Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cascades of Fire

On Saturday evening, my friend Joanna and I went to Niagara Falls to watch the Cascades of Fire competition.
This is an international fireworks competition. This year, the competition was held in Niagara Falls, Ontario. This is the first time that Cascades of Fire has been presented in Niagara Falls.
It's fun to sit outside and watch fireworks. It's so much fun that I'm perfectly willing to do so in late autumn, when it's more like sit-by-the-fire and drink-hot-cocoa weather than hang-out-outside-and-drink-sun-tea weather.

All right, so I wore lots of layers, including a parka and snow pants. I'm not a fan of frozen and quiet suffering.
I completed the ensemble by draping a blanket over my shoulders. Yep, Miss Ice Cube was comfortable, despite the weather.

And Team Brazil did not disappoint. The fireworks were exciting and the musical track that went with it made my little heart go pitter patter. 
The performance was so incredibly colorful. Everyone around us seemed to be excited and happy about being there. It was a great way to spend a Saturday evening in the waning time that remains before winter sets in.

NOTE to all who comment: Please keep comment on the topic of fireworks. If you post off-topic comments, they will be deleted. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your comments about the event.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Documenting my day

Yesterday was a good day but it didn't start out that way because of the wild blasts of cold air. As I started walking to the first adventure of the day, I asked myself if I had gone totally mad. Probably, I thought, but stubborn, too. It was the first day of the year that felt like winter. I fought the wind and kept going. My feet felt like ice and my face was hit hard by random bursts of frozen air.

But everything got better when my friend Diane picked me up. She said that the weather was too atrocious for taking a walk. She was generous enough to provide me with transportation for all of the day's activities.

Celia Spacone of Crisis Services
shares information about
suicide prevention, as well
as other mental health issues.
My first stop was to Trinity United Methodist Church, which was hosting a health fair, sponsored by the Grand Island Lions' Club. There were all sorts of exhibits there, offering information about a diverse variety of health needs.
Domestic violence occurs behind
closed doors and in the shadows.
Joe and Debbie of the Erie
County Sheriff's Department
Domestic Violence Unit
are there to support victims and
to help them find safety.
These included physical fitness, nutrition, dentistry, mental health, hearing, eyesight, and more. There were plenty of people to talk to about how to maintain good health, in addition to how to deal with various issues. There were fun things that were given out by various organizations. I think that my favorite freebie was a four-in-one kitchen tool.
One of the displays at the health fair
It's a slotted spoon, a turner, a stirring spoon, and it has a serrated edge! One utensil that has that many uses means fewer things to wash in the kitchen sink! There was also a "table raffle." Tickets were available to purchase. So I did! Today, I found out that I won two baskets!

After the health fair ended, I went to the library, where I met some lovely therapy dogs. They were there for a monthy program. Children can read to dogs once a month. They sign up for a fifteen-minute slot and they read to a therapy dog. This is a great way for kids to practice their reading skills with a kind, nonjudgmental audience. The dogs are pure delight, and the kids love the dogs. 

Art exhibit at the library
The library is a busy place, with programming for both kids and adults.
Like to put together jigsaw
puzzles? You could add a piece
to this puzzle, being put to-
gether in the library.
I was able to attend a demonstration of jam making. The instructor, Tina T. Ames, is an artist and a blogger who writes about food. You can find her blog at Simply Abundant Living with Tina T. Ames.

The demonstration was really interesting. Tina showed us how to make a berry jam. The main ingredients are fruit, fruit pectin, and sugar. Fruit pectin is used to thicken the jam as it is cooking on the stove.
Tina prepares the jam
Tina also demonstrated how to sterilize the jars and lids used for jams and jellies. They are placed in boiling water, which gets rid of any impurities that could cause food poisoning. After the jars and lids are sterilized, the jam is placed in them. The lid is attached, and the jar goes back into the hot water bath, where it stays until a little pop is heard. This is essential. Tight lids are the key to good jam that is safe to eat.

We also got taste tests of several types of jam: a "regular" berry jam, a "low-sugar" version of berry jam, and "chia seed berry jam."
The chia seed berry jam was sweetened with honey, instead of granulated sugar. Oh, and chia seed jam is very healthy. It's a superfood jam.
Chia seeds are loaded with protein, calcium, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. So... hey! It's both nutritious and delicious! 

I was sent home with a cute little jar of jam and a recipe for fruit jam and another for chia seed berry jam (honey sweetened).

Friday, November 9, 2018

Beach dreams & taste treats at Nikki's Eats

You can find your beach dreams and taste treats at Nikki's Eats, which opened on Wednesday, November 7th, in the Sandy Beach neighborhood of Grand Island. The building that it occupies also holds the McCarthy School of Irish Dance. In the past, the building has been home to a beauty parlor and to the Grand Island Dance Center.

Nikki and Louis
Nikki's Eats is owned by Nikki and Louis, a married couple who live on Grand Island. This restaurant is the dream of Nikki.
She decorated her dream in a seashore theme, with shells and stars and all sorts of images of the sea. The restaurant is relatively small by design. Nikki said that she prefers a quieter, more intimate setting.

I managed to visit Nikki's Eats twice.
Yesterday, I went there for breakfast, which, I believe, will be a big attraction for people who live in the immediate neighborhood or for people who are looking for a breakfast option in the northern portion of Grand Island. The dish that I ordered, sausage scramble, featured a variety of goodies, including cheddar cheese, sausage, three eggs, green onion, and Nikki's very own seasonings. It was quite tasty, and I would definitely order it again.
As an added treat, I was offered a pumpkin dessert, homemade by Nikki.

Today, I returned to Nikki's Eats for lunch and had chicken noodle soup and half of a grilled Caprese sandwich. The soup was full of large chunks of chicken, as well as Nikki's homemade noodles.
These noodles were thick and delicious. The broth was light and not at all salty. The sandwich featured pesto, mozzarella cheese, and tomato on Italian bread from DeCamillo's Bakery.

Nikki's Eats, at 3432 Wallace Drive, is opened for breakfast and lunch six days a week (Tuesdays through Sundays). It's closed every Monday, as well as every third Sunday ("family time"). I would definitely encourage you to go. The service is very friendly and the food is delicious. In time, Nikki and Louis will offer specials, which will be quite delightful. Hours are from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nate McMurray: Fight like hell

Do I actually live in a democratic society?
Does my voice matter?
Do people with more money have the right to bigger voices and more influence?
Is there anyone at all who will fight for the little people?

These are questions that I ask myself every day for the past  two years. But, in the midst of these challenging times, when my frustrations with an unresponsive political system were the greatest, I observed  people who continued to stand up for the right thing. They were not deterred by the the negativity and attack nature of our current political climate. They are beacons shining in the night. One of those hope-givers is someone who has become a good friend to me. His energy and his enthusiasm and his belief that this country can change for the better has inspired me to fight alongside him.

His name is Nate McMurray. He is running for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 27th district of New York State. Nate cares about the people of the large district, which encompasses eight counties. It is a diverse district that includes countryside, villages, small towns, and small cities. It is a district full of people who also have wondered if their voices matter. For six years, they have had a representative who cared more about his donors than about his constituents. Chris Collins never held town hall meetings, and there are parts of the district that has has never once visited.

Nate  understands people who struggle because he was one of them. When Nate was just four years old, his father passed away, leaving his mother to raise six sons and one daughter on her own. It was very challenging for them economically.  "When I was in high school, I used to have to help my mom clean doctors’ offices. There was a time that we cleaned doctors’ offices all night. That’s the only way that we could get by. My mom worked all day and, after school, my brothers and I would go clean with her all night long. So there was one time when we were going out there, and she said to a doctor 'hi.' The doctor said to her, as he was on his way out of the office, 'Don’t you have some urinals to clean?'  So I felt powerless to help her. It made me think that, for the rest of my life, I’m going to stand up for what’s right. Life is too short and, if someone needs my help, I’m going to stand up and do the right thing." 

Nate has traveled throughout the entire district. He's marched in parades and he's visited county fairs. He's listened to people at house parties and at barn storm rallies, and he has heard the stories of people who struggled, people who needed his help.

He said, "Where ever I go… Batavia, Albion, and other places, I see poverty. I see families that are struggling far more than my family struggled. I don’t want to give away the farm. I don’t want to give away all of our cash or ruin the country, but I want to make sure that they have an opportunity at a good life and they have an opportunity to go to school and they have an opportunity to improve their lives." 

Nate has a connection with his Western New York community, as well as with people who struggle.  "We have such an incredible abundance of beauty here. It is the most beautiful place in the entire world. Eighty percent of North America’s fresh water is flowing by here (Grand Island), right now. Twenty percent of the world’s fresh water."

When Nate first announced that he was running for Congress, there were who dismissed Nate as a Don Quixote type who was tilting at windmills.  They said that Nate didn't have a chance. Of course, that was before Mr. Collins was indicted on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and with lying to the FBI. 

At the start, only one member of Congress expressed confidence in Nate. That was the late Rep. Louise Slaughter, who represented the Rochester area. Nate said, "I was told that this was a throw-away race. One person told me to fight. It was Louise Slaughter. She was the only member of Congress who agreed to meet with me.  She looked me in the eye. She was power. She was fierce. She said, Nate, if you get into this thing, I'm going to ask you one thing: Fight like hell!"

It's not a throw-away race any more. I believe that Nate will win the election and that he will be someone who will be instrumental in making change. Change that is needed. Change that will make our world a better place. Change that will help the little people, not just the people with money and the right connections. It's all about fighting like hell. Nate fights for Western New York. He fights for the little people who are the verge of losing hope. He fights for our future. He said, "I realize that you can lose a lot, but you can't lose your dignity, and you can't lose the fact that you have to fight for what's right." 

Give 'em hell, Nate. We are closer to the finish line in this race in this race, and, I believe, closer to victory.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Meet Father Chris O'Connor

 Today, I introduce Father Chris O’Connor, who is serving in the role of transition priest at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Grand Island. A transition priest serves a parish that is in the process of selecting a new rector. This is a process that could take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months to complete. Father Chris talks about his life and about his long journey to become a priest, as well as about his hopes for St. Martin’s.

Tell me about you. How did you become a priest?

I can honestly say that I have wanted to be a priest for a very long time. I was raised in the Roman church. In fourth grade, when I was serving as an altar boy, there were thoughts already of being a priest. I really started to seriously crystalize my thinking in high school. I was encouraged not necessarily to go to a diocesan seminary, but to just have the experience of four years of college. So I went to a small Catholic liberal arts school in Massachusetts, called Assumption College. During my time there, I actually had the opportunity to come to know very intimately, if you will, the religious order that runs the college there, the Assumptionists. And I actually ended up spending three years as an Assumptionist postulant and a novice and even began my theology studies as an Assumptionist. But, in my first year of theology school, I met my future wife and decided to leave the order to get married. And, of course, if I was going to stay in the Roman church, I could not be ordained and be married at the same time.

Tell me about your wife and about your work after you married.

Her name is Colleen. That is actually her middle name. She’s known as Mary Colleen, but she prefers to be called Colleen. We met in seminary. She was getting her master of divinity degree from Episcopal divinity school, while I was going to the Western Jesuit School of Theology. The schools happened to share a common classroom and library building. We took a class together. But, for the first 25 years of my married life, I continued to serve the Roman church. I taught theology at the high school level. I was also director of religious education or Christian education for two small Roman Catholic parishes. At that time, I was living in Wisconsin.

Where in Wisconsin?

We lived in a little town called Delavan, which was an hour southwest of Milwaukee, where I was working. We came here to Western New York in 2005. Colleen had already been ordained priest, and she was called to serve at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in LeRoy. In 2007, my life kind of turned upside down. I began having conversations with then-bishop Michael Garrison, and we began to entertain the thought of my one day being ordained an Episcopal priest. So, from 2008, when I was received, until 2013, I was in preparation for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. So, in 2013, I was ordained deacon. And the following year, I was ordained priest. So I have been serving as a priest since 2014. So, even though I have been serving God’s church in many different capacities, in terms of my ordination to the priesthood and the Episcopal priesthood, that’s only been a short time. I was a transitional deacon for a year and then became a priest a year after my ordination. I have actually had the opportunity, first as deacon and then as priest, really to serve about four or five different parishes before I came here to Saint Martin’s.

What’s that like for you? 

Well, two of them were part-time. Together, the two parishes that I was serving… St. Luke’s in Attica and Christ Church in Albion… were closer to where I live out in Genesee County. Both were very, very part time. I did that for about a year and a half. Then I was called to be a half-time priest, like I am here, serving St. Mark’s in North Tonawanda. I was there for about fourteen or fifteen months and then, unfortunately, had to take an extended medical leave. That kind of knocked me out of commission for a good seven or eight months. But, when I finally got some medical clearance, I ended up by spending about nine or ten months as supply clergy. I spent the whole month of December serving St. John’s-Grace in Buffalo. Just before I came here, I was long-term supply at St. Simon’s in south Buffalo. They’ve since called a new priest. Right about that time, I was interviewing for this position. In September, I learned that I was selected to be St. Martin’s new transition priest.

Tell me what you really like about being a priest and about going to all of these different parishes.

Well, first of all, I think that the central portion of my priesthood really centers around worship. One of the big motivations for me with my ordination was the ability to worship and to celebrate the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of Eucharist. So, every Sunday, I look forward to, particularly if I am leading a congregation, like I’ll be doing here, to be really a minister of God’s word in terms of preaching to the congregation and then celebrating the sacrament of the Eucharist. Both of those give me a lot of joy, a lot of fulfillment. So I bring that joy, and I bring that fulfillment to whatever church I am serving.

That sounds like you’re really centered in your faith.

I believe that I am. I’d like to consider myself to be a man of prayer. I tend to use a more monastic form of prayer, called centering prayer. If there is an interest in centering prayer, we could form a group. I’ve had the opportunity to teach others how to do centering prayer so that is certainly a possibility.  So, while I follow a monastic style of prayer, I still see myself as a contemporary of the 21st century. I seem to be more drawn to monastic practices, such as centering prayer.

I understand that you’re very much involved and interested in youth activities and worship?

Yes. For twelve years, I was director of religious education for two Roman Catholic parishes and I quickly discovered early on that, as director of religious ed or a DRE, that I particularly enjoyed working with youth. I liked being in the classroom with them. I particularly liked working with sophomores and juniors in high school, who were preparing, at least in the Roman Church, for the sacrament of confirmation, so that involved working with them in a more structured classroom and also taking youth on retreats. That was always a fun, fun time for me. So I hope that I have an opportunity, in my capacity here, to avail myself of anything that may be going on that is youth-related. I look forward to that.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Every now and then, I do get on the web. I like to surf the web. I like to check out what’s happening in the news. I like to read. I guess you could say that I’m an introvert so things that I do by myself come very easy to me. Certainly, reading is one of them. Where I live out in Genesee County, we live halfway between Batavia and LeRoy. We live in the country. We have an old country house that we have owned since 2005. I like to take walks all of the time. We have a 13-year-old golden retriever, and she still likes to take walks. So she and I take walks all of the time. My wife and I like to go to movies. So we try to keep busy.

Do you have a family?

Yes, Colleen and I this summer celebrated 33 years of wedded bliss. We have five kids, from 32 down to 22.

Are you a grandpop?

Not yet. Our middle daughter just got married this past June. In fact, she invited Colleen and me to co-celebrate their wedding, which was really a neat experience for Colleen and me. I’m not sure if we’ll see grandchildren real quickly. Erin’s really involved with being a school counselor at the high school level, and her husband is a doctoral student. He plays the bassoon.

Wow! How awesome is that? One of my most favorite instruments!

Really? The bassoon!

I love all wind instruments! They have a mellow sound.

Stephen is a doctoral student in bassoon performance at Temple University in Philadelphia. So they are living right now in Lancaster County, which roughly becomes the halfway point for Erin’s work as a counselor and Stephen’s work as a full-time student. But I imagine that someday, we will see little ones running around. It’s hard to believe that I could be a grandpa someday. I don’t feel quite old enough to be a grandpa yet. But that’s OK.

So what are your hopes and dreams for St. Martin’s?

I know that St. Martin’s spiritual leader, Father Earle King has just retired. Earle has served as their leader for 31 years, which is a good chunk of time. And so, I’m here really to be of service to the community as they go through whatever stages they need to go through to transition from seeing Earle King as their priest to calling a new priest. There is a process that the parish will be undertaking. That could be a process that could last for a year to a year and a half or so, however long it takes them to, if you will, make the transition. I guess that my hopes and dreams are that St. Martin’s finds this transition to be a period of time that can truly be a time of discovery for them, a time of really learning what is essential to them as a faith community, to discover what might be the gifts that they have that they can bring to each other and to whatever ministry they have here in the Grand Island community. I hope that I can be a good walking guide through this process.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

First of all, I’d like to say that I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks but St. Martin’s is a wonderful community. I’ve been welcomed very, very warmly. I look forward to my time here. I look forward to this journey of faith that this faith community will be walking on and I’m thrilled to pieces to be a part of this process.

Thank you so much for taking this time to talk to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

George loves autumn!: #WordlessWednesday

George offers you a nice fresh pumpkin

for more #WordlessWednesday posts, check here: click on me!

Pathway to happiness

Today, I went to the grand opening of the West River Multi-Use Trail here in Grand Island. The trail is eight miles long and it connects Beaver Island State Park with Buckhorn Island State Park. The views of the river are bright and colorful, during the day or at sunset, during summer or winter. The trail is wonderful, offering spectacular views of the river. It is truly a thing of beauty, and I don't think that it's an exaggeration to call it a pathway to happiness.

Here are some of the things that were said at the grand opening: "You can now ride a bicycle from the Pennsylvania border to the Adirondacks or New York City."

From Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray: "Eighty percent of North America's fresh water is flowing by this island.  Nearly 25 percent of the world's fresh water is flowing by this island. That is a resource more precious than gold, more precious than oil, and more precious than anything." 

"We're going to have Grand Island kids learn to ride bikes on this path and that's a wonderful thing. And I want to say one more thing: 

We are a family here on Grand Island. We have to be respectful of the neighbors here. When we come over here, we're going to be guests of these neighbors and we have to make sure that we look after our dogs and we have to make sure that we look after our kids and that we don't leave garbage here because these are our neighbors. And we have to remember that, in all of these things, we gather as a community and, really, as a broader  family so that we can accomplish great things here." 

"Thank you very much. I look forward to many summers and falls and beautiful moments walking and biking along this waterfront. "

From Eric Fielbelkorn, president of the Grand island Chamber of Commerce: "ecotourism... we're working at the chamber... we're working with the Greenway Commission... we're working with State Parks... we're working with our Economic Development Advisory Board members. It is a way to bring dollars to the island without bringing industry and smokestacks, the things that we don't want to happen. I think that it's important... and Nate mentioned it... not everyone was in agreement at the beginning, and most big projects work that way.
It's really important as we steward this land and this waterfront that these neighbors have had a lot of time to think about this, and I think that we need to be respectful and make sure that we work in harmony and have this project go forward so that it becomes a gem."

from Teddy Roosevelt (quotation offered by Eric Fiebelkorn): "The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value."

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Holiday happenings

On Saturday, I went to the Holiday Happenings at Grand Island's Golden Age Center with a friend. The Holiday Happenings are an annual event that occurs a few weeks before Halloween! 
It seems to provide a celebration of autumn with an early look at handmade Christmas goodies. This year was no exception.
The event is a fundraiser for the Golden Age Center. It's fun and colorful. It features crafts, a basket raffle, a bake sale, and food! 

Holiday Happenings was very busy, as there were many baskets to inspect. Deciding which baskets to bid on was a challenge. There was a lot of good stuff in all of the baskets.
The crafters were selling just about everything, ranging from greeting cards featuring photographs of Grand Island scenery, crocheted hats and baby outfits, and trivets. Other stuff being raffled off included skin creams, jams, apples, and more.

Soup and sandwiches were available for sale. The soup was chicken noodle.
It was full of big, thick egg noodles, as well as chunks of chicken. 

The event looked like a big success, so I guess that the crafters will have to get to work on material for next year!