Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the Waterfront...a few photos and a few words

So in a few days it will be September already. Where has the summer gone? Time goes so very quickly doesn't it? And with this thought in mind (and the thought that it is predicted that we will receive an early visit from the infamous polar vortex this year) I headed to one of Buffalo's beautiful waterfronts last evening (even though I didn't entirely feel like it...though I'm glad I did). I really and consciously wanted to take in a summer evening--to remember it--for three months from now when it will be frigid. There's a really nice outdoor bar at the Buffalo waterfront so I grabbed a beer and waited for the sun to set. And the Yuba works great as a shelf for food, beer, and other things (see below). Anyhow, it really was a nice evening...feeling the breeze come off the lake while watching the sailboats come in for the evening. I snapped more than four dozen photos and here are a few of my favorites. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kara Lynn Evancho (1967-2010)

Kara. Sweet but caustic Kara. It was 4 years ago that you left us too soon. You were one of the craziest people I knew (and I mean that literally of course, and I can hear you chuckling). You drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, and had the mouth of a drunken sailor. But at not quite 5 feet tall (4-foot 11-and-a-half you always reminded me...that half inch was very important) you had one of the biggest hearts I could ever know. Unconditionally. That's how you liked people. I almost said love, but I know how you don't like that mushy stuff. When I was super-stressed out after divorcing and having a young son and moving into a house that was not even fit to live in at the time you showed up with a plastic bag full of sandwiches and loose beers. That's how you were. But I didn't appreciate it then. You drove me nuts at work (geeze you knew how to push my buttons) but we also laughed a lot. We talked a lot, too. We talked about how screwed up things were...we talked about how screwed up we were. But you were one of my biggest supporters...I would tell you to shut up when you told people that I was such a good cook that I could even make shit taste good. I still hear your voice at work. A lot lately. And it's comforting. Thank you for that. But rest in peace sweet Kara. You deserve it.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two simple but delicious recipes to use up all those tomatoes growing in your garden...

Both of these recipes have been posted in the past (or at least variations of them). And whether you grow them in your own garden or buy them from the market or a store, this is prime tomato season. Both recipes are simple to make a bursting with fresh flavor. 


Garden-Fresh Tomato Sauce 
Makes about 3 quarts

4 quarts fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch fresh basil
Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds; discard the seeds and dice the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan; add the onions, then the garlic, then the sugar, salt, fennel, and hot pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and the chicken broth (or vegetable broth). Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes, or until it has reduced and thickened. Stir in whole basil leaves and remove from the heat. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Taste it for seasoning, then puree in a blender. Refrigerate until needed.

Spicy and Smoky Tomato ketchup 
 Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove the cores of the tomatoes, and make a small X-shaped incision on the opposite ends. Drop the tomatoes in the water a few at a time and blanch them for only about 45 seconds, just to loosen their skins. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of iced water. Peel away their skins, cut them in half, squeeze out their seeds, and dice them. Transfer the tomatoes to a small pot with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower to a low simmer. Cook for about an hour, until it becomes quite thick. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Temple, some Balancing Rocks, Honest Ed's, and a few other things I Saw While Riding a Bike through Toronto Yesterday...

So yesterday I was on a quick 24 hour vacation in the beautiful, vibrant, and bustling city of Toronto, which lies two hours north and just around the bend on Lake Ontario from Buffalo. I went there with my son and his cousin, and after dinner they went off to do their young guy thing which allowed me to take photos of this inspiring metropolis. I have ridden a bike in Toronto before (when I brought my folder with me) but on this occasion I utilized Bike Share Toronto, which was really nice and convenient (but more details about that in a later post). Anyhow, with it's proximity to Buffalo I have been to Toronto more times than I can remember but I am always still thrilled and excited to go there. It was such an incredibly beautiful summer evening, which I spent riding around snapping photos...interspersed with bar stops and good Canadian Beer of course. Anyhow, here a bit of what I saw; click any for a larger photo.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ten things I saw while riding my bike recently...

So I could go on and on about the many reasons I choose to ride a bike--some obvious and some not so much--but these photos explain a lot of it. As many of you know I usually--more often than not--carry a camera with me while riding my bike, and in the evening a tripod as well. It is so easy for me to simply stop and snap a few photos. After a stressful day or evening facing a hot stove, riding a bike and photographing what is directly in front of me--really looking at the natural beauty that s all around us and right in front of us--is in fact a form of therapy for me. Anyhow, I'll get off my little soapbox now. Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A waterfall and Lucille's cousin...

I was on my way to my sister's house in Alden, NY today and thought I'd stop and snap a few photos of Blossom Falls in Elma, NY. And yes I actually drove a car (car share). Anyhow, I found a few things interesting. One is that I had my son with me, who is 19. These falls were a big party spot for my friends and I when we were in high school 35 years ago (yikes I am getting old). Who would have thought that I'd survive those days let alone stop back with my son. Anyhow, as far as Lucille, she is great blue heron I was following down the pier in Buffalo a couple weeks ago (read about her and see her photos here). So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived and saw another great blue heron feeding in the creek. Click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Things that can be carried on a bike (#603 & #604), and a recipe...

#603...Two plastic buckets containing a 24 hour whole wheat preferment (on my way to work in the morning)

#604...Two empty plastic buckets and also a plastic box containing 3 freshly baked loaves of whole wheat bread (on my way home from work in the early evening).

100% Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 cups water, divided
4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey

Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, olive oil, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

This is just another variation of the seemingly endless theme of hummus recipes. And this one--if I do say so myself--is not only equally delicious but also really simple to make...put everything in a food processor and process until smooth. But technically this is not a hummus after all (I can be such a stickler) because the Arabic word hummus translates as chickpea. This would be ful or fool (beans). Anyhow, this is really good, and really healthy, and really easy to make.

Spicy Avocado and Black Bean Hummus

Makes about 4 cups

2 ripe avocados, peeled
2 cans (15 oz. ea.) black beans, rinsed
1 cup tahini
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup hot pepper sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If there is a bicycler's heaven-on-earth, this place may just be it....

Urban Simplicity.

Five (or ten) Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

Image found here.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.”

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

“Happiness is not a's a by-product of a life well lived.”

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

“It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

More in the Five Quotes series.
Urban Simplicity.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moon Stalker...

Okay. So first of all I have to apologize for all the moon photos. But I really couldn't help myself. If you saw the super moon you know what I am talking about. It was just so incredibly beautiful. This is really a continuation of this post, where I went out and took photos in the moonlight while standing on the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The photos on this page were actually shot over the course of two night, all from the same vantage point of the Bird Island Pier but at different times and using different camera adjustments. The only three photos that were not facing east towards Buffalo are pretty obvious in this group...two below this text is an image of the point where Lake Erie spills into the very mouth of the Niagara river and begins it's 25 mile trek to the Falls, and below that is the Peace Bridge, and the last photo is the sunset looking west at Canada. Sorry again if I'm boring you with so many's so peaceful out there on the pier at night and I shot more than a hundred photos. These are just a few of my favorites. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.