin is removed gently tear the pepper in two and remove the stem and rinse the seeds. The pepper is now suitable for eating straight away, marinating, or to be used in any recipe that calls for such.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An inanimate de-stressing smile...

So today--for various reasons--I found myself stressed and anxious, and with me this usually manifests into profound sadness. And when I came home this evening on a cold dark night after a cold dark bike ride I found this drawn into the giant snow mound that is currently my front lawn. Then I noticed (as I left again and rode down my street) that there were smiley faces (each at least 2 feet in diameter) drawn into snow banks of front lawns all down the street. Thank you anonymous snow-drawers...this cheered me up and in fact made me smile.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Forest Lawn in the Winter...

So I have posted photos from Forest Lawn Cemetery a few times prior (click here to see them) but never in the winter. In fact, I'm not sure I've been there in the winter. And I've also commented on how beautiful and tranquil the cemetery is, but in the winter it is even more so. Aside from an occasional car, the only other (living) person I saw was a woman feeding the ducks and a gravedigger. But then there were times where I would ride--with the sound of snow crunching under my tires--with the company of just the wildlife and the cemetery's permanent residents. I really felt as if I were in a wild bird sanctuary in the middle of the city. When I would stop and listen there were cars in the distance, but above that I could here the water fowl, tons of crows, and some birds of prey (which unfortunately I did not get a good shot at). I took a bunch of photos, and here's a few of my favorites. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.