Friday, December 5, 2008


Our friends Randy and Shira normally host a nice Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of our friends--there are usually six or seven families there. This year, however, they celebrated the arrival of their son Amos just a few days before Thanksgiving, so Andy and Theresa hosted the event at their home on Cleveland. All the usual suspects were in attendance, as was the tablecloth we all sign every year (signatures date back about 10 years now) and the journal in which everyone records that year's thanks.

After dinner at Andy and Theresa's, we headed over to Ron's grandmother's house for desert with his family. It was a smaller gathering than usual--just the in-town folks--but fun as usual . . . although we were both too full to actually EAT any desert.

We got together with my family (Mom, Dad, Brian, Margaret, and Cody) on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Met up a Sprague's in Portville and had a great dinner, along with great conversation. It's so rare that we all seem to get together--but Christmas is in the works, so it won't be so long before we see them all again!

Monday, October 27, 2008

0055--Gary and Andy's Wedding

Gary and Andy's wedding, held at their home on their fifth anniversary, was the whole reason for our trip. They had a great day for the event--weather sunny and in the 80s most of the day--and a crowd of 60 or 70 guests. Delicious Ethiopian food was served (a nod to the cuisine they fell in love with on one of their first dates). Gary and Andy wore kilts they had custom-made in Scottland, on their pre-wedding honeymoon last month. They're just a wonderful couple and it was great to share in the celebration of their marriage.

0054--Muir Beach Overlook

Leaving San Francisco, we headed across the Golden Gate Bridge and down Highway 1, a narrow road that winds tightly through the hills to the coast and along the Pacific. We stopped at Muir Beach Overlook as the sun was setting. The view was breathtaking, extending from the lights of San Francisco on the left to tall, craggy cliffs and outcroppings on the right. A narrow walkway extended out onto a rock promontory, providing another view of the incredible landscape. Once it was too dark to see, we traveled on to Stinson Beach, a small, picturesque beach town where we stopped for a good dinner. Armed with Gary and Andy's GPS, we decided to take a "scenic" route home along a road that was unmarked on our paper maps. It turned out to be an insane, one-lane, snake with one hairpin turn after another. It wound through the hills with no guardrails and incredible drops to every side. Massive coastal redwoods lined the road, which stretched on for 17 miles (at about 20mph). We drove the whole way without ever seeing another car or any sigh of human activity. Ron nicknamed it "Yeti Boulevard," since he was convinced a Big Foot was going to jump out of the shadows (which did seem like a possibility).

0053--Fisherman's Wharf

Headed down to the Fisherman's Wharf, lured by the promise of seeing some seals and sea lions--which were definitely in abundance. It was incredible watching them interact atop the floats where they come to safely harbor and sunbathe. The Fisherman's Wharf area is basically a huge array of shops and restaurants strung out along pier 39 in the San Francisco Bay (and in the adjacent waterfront areas. It's touristy, but we still had a good time walking around.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

0052--Haight and Ashbury

Took us remarkably little time to find street parking in this busy neighborhood--the fates were smiling--and set out walking about, checking out all the shops in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Naturally, Ron was able to sniff out the nearest accordions and test-drove a really fancy (but insanely overpriced) one. I picked up a few little things at a couple of shops, then we stopped for lunch at a place called the Pork Store Cafe. Didn't get the scoop on the name, but there was lots of great non-pork food to be had. Walked around some more, then went to the Victorian Punch Room, a nifty, old bar that serves three kinds of signature punches in addition to the regular bar standards. Very cool place.

0051--Golden Gate Bridge

A shot from the Golden Gate Bridge overlook. Not the best time of day to photograph it (sun was in our eyes), but impressive to see nonetheless.

Friday, October 24, 2008

0050--Arriving in San Francisco

Arrived in San Francisco via the Bay Bridge and headed right across town, skirting the bay-- checking out the piers and just taking in the whole spectacle.

0049--Scenic Route to San Francisco

Headed out early this morning for San Francisco, taking a scenic byway that wound through acres of pear and nut orchards, vineyards, and small towns.
Gary and Andy, whose wedding we are her for in the first place, were kind enough to loan us their GPS unit, which was actually pretty cool--even for a confirmed, old-school fan of big paper maps. Navigating the quick turns--and the expressways, once we got into urban territories--was amazingly easy.

0048--Angels Camp, CA

We drove through Angels Camp, CA, on our way to Big Tree and thought it looked so cool we should stop for a visit on our way back through. Our first stop was a great Italian-style bistro, where we had lunch. Then, it was on to the music store a few doors down. Spent quite a while chatting with the owner there--really nice lady. Then we checked out a world-market shop that had an ice cream parlor in the back. Again, the people were really friendly. The woman at the counter offered total self-awareness for a quarter, but we opted for waffle cones. Angels Camp has a big frog-jumping contest every year, and the street is marked with "walk of fame" inlays, commemorating the winners back to the 1930s. It's a old mining town with great covered sidewalks and tons of odd little shops. Nice stop.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

0047--A Bird

0046--Ravenous Cone Eaters

These tiny squirrels--about the size of chipmunks--were all over the redwoods, eating and burying the pinecones.

0045--Calaveras Big Tree State Park

Calaveras Big Tree State Park is about 4000 feet above sea level (lots of ear-popping on the drive) and home to some amazing, enormous trees. They can be up to 3000 years old and 300 feet tall. The largest one in this grove survives only as a stump (it was felled in 1832)--but what a stump: over 30 feet in diameter! Some of the names carved into it from early visitors are dated in the mid-1800s. Really incredible.

0044--Unique Opportunities

Unique spiritual and home-defense opportunities abound in sunny California.

0043--Driving in Northern California

Arrived in California last night after a long but uneventful flight. The balmy 70-degree weather at midnight was a nice incentive to keep moving from airport, to rental car, to hotel--even though it was about 3:00am our time. Tracking down something--anything--to eat made it about 4:30am (again, our time) before we finally made it to bed.
Had a great night's sleep, though, and decided to head out toward Calaveras Big Tree State Park, about two hours away.
The drive took us through some wonderful countryside. Lots of goats, llamas, vineyards, and vast acres of open land. (Oh--and nuclear reactors.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

0042--Skiffle Minstrels at Niagara University

On September 26, The Skiffle Minstrels played at Niagara University--a great show that got people up and dancing. Todd was AWOL, so Ben filled in on guitar.

0041--Skiffle Minstrels on WBFO

At the end of August, the Skiffle Minstrels played a concert for the WBFO On the Border Series on the back steps of the history museum. It was a live-to-air broadcast and really well attended. You can listen to the whole thing at or download it for free on iTunes.

0040--Five Years of Skiffle, Two Years of Ron and Michelle

Earlier this month, Phil and June Knoerzer had a bunch of folks over to celebrate the Skiffle Minstrels' fifth anniversary. It was also our wedding anniversary, so it was nice to be back on the very spot where we exchanged vows two years ago. In addition to Phil and June, Chuck, Beth, Alex, Randy, Shira, Lillie, Todd, Michele, Paul, Michelle, and Ben were all in attendance.

0039--Joe and Tanya's Party

On September 16, we took a drive down to West Lake, NY, to a housewarming party for our friends Joe and Tanya Zabinksi--the good folks behind Planet Love t-shirts ( There, we had the pleasure of hearing and meeting national touring band Mike & Ruthy (from the more well known group, The Mammals). Great folks and great music--Ron was even invited to join in on a couple of songs.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

0038--Skiffle Minstrels at CPG

The Skiffle Minstrels are back in business after a summer hiatus. The first gig was at Central Park Grill on August 8--a great show as usual. They even debuted several new original songs wirtten by Paul and Ron over the summer. They now have show scheduled all the way through December!

0037--Partying with Cousin Art

Cousin Art (a.k.a Dave Alessi) had us down to his gorgeous home in South Wales to celebrate his son's graduation from high school. Lots of great food, music (thanks to SKRRAM), and hanging out with friends (like Chuck and Alexander, seen here).

For more photos from the event, go to:

0036--Lisa Forrest at Cafe Allegro

Our friend Lisa Forrest is not only the author of a new book of poetry (To the Eaves; Blazevox Books, 2008), she's also a very talented musician and songwriter. This is something that's new to her, however; she only recently started singing, studying guitar, and transforming her poetry into lyrics.

About a week ago, she had her first official public gig at a nice little coffee shop on Hertel Avenue called Cafe Allegro. She in vited Ron to play along, in addition to a few other friends.

The event was definitely a big success. Her voice is gorgeous and her songs are mesmerizing. We'll be seeing a lot more of her on the Buffalo scene, I'm sure.

0035--Skiffle in the Rain

The Skiffle Minstrels opened for Big Leg Emma (a great band from the Ithaca area) at a housewarming party for our friend Jeff. Jeff lost his house in a fire a year ago, so it was a very celebratory event.

Jeff had constructed a dance floor in the backyard, covered with tarps. As the rain and wind kicked up (and the Skiffle Minstrels finished their very last song--seen the background of this photo) the show structure started to topple and a bunch of guys rushed in to support it while others grabbed lumber and tools to reinforce the roofing. It was a dramatic end to the set for sure.

034--Grassroots Music Festival

Doing a little catching up here, but Grassroots was a great time--despite some intense downpours when we were camped out on the road Wednesday night (in line for the opening of the gates on Thursday at noon). Had lots of good friends stop by the hang out, talk, play music, strategize, mix drinks, complain about the heat, rave about the bands, etc.

The Thursday lineup was particularly incredible this year (and kind of exhausting, since we also had to set up the entire camp that afternoon). Highlights were Eilen Jewell, Rockridge Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Preston Frank--and too many more to name.

I'm posting a lot of photos to Facebook now, so you can check out more of this event using the following two links:

Friday, July 11, 2008

033--The Garden

Since I purchased a copy of "Gardening by the Square Foot," Ron has been working obsessively on transforming our former hopelessly-horizontal garden into a vertical wonderland. It's a sight to behold and definitely a much better use of space. Tomatoes, beans, four kins of squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, honeydews, peppers, eggplants, onions, and more are all growing happily. More transformations are sure to come--including a major overhaul in the spring (which he's doubtless spend all winter planning . . . he even mentioned a potential garden diorama!).

032--Great Blue Heron Music Festival

Spent last weekend camping with about thirty old friends, family, friends of friends, new friends and assorted other folks in Sherman, NY, at the Great Blue Heron Music Festival. (Our friends Rick and Jamie brought their four kids, including Trinity, who is seen here with Ron's accordion.)

The camping was great--the same nice, shady, parklike area where we have camped the past couple of years. We set up two canopies in the center of the "community" and put up our many tents all around the perimeter.

Saw some amazing bands (Avett Brothers, Donna the Buffalo, etc.) and really enjoyed watching all of the kids running around and having a great time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

030--The World's Finest Purveyor of Juke Joint Swing

On Monday night (May 19), we went to the Sportsmens tavern to check out Wayne "The Train" Hancock--one of our favorites. The shows was incredible; Wayne's the real deal and his band was top notch (the bass player was particularly awe-inspiring). Naturally, Ron took the opportunity to chat up Wayne and give him a tour of the SKRRAM club (six doors down). Those of you who know Ron's proclivities will appreciate the fact that he also managed to steal Wayne's lighter. Carey came along with us to the show, and Lisa Forrest made an appearance--as did the guys from 40 Rod Lightning (a band from Rochester the Skiffle Minstrels have played with a few times).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

030--Hanging Out with Brian and Cody

Brian (Michelle's brother) came up with Cody (our nephew) came up for Brian to install our new flat screen television--which is reallllly cool. Cody got bored with the whole process, though, so Michelle ended up taking him to the park for a while. They also did a couple of cool paintings and decorated his new T-ball helmet with flames, so he can terrify the competition.

029--Dos de Mayo Party

Had a bunch of friends and family over for our second annual Cinco de Mayo party--a few days early, thus "Dos de Mayo." Lots of good food and Ron's incredible margaritas were enjoyed by all (especially when he made them while wearing a sombrero). Rain hit early in the evening, but we were able to keep a bonfire going to enjoy later in the evening. The night concluded with espresso and a little live music by Ron, Ben, Joe, Patsy, and Michelle. In attendance: Tom and Maggie, Carey, Joe and Patsy, Rick and Diana, Kathy, Brian and Margaret, Mary and Mark, Cousin Art, Roberta (who brought flan--yum!), Barbara, Randy and Shira, Chuck and Beth (with new baby Alexander), Dan, Drummer Joe, Nicole, Ben, Stevo, and probably and bunch more folks that I'm forgetting off the top of my head. (Mr. Columbo also dressed to impress his guests, as seen above.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

028--Chow Chocolat--GO THERE NOW!

If you frequent the Elmwood/Bidwell Farmers' market, you've probably run into Jaclyn Wisz selling her incredible baked goods and chocolates. She and husband Scott have now opened a chic new cafe, bakery, and coffee shop called Chow Chocolat on the 700 block of Main Street--one of Buffalo's quickly up-and-coming neighborhoods. The store is beautiful and comfortable--and if you have any kind of sweet tooth, you'll be in heaven. Her chocolates are delicious, inventive (try the passion-fruit truffles), and gorgeous--many hand airbrushed for a detailed look. Everything is also made by hand using real ingredients (no scary chemicals or additives). I had the pleasure of visiting today, opening day, and was amazed at the variety of incredible treats. Definitely a spot to check out! (Oh, and in case you're wondering, the "Chow" in the name is for their pup Pumba, seen above.)

731 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 843-4388

Sunday, April 27, 2008

027-Passover at the Klaimans'

This Friday (April 25) we had the pleasure of joining Randy and Shira Klaiman for their annual Passover celebration. Many in the group, including Ron, had experienced the event in the past, but it was my first time--extremely moving and inspiring. As we all took turns reading from the Haggadah, it was a wonderful chance to think about what the people who came before us (regardless of our faiths) sacrificed and endured to make possible the lives we lead. Not to mention that many people do not enjoy the freedoms and "luxuries" (clean water, food, education) we take for granted. While this is something we should all take a role in eliminating, it's also a good reminder that the upcoming elections should be about more than the price of gasoline and which candidate would be more fun to have a beer with.

026-Humpty Dumpty

On Thursday (April 24) we went down to the Market Arcade Theater to see our friend Phil Knoerzer in "Humpty Dumpty"--a play by Eric Bogosian (who you might recognize from "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"). The play was wonderful, dark and funny. Phil was also terrific, of course. Here's a review from the Buffalo News:

Engrossing... frightening... constantly amusing, owing to Bogosian's rapid-fire script, full of all the quirky humor and undisguised cutting satire that has infused his other work, from Talk Radio and subUrbia to his frenetic solo shows. The writing is addictive and the action moves swiftly ahead under the brisk, effective direction Artistic Director Scott Behrend. LaChuisa is a joy to watch. Phil Knoerzer is wonderfully affable, with perfect comic timing.Lisa Vitrano gives a worthy performance as the alternately annoying and freaked-out Nicole, as do Klein as Max and Bonnie Jean Taylor in the quirky role of Spoon. Three Star Review - Colin Dabkowski - The Buffalo News

Friday, March 28, 2008

025-King of Country-Western Troubadors

INCREDIBLE show. Unknown Hinson is the gonzo guitar player every singer wants to be, writes awesome hellbilly songs, and looks like some unholy cross between Eddie Munster and Brian Setzer. He absolutely tore it up. Ron said he'd have been happy to drive the whole way here just to see this show. And talk about stage presence, at one point, Hinson encouraged people to sing along but not too loudly because, "Womens need to hear the golden larynx of Unknown Hinson." Hank III actually has a tattoo of Unknown Hinson--how cool is that?

024-The Fox Hunt

Saw The Fox Hunt at the Blue Plate Special and liked them so much we decided to go check out their gig tonight. Where else but Knoxville could you go to a Japanese restaurant to see a bluegrass band? They played an awesome acoustic show.

023-Appalachian Museum

The Metro Pulse (Knoxville's equivalent of the ArtVoice) had an article on the Appalachian Museum and its incredible founder who has committed his life to preserving the artifacts of everyday life among regular people living in this area from about 1850s to 1950s. It's an incredible assemblage of buildings, furnishings, documents, tools, and much more. One of the highlights is the cabin of Mark Twain's parents, see above.

022-Our last Blue Plate . . .

Gonna miss these Blue Plate Specials--what a great way to start the day. Today we saw 80+ year-old, left-hand fiddler Charlie Acuff, a string band from North Carolina called The Fox Hunt (which started out as a punk band and still have that attitude), and The Bearded (seen above). The Bearded are led by the usual host of the Blue Plate Specials, Matt Morelock, who is seen here rocking out on the banjo.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


After a nice walk around downtown Knoxville and lunch at the Tomato Head restaurant (Barbara--Yes, it's as good as we'd imagined!), we headed out for Cookeville, TN, for a concert we've been really looking forward to: The Everybodyfields. Saw them last year at Grassroots in Shakori Hills and fell in love. We've been listening to their albums all year. The show was on the campus of the Tennessee Technical University and turned out to be free! The opening band, Danger and the Steel Cut Oats were fine, but The Everybodyfields were wonderful and played for about two hours. Had about a two hour drive back from the show and are just turning in now, at about 2:30am.

020-Another Blue Plate Special

Another great Blue Plate Special today--Jennifer Nicley, Kevin Gordon, and David Olney. All were wonderful, but David Olney (see above, right) really tore the place up. Had to buy a CD from him.

"...part Baptist PREACHER, part caustic COMEDIAN, and part existential BLUESMAN...Olney shouted, moaned and howled his SHARPLY OBSERVED HARD-LUCK TALES and quirky character studies." - MTV's

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

019--Forgot the Blue Plate!

Forgot to mention that we finally got to check out a Blue Plate special live at the WDVX studios--a one-hour live music show they do every weekday at noon. We listen to them on Internet radio all the time, so it was pretty surreal to be sitting there in person, listening to Matt Morelock and Red Hickey (seen in the photo with the WDVX logo) introducing the band (today, the Red Stick Ramblers). Planning to go back tomorrow and Friday. The studio is half a block from our hotel and there's a nice little lunch shop adjacent to the stage area, so it's a good start to the day.