Monday, December 5, 2016

The clouds roll in

I took these pictures a few days ago when we were on the cusp of winter. Well, we are still on the cusp of winter. We are not quite there yet.

That picture up above was taken in Delaware Park.

We live in the golden era of photography, you know? Anyone can be Ansel Adams. Imagine a world in which anyone who sat down at the piano could be Leonard Pennario!

Here is another picture taken the same day. For some reason I like this. Even though I know there are these two red trees in the middle of the picture, it's not great for the composition, it would have been better if there were two trees on one side and one tree on the other, still, still, still ....

I like this picture.

And this is the one I put on, ahem, Instagram.

I wanted to put the picture up at the top on Instagram but the square format did not work with it. Then I started to like this last picture. I liked the lamppost.

That is one of the things good about our ubiquitous phones. It is fun to go through life with a camera.

It brightens your day!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Freezer queen

Yesterday talking about the first Sunday of Advent, I mentioned briefly that I was in the meal train for the priests at our church.

The meal train! That is a term I just picked up today. Someone was setting up a meal train for someone on Facebook. You bring meals to that person. I signed right up, I will tell you that. Because now that I am in the, ahem, meal train for St. Anthony's, I am realizing I need more practice.

I have been learning how to freeze things with the help of this 1960s booklet I picked up at Amvets, "Facts About Food Freezing." That is it pictured below! Still it is strange how your cooking mojo can desert you.

Normally I cook pretty well -- that is, when I am under no pressure. The minute I am under pressure things change.

Remember the time I keep alluding to when I did pot roast for Leonard Pennario? It was good. But not as good as it would have been had I been making it just for myself.

Thanksgiving also does not bring out the best in me. A recipe I've done a million times will take a different direction.

And so this meal train.

Piously I froze one soup. The lid of the container, which was new may I add, somehow got loose in the freezer.

"No!" I said. "No!" But it was so. Then there was the matter of this other soup. I put in some lemon pepper and it became too lemony. This never happens to me! I was so mad I threw out the lemon pepper. I froze the soup and hoped it wasn't too bad. With Thanksgiving I was running out of time.

Later I got on Google and looked up: "Too much lemon." Someone suggested baking soda. "Not too much or it will taste soapy." I tried a little bit, a half teaspoon or so, on my remaining soup and... it worked! So there, I have learned a kitchen hack. I got the other container of soup out of the freezer and poured it out and heated it up and added baking soda and as I stirred it I thought:

What in the world???

Son of a sea cook, all these extra steps!

Bad things come in threes and the third was the chocolate chip cookies. This was a Marc Bittman recipe, the same recipe that is everywhere, but somehow I managed to goof it. Five-year-olds can make chocolate chip cookies. Mine spread too much and stuck to the pan.

Zut, zut, zut alors!

It all ended pretty well, considering.

But again, what in the world?? I cook all the time and suddenly this.

The meal train ran me over!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sweet Sunday

It is suddenly Advent! The season sneaks up on you.

And this year it was even more so with the election and everything. I was so out of it that I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see those purple vestments this morning at church, and the Advent wreath.

And the Advent readings!

Some of the best lines in all of Scripture are read on the first Sunday of Advent.

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam ... That means "Stir up thy power, O Lord." That is why this Sunday is Stir Up Sunday, the day when you are supposed to stir up your fruitcakes and puddings so they will be ready in time for Christmas.

Ad te levavi animam meam,.. "To Thee have I lifted up my soul." This is all so great.The Gospel is Jesus saying, "There will be signs in the sun and the moon, and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea, and of the waves..." And you are standing there thinking, as every generation since then has thought: This is it. We are in this time.

At the end of Mass we got to sing "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel." The greatest hymn.

 And in the Epistle, from St. Paul: "The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light." That is thrilling and really does make me want to be less of a schlep.

And later St. Paul includes a word that I love.

It is chambering!

As in: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkkenness, not in chambering and impurities..."

A great word, chambering. One that we should bring back if you ask me. And the Latin is even better.

It is cubilibus!

St. Paul said nothing specifically about overeating and so after Mass I unveiled with pride this gigantic rich coffee cake I had made. I have a picture but it will have to wait because I cannot get it out of my phone. This is one I made a few weeks ago and it was bigger than this one, just to give you an idea.

St. Paul said nothing about pride either so I am in the clear.

The morning was not perfect. For one thing it was my turn to bring food to the priests we are lucky enough to have in residence at St. Anthony's. That resulted in several "I Love Lucy" situations. And there was yet another when I spilled my coffee -- What was with me? I never spill my coffee! Well, that will have to be a separate story for another day.

For now I am off to cast off the works of darkness. And put on the armor of light.

And, oh yes, stir up those fruitcakes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Amvets By Starlight

It is funny, the last time I wrote was about Amvets, and this weekend I was at Amvets again.

It was a lucky trip! The line was long and so I went to kill time looking through the records. And what jumped out at me but ...

Gershwin By Starlight!

That is this Leonard Pennario record I do not have. Pennario gave me these records and Gershwin By Starlight was supposedly among them, but inside was some loser's record, I can't remember who, but it was not Pennario. That was the one situation where the record inside did not match the jacket.

So I wanted this record, and I knew Pennario had liked it, but I had not gotten around to ordering one special as I have on many other occasions. Now, today, here it was!

It is extremely rare to find Pennario in a thrift shop so I was laughing later to myself about how casual I was.

"Oh, goodie, Gershwin By Starlight," I said to myself, and put it in my basket along with a Nancy Wilson album that was already there, and a Better Homes and Gardens Fix and Freeze Cookbook that I had selected because it had an AM&A's price tag..

Then I kind of did a double take.

Gershwin By Starlight!!

What a lucky day!!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Five People You Meet at Amvets

I went to Amvets the other day to decompress and I ran into my friend Lauren from church and my friend Ryan. Not necessarily in that order! In fact not in that order. The other way around.

But it was so funny, all of us meeting at Amvets, all by accident. We wandered around together from Books to Records. Picking up this, picking up that, discussing this, discussing that.

So much fun!

Lauren and I became friends because we met in Amvets after church once. She and her boyfriend were at Mass and then we were all at the coffee hour and then an hour later we run into each other at Amvets. They were instrumental in convincing me to purchase the iconic Betty Crocker Hostess Cookbook.

"Should I really get this?" I said. "I have so many cookbooks."

"Definitely get it!" they said.

And so I did!

Anyway. Eventually my friends left and I continued my Amvets shopping. I found a few albums I liked. Nothing by Leonard Pennario -- his albums are rare finds at thrift shops -- but still. I got in line.

And then, just when I thought things couldn't get better, they did!

The woman behind me in line noticed a Dinah Washington album I was buying and she complimented me on my good taste. Her friend chimed in. And I got to pontificate on my knowledge of Dinah Washington and of vinyl.

Now all eyes were on me. And they continued on me! Because here is what happened next.

This gentleman walked in. Good-looking guy, too. He sees me and he stops and he says:

"You're a singer."

Uh, no, I demurred, prettily.  I --

"You're a piano player," he said.

"Yes, I am," I said. Then I added: "But that was a long time ago."

"You played at Nietzsche's," he said.

To tell you the truth I do not remember exactly if I played Nietzsche's. But I was with this cool girl group Ladies First and we played all over the place.

I was smiling as I left Amvets. A minute or so later I thought: He must have me confused with someone else. No one would remember me from way back when. But I quit Amvets while I was ahead.

I left in a blaze of glory!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Let's do lunch

Yesterday my sister Katie and I did lunch.

It was in the middle of a hectic day and we made the plans that morning. She shows up at the office. Here is where you know you are dealing with family. Katie and I disagree on many, many things. But on the other hand our brains think alike.

I said, "We don't need to go out to lunch. I brought food."

She said, "So did I."

So we walk to this park by the Buffalo River. We start unpacking what we've brought. Stuff thrown together at the last second, and yet... and yet ....

She had this sandwich of Brie on whole wheat bread. Really good! We split it. I never get to eat Brie. It was a real treat.

I had a cauliflower salad from Eating Well magazine, a salad I love, plus a white bean salad with pork loin. And she brought out an orange for dessert.

And so we dined. And Katie brought out an orange and we split that for dessert. We had bowls and forks and cloth napkins.

My niece Rosie and I sometimes meet for lunch and it works the same way. My friend Lynn used to meet me downtown when she worked downtown and we did this sort of thing too. With Lynn it was really funny because we made a point to pack wine. Not a lot, just an airline bottle for the two of us, enough to fill two little plastic glasses. We would throw a tablecloth over a picnic table on Canalside and sit there dining and sipping our wine and people would stop and admire us, because nobody does this kind of thing. Once, someone took our picture.

The art of the picnic! I am afraid sometimes it is being lost. That would be a pity.

No annoying bill to pay, you know? Plus, you eat what you like.And you get to play the game of packing a picnic which is a game I love. I feel bad because some of the stuff I packed yesterday, we never got to eat. We never got to the grapes and the crackers. I am the Leonard Pennario of picnic packers. As a matter of fact I sometimes packed food for Pennario back in the day.

The art of the picnic.

Keep it alive!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The sandwich generation

Today for our after-Mass church coffee hour I made Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. They are from and they were something of an adventure.

The recipes at are not always extremely professionally written. In this instance they listed a certain amount of peanut butter and brown sugar and forgot to say that you would not pour all of it into the batter, some of it would go into the filling. Usually you see the word "divided" in such a situation.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I had to double the recipe to cover for my mistakes.

End result, we had 50 cookies instead of 25. That was a good thing anyway. We had a big group and we needed them! We are trending up at church. Instead of our usual 100 or so people at mass we had 130.

All is well that ends well. However I must say, the recipe said, "Very easy!" and I rudely marked up the magazine and wrote: "No! Lots of work!" The dough has to be mixed and then chilled. The cookies must be dropped by rounded teaspoons and then flattened. They bake for 10 minutes and the trays are switched half way through. They cannot be over-baked! And when they are done you have to cool them on racks and then make them into sandwiches. It is a project that keeps you constantly in motion and occupied.

Very very good though. And they looked just like in the picture up above which came from

What is it that makes baking so therapeutic? My sister Margie and I were discussing this on the 'phone just now. It has something to do with following a recipe and also I think with working with sugar and butter and cinnamon and chocolate and all that good stuff.

It makes me excited for all the baking I will be doing this season.

We are heading into a wonderful time of year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tea of mystery

No matter how busy you are, no matter how many deadlines you face, your life could be coming apart at the seams, and still .... and still ...

You can always find the time to go to Dollar Tree!

I went today and came back with two boxes of tea called Tevive. I bought Tevive Chai Tea and Tevive Blueberry Tea. For a buck each, 20 sachets each.

When I get back and am supposed to be working, naturally I can't help Googling Tevive tea because the packaging is kind of slick and I wanted to see what kind of bargain I got. Respected brand names can be found at Dollar Tree at deep discount. For instance I also bought Contac cold medicine.

And guess what? There is no Tevive Tea!

I can find no evidence of it! Aside from this one YouTube review. This one Southern gal apparently does Dollar Tree reviews. And why am I not doing Dollar Tree reviews? Where did I make my wrong turn in life?

Haha... I love how she can't pronounce "Ceylon" or "sachets" and is unapologetic about it.

The Tevive box directs you to but there is no such Web site.

However. There is a TeaVivre that seems to have a good reputation in the tea community. Maybe the idea was that you would Google it and wind up at TeaVivre.

While I worked on things Pennario I had a cup of the blueberry tea and then a cup of the Chai tea. I will have to thank Tevive in the acknowledgements if I go on the way I am going. The blueberry tea, not too bad. The Chai tea was good! I would buy another box of that.

I am a coffee person first and foremost but tea is great when you are at your desk and you just need something. But anyway. Back to our question.


What is it?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Jeoffry in the jungle

It is hard not to laugh when you come home and your cat is lounging on your shoes.

Jeoffry had found my sandals under the dining room table and was stretched out on them.

It is funny to try to think how a cat thinks, not that you will ever understand it.

One morning last week I got up early, before it was light, because I had work to do. I made my way downstairs to make coffee. Then I went looking for the cat.

He was in the front room, staring out at the dark garden. God knows what he saw there. But he must have seen something. Because when I reached out to pet him he jumped out of his skin. Then he leapt off his perch and backed up, staring at me.

He did not hiss. Sweet Jeoffry, he never hisses or growls. But he looked at me as if I were some kind of threat. He did not seem to understand who I was. It took him a good 10 seconds.

I was thinking: That is a clue to how he thinks.

He thinks he is in the jungle!

It was almost like getting a clue as to how Leonard Pennario's mind worked. A foreign being. I would look for clues.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

All-you-can-eat crab... apples

It is "What Possessed Me" Part Two.

I was stressed on account of a lot of work to do and so I went out an picked 50 pounds of crab apples.

Well, maybe not 50 pounds, but you get the idea. It is funny, growing up we had a crab apple tree in the back yard but we never ate any crab apples, not one. I think we thought you could not eat them. Now I know better.

There is this crab apple jam I wanted to make. I was shooting for six cups and it ends up I have 10 cups.

Those crab apples collect!

I was picking up crab apples lying on the ground but Howard was looking on and said to stop doing that. He said they might have worms in them or something. In every family you need someone who cautions you.

Otherwise who knows what might happen.

Anyway, I must needs make this jam but the nice thing is, the crab apples will keep till the weekend, when I do my Coffee Hour baking anyway. Perhaps I will be inspired. Imagine a Crab Apple Danish. A Crab Apple Pandowdy! It would be fun to make something very elegant with them. I will have to think.

Meanwhile, there are these 10,000 crab apples that need dealing with. Once again...

What possessed me?