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Thin Ice, Blood Church, and a few other things I saw while riding my bike yesterday…

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Life is one long decay, no? There’s a lot of beauty in it.”

~ Urs Fischer

So I had yesterday off of work and had an appointment on Buffalo’s East Side. I love riding my bike through the neighborhoods for a couple reasons. One is that my heritage is there. I was born on the East side, and generations before me lived there. But also the neighborhoods. While the East Side is home to some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in our city, I find it oddly peaceful to pedal and coast my way through the streets with often dilapidated buildings and urban prairies. I feel the presence of souls past as I coast through the quiet streets.

It was cold out (I was glad it actually felt like winter) and I was pedaling into a strong headwind, so for a bit of reprieve I stopped for breakfast at Mattie’s Restaurant on Fillmore and was served by Miss Mattie herself. And with a full belly and warm coffee I pedaled the rest of the way home and felt grateful to be on a bike, to be able to experience my short 10 mile round trip with all my senses.

Urban Simplicity.

 

Five or Twelve Quotes from Dr. Seuss

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(aka…Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, Theophrastus Seuss)

Born on this day 1904

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” 


“Only you can control your future.”

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”


“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”


“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” 

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” 


“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”


“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”


“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

More in the Five Quotes Series.

Urban Simplicity.

Nearly Night (Fastnacht Kuecheles…recipe and lore)

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This is a recipe that I post every year just before Lent. I usually post it on Shrove Tuesday–the traditional day these doughnuts are eaten–but thought I’d post it a day earlier in the event anyone would like to make them (and I hope you do). I was lucky enough to be brought up with food traditions on both sides of my family. I had mentioned in an earlier post that I was Lebanese-American on my father’s side, well my mother’s side of the family is of German-French ancestry. The recipe below I received from one of my sisters, who learned it from our mother, who learned it from our grandmother, and so on.. The name of these doughnuts in German is fastnacht kuecheles and they are very similar to the French or New Orleans biegnet. They are traditionally eaten the day before Lent as a (now mostly symbolic) act of using up all the rich, luxurious, and fatty foods before spending the next 40 days in introspection (living lean). The names of the day may change from one tradition to another but they all basically mean the same thing. The English name is Shrove Tuesday…shrove is the past tense of shrive, loosely meaning to offer confession or penance. In French, Mardi Gras translates literally as Fat Tuesday…the last of the “fatty stuff” for 40 days. And Carnival, translates loosely as “farewell to meat,” or “farewell to flesh,” meaning goodbye to meat and/or carnal pleasures for a while. What I find interesting is something new I learned about the German version of these doughnuts, not so much the recipe itself but its etymology. I have been fascinated with languages my entire life but know almost nothing (fast nichts) about German. Anyhow, I always thought that the word for these doughnuts–fastnachts–meant fast night, or the night before the fast…Lent. And this still may be true. But when I did some electronic translating and broke the phrase into two words–fast nacht--I’ve come to see that it translates literally as almost night, likely making reference to the somber darkness that shrouds the next 40 days of the Christian Calendar. Unrelated but still related to this recipe, the word kuecheles, is likely a variation of küchle, meaning fritter. Anyhow, these are very simple to make and super-delicious. The one thing that’s not shown in the photos but is included in the recipes (and is the best part) is that they are tossed in powdered sugar while still warm. And I can still hear my mother’s voice from when I was a boy and tossing the kuecheles with eager anticipation (just as I do today)…”Joey,” she would yell while standing in front of her frying pan, “You’re getting sugar everywhere.” And I likely was.

Fastnacht Kuecheles

Makes about 3 dozen

 

1 cup water (room temperature)
1 cup milk (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons yeast
6-7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Combine the water, milk, sugar, yeast, and two cups of flour in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 1 hour, or until the yeast is fully active. Transfer to an upright mixing bowl with a dough hook. Add the eggs, melted butter, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Run the mixer on low for 1 minute (if the dough seems too sticky add the remaining cup flour) then turn to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature for about an hour, or until double in size. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and cut into three pieces. Shape into balls, cover, and let rest 20 minutes. Roll into large circles about 1/4 inch thick, then cut the dough into diamonds 2-4 inches wide. Cover the diamonds with a cloth and let rest 10 minutes. Preheat a couple inches of vegetable oil to 350F in a heavy skillet. Carefully fry the fastnachts in batches, cooking them for a couple minutes on each side until they are puffed and golden-brown; drain on absorbent paper. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, then toss a few at a time in a paper bag with confectionery sugar.

Urban Simplicity

Things that can be carried on a bike (#714) and a quote…

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[Commuting by bicycle is] an absolutely essential part of my day. It’s mind-clearing, invigorating. I get to go out and pedal through the countryside in the early morning hours, and see life come back and rejuvenate every day as the sun is coming out.”

~James L. Jones, Barack Obama’s former national security advisor


On the bike: 47 framed photos of various sizes on their way to a show.

What is it?

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

~Desmund Tutu

So today the local Jewish Community Center had a bomb threat. It was one of 10 JCCs across the country today, and dozens in the past few days, that have had bomb threats. I’ve been a member of this JCC for the past 15 years. I was there swimming yesterday. They–the workers and the members–are incredibly beautiful people. Over the years I’ve made friends with many.

Two nights ago, on a corner that is just one block from my home and next to one of my favorite watering holes, two young men were beaten simply for being gay.

Islamophobia is on the rise, this can not be denied. I work with a few Muslims and they are hard working and so very friendly. I cannot imagine having hatred towards them simply because of their faith.

What is it? This hatred. Where does it come from. People are not born hating, they are taught it. But why? What is it? It stems from fear, I am convinced of it. We are all just people. No matter our color, faith, or sexual orientation, we are just people.

The above photo was taken at dusk this evening from my front porch. A beautiful evening. The temperature today hit the upper 40s Fahrenheit. It’s supposed to be like this all week. By the weekend it is supposed to hit 60F. This is Buffalo, NY in February where it is normally frigid and snowy. But it’s the hate that occupies the news. Climate change does not know borders, race, or religion, but it is happening.

I can’t change the big stuff but I can do small things. We all can. And that’s what I need to focus on. The good stuff, no matter how small.

To answer my own question…the good stuff. That’s what it is. Because light and good always overcomes darkness. But I’m rambling now. Anyhow, this is what I was thinking as I stared at the sky on an incredibly beautiful yet really unseasonably warm February evening. I’ll get off my little soapbox now.

My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

~Jimmy Carter

Things that can be carried on a bike (#713)

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Two cardboard boxes…one containing approximately forty dollars in groceries, and the other is a case of red wine. Essentials.

The views from my handlebars on a late winter’s eve

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So I had the day off today and was out running errands on the bike bike (surprise, right?). Normally by this time of the year I am so tired of the snow that I can’t wait for it to end, but it has been such a mild and mediocre winter that mostly what I am waiting for is the gray and wet to end. Anyhow, it started to snow and I had my camera with me so I took a few photos, and here they are. Click any for a larger view.

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