Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cookies for a crowd

I love an excuse to bake, as seen in the picture above, and that is why God created the church coffee hour.

Today I made Cranberry Oatmeal Bars. Hahahaha... the cookbook opens right to the page because I spilled so much on it. I was half asleep this morning making these cookies! I was drinking my coffee and throwing them together. And could I have found a more complicated recipe? It had a million ingredients. Well, it would not be too bad under normal circumstances. But when you just wake up...

As is usual with me I gamely made substitutions. It called for sour cream and I used vanilla yogurt. It wanted orange rind and I used lemon rind. And who has dried cranberries? I used raisins.

Why do recipes always call for things you do not have? This is Cooking Light from 2008.

Then there was the matter of the lightly beaten egg white. I studied the recipe, wondering about that. Cooking Light does funny things just to shave off something like one calorie off every cookie. Was that egg white in there because it needed that specific texture, or did they just want to omit the yolk to save a couple of calories?

I was doubling the recipe so after adding the white I beat the yolk and added it, too.

Which leads me to one gripe. Does anyone notice how recent cookie recipes only make something like two dozen? A couple of weeks ago I was making cookies for church coffee hour under the same circumstances, i.e., early in the morning when I am still asleep. I go through all this trouble and I noticed only at the last minute that it made two dozen.

I said out loud: "Two dozen??"

Why is this? In the old Joy of Cooking all the recipes make at least 100 cookies. Don't people these days think you take cookies to parties and luncheons? Don't they think you take them to work? Don't they think you have any friends? And even if I am baking just for me I want quantity.

If I had just noticed that paltry yield I could have tripled the recipe or something but I was too trusting. Anyway, so that was where I was today, multiplying and dividing and doing fractions in my head. You have to have the mind of Leonard Pennario just to make a batch of cookies.

End result, though, the cookies came out great. The kids were trying to get at them before I could even serve them. Then they vanished so fast I never got to try them.

At least I can assume they were good!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Cat Jeoffry

We have named our cat My Cat Jeoffry because of this British poem. That is Jeoffry pictured above in a portrait by Howard.

My father read me this poem when I was little. And recently when I was at church my friend Alenka, who is from London and is the authoress ...

... of the witty Web log Turkeys on the Sunlounger, mentioned it. That was when I remembered the poem.

"I will consider my cat Jeoffry." That is how it starts.

Then this poet, his name is Christopher Smart, he continues in the style of a liturgy. Every line begins with "For." Off the top of my head I can quote a few.

"For he is of the Tribe of Tiger."
"For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance."
"For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying."

Something like that. And a line I love runs something like: "For God spoke to Moses concerning the cats on the occasion of the Exodus from Egypt."

I actually looked in the Bible to see if I could find God saying something concerning the cats! I could not. But I love the idea. And surely He did.

When we first got our cat he would get nutzed and start trying to scratch my ankles or something and I would scoop him up and say to him: 

"For he is of the Tribe of Tiger!"

And another line from the poem:

"For every house is incomplete without him!"

And it would calm him immediately because he would just be so startled. Who is this nut who adopted me? First she sits around for hours every night working on this book on this concert pianist Leonard Pennario and now what in the world is she talking about?

The poem was written in the 18th century so it is quaint. It is also religious. But it is such a tender portrait of a cat. And cats have not changed one bit over hundreds and hundreds of years. He even talks about the cat playing with a cork. Our cat plays with corks. Luckily a wine drinker lives in this house and so those are those timeless cat toys lying around.

I sort of wanted to call the cat Jeoffry but Howard had naming rights because it is his birthday cat. Last week we were talking about it was time to give the cat a name. I mentioned Jeoffry.

Howard said: "I call it Cat. Or My Cat. It seems to recognize that."

Then it clicked. 

I said, "Howard, that's the name of the poem, My Cat Jeoffry!"

And immediately it was clear that is his name. He can be Jeoffry or My Cat Jeoffry or Cat or My Cat.

Here is the poem "My Cat Jeoffry." By Christopher Smart (1722 - 1771). 

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary. 
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel 
            from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest. 
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion. 
For he is of the Lord’s poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry!
            poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better. 
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection. 
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the 
            bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

It is unfinished. 

I think those of us lucky enough to have cats may feel free to add to it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gotta dance

Yesterday I had a very long day at work so I chilled out afterward by going to Zumba. Our cat Jeoffry had been under the weather so I found myself apologizing to him as I backed out the door in my pink Zumba pants.

"Jeoffry, I'm sorry, I'm just going to Zumba," I told him. "I'll be back. I'll leave class 15 minutes early."

I actually said that!

The good news is that Jeoffry got over what he had which, that is a story for another day. Also I liked Zumba class a lot more than I thought I would. I had kind of fallen off the Zumba wagon because it had become too much a hip-hop, shake-your-booty, backwards-baseball-cap thing. I mean, I can take a song or two of that, but I do not want it to be the whole class.

It seemed it had become all this monotonous stuff with someone yelling something over a beat. Once I kept track and there were something like 10 songs in a row with absolutely no tune. Some of the words were too trashy. The "songs" were too dumb. I picked up that snotty habit from Leonard Pennario of the sarcastic use of quote marks.

Also, as you can see in this picture ...

... nobody wears those cute neon-colored Zumba clothes I used to like. It says you do not take yourself too seriously and now I think Zumba takes itself more seriously.

Anyway I had not been to Zumba in a while.

But you have to do something, you know? I missed the exercise. So yesterday there I was. And it was better. Not as bad as I had been remembering. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging, pendulously, back the other way.

Plus we had a great teacher who never stopped the class. I hate lazy teachers who stop the class. It ended up this teacher was imported from Clarence for the evening, my luck. But anyway, good class, and it made me feel good. I will try Zumba again.

I will report!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rhapsody at Amvets

I went to Amvets over the weekend. It could not be helped! I walked in looking for something sensible but I wound up heading inexorably toward the records.

Amvets has something like 100 boxes of records, lying around on the floor and on tables. Looking through all of them is a task of Biblical proportions, like looking through all the grains of sand by the sea. The impossibility of the task makes it relaxing to flip through one box, then another box. There is always the hope you will find something great.

I did find great things this time around. One of which was Pennario's "Gershwin By Starlight" ...

... in its later re-release on Angel.

It is rare to find any Pennario at thrift shops and this is an especially great find because No. 1 I did not have it and also because in my obsessive reworking of this biography I was at exactly the point where this record appeared. Also this weekend brought this Gershwin concert at the Buffalo Philharmonic.

When I got home, I wanted to put the record right on the hi-fi, but I hesitated, this will sound dumb but it was because the cat was sick. He is fine now -- but he was not then, and he was asleep and I did not want this big brash Gershwin to come pouring out and wake him up.

Meanwhile, because I had a yen to hear this, I got on YouTube out of curiosity to see if any of these performances had been posted. It was silly because I had checked very recently.

And lo! A couple of them had! One was this tremendous take on the Second Rhapsody.

 These clips had been posted just this weekend!

It is funny when things line up like this. I said to myself: "I think he wants me to listen to his Gershwin."

Ya think?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yo ho ho!

Yesterday I went from my yo-yo-ing to yo-ho-ing.  I went to Premier Liquor and bought rum!

I have in mind Christmas baking. Christmas starts early at our house, I have to admit it. We have already had our first Christmas caroling rehearsal. That is a story for another day.

Meanwhile Stir-Up Sunday ...

... will be here before we know it. I want to be able to get started with fruitcakes and rum confections. And what do you know, Premier has these amazing rum specials going. We are talking rebates of $10 and $15.

You know me and rebates. But I make an exception when the sums are this high.

I know nothing about rum but I made two selections. There was a third special going too, on yet another kind of rum. Mayhap I will return. See, when you are talking about rum you wind up talking like a pirate and not the biographer of Leonard Pennario. Arrrr.

One rum that I purchased was Blackheart.

It has the requisite embarrassing trashy picture on the label like the one at the top of this post.

That is a signal that it will be good. We must buy the rum that the pirates buy!

Howard and I sampled it last night. Howard had it with frozen bananas and I had a sip straight up.
Seemed OK to me!

Now I have actually to send in the rebate. Those Blackheart manufacturers with their black hearts are doubtless hoping I will not. But I will foil them.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The yoga yo-yo

That is me! I am the yo-yo.

I have always been kind of conflicted about yoga but I find myself going because there are more yoga classes than Pilates classes. But here is what is funny: Whenever I find myself going something happens to make me wonder.

Remember the time my mother seemed to know, magically, that I was planning on buying yoga clothes and going to yoga? Today was like that.

I got into the car to go to yoga and the radio goes on and there was Mother Angelica...

... and she was talking about Eastern religions. She was joking around about how everyone is suggesting you do Buddhist this and Hindu that but oh, the Rosary, that is so old-fashioned. I started laughing because I got what she was saying. Then I caught my breath.

Oh, no! What about my yoga class??

It is uncanny, how this happens to me.

Obstinately I went to my class. And for a while everything is fine. Half way through the class, I am thinking, this is cool. The teacher is just droning on with her loud instructions, and there is no mention of this New Age gobbledygook. This is great! I can go with this.

And then, just as we are all balancing on one toe, or whatever,  the woman goes: "Set an intention for this practice."

Set an intention? I am in the gym, not in church!

My only intention is to look like a supermodel!

And it just went from there. Now I am thinking again that I have to stay away. I just cannot stand for this kind of thing. Once again, I am tied up in knots.

It is tough because I sort of enjoy yoga. That is not I in the picture above but take my word for it. I like to stretch myself this way and that. I think it dates to my love of playing Twister when I was a kid, plus working on my Pennario project I am used to stretching myself.

But you just cannot ignore these signs, you know?

All I can think is that my mother, being no longer around to supervise me in person, has somehow got Mother Angelica on my case.

How do they always know what is going on?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The teas of Christmas

We are into the time of year I love, when every day is plunged into darkness early. Today at church it was pointed out that we are nearing the end of the liturgical calendar and so we are getting signs in the readings about the end of time.

I had never known that! I had never realized that at this point in the season that these signs are appearing, that we are hearing about the things that are coming, God knows when.

Remember the moon sign? That was around this time of year.

Also as we approach the end of the liturgical year, tea is appearing in the supermarkets. Remember the Celestial Seasonings Christmas teas? There are now more.

There is Caramel Apple Dream.

And there is Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland.

Me being this tea-aholic when it comes to these things, I have purchased both. They must needs be tried. Checking facts on Leonard Pennario I have been enjoying both flavors, as shown in the picture at the top of this post. I will have to mention Celestial Seasonings in the acknowledgments, you know? Along with Robert Mondavi and Crystal Light and Shur-Fine Diet White Birch Beer.

Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland is better than you think it will be. It has many, shall we say, notes. There is Rooibos and Chamomile and Juniper Berries and Hibiscus. Haha, Hibiscus makes me think of the Hibiscus Room at Buff State where they give poetry readings and stuff. Our friend Ari from New York would just say, "The Hibiscus Room," and we would all start laughing.

Caramel Apple Dream also has Hibiscus. Along with Cinnamon, Orange Peel, Roasted Chicory, Ginger and Sea Salt, and I am rather partial to it.

The cranberry tea gets points for admitting to stevia. Other tea flavors have not!

Anyway this is how work gets done.

One sip at a time!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paging the patron saint of the Internet

It is the first day of November, All Saints Day, anciently known as the Feast of All Hallows. Which makes me wonder:

Who is the patron saint of Web logs?

Who is the patron saint of the Internet?

It is St. Isidore of Seville!

I am reading St. Isidore's bio which says that he was born in Cartegena and his siblings were all saints too. They are Leander, Fulgentius and Florentina and he is often known as the Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages.

Here is a story I like.

Once, when Isidore was a boy, he ran away from home and from school. His brother Leander, some twenty years older than he, was his teacher, and a very demanding one. While Isidore sat by himself out in the woods, loafing, he watched some drops of water falling on a rock. Then he noticed that the dripping water had worn a hold in the hard rock! The thought came to him that he could do what the little drops of water did. Little by little, by sticking to it, he could learn all his brother demanded, and maybe even more.

That is what my Pennario book work is like. Little by little, one drop after another, and we wear down the rock.

It is the reason I have not been Web logging, getting my act together with the writing I have to do. I have been up early and up late and in between the time flies. But now in the spirit of St. Isidore I am picking the Web log back up, and I will be posting every day, God willing, and St. Isidore interceding.

That is St. Isidore of Seville at the top of this post! Hahaha... I did a Google search on St. Isidore and this gentleman kept appearing:

And I was thinking: He, while doubtless very pious, does not look like the Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages!

Then I learned that this was St. Isidore the Farmer. I did a search for St. Isidore of Seville.

Ah. This was more like it!

That looks more like him! That statue presides over Spain's National Library, in Madrid.

St. Isidore of Seville, pray for us.

And for our books and our Web logs!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Columbus picture opens a new world

Since I mentioned my print of Christopher Columbus finding the New World, people who know about art have told me that it was painted by N.C. Wyeth. That is Mr. Wyeth pictured above!

One Facebook friend, the esteemed artist Michael Gelen, told me that. And another Facebook friend chimed in and said that N.C. Wyeth was the father of Andrew Wyeth.

Do I know quality when I see it or what? Just like I know quality when I hear it, as in the case of Leonard Pennario.

The picture of N.C. Wyeth does seem to suggest he had something of a fevered imagination. Wikipedia says that he illustrated books including "Treasure Island." You know what, I think that was the book my father read to us from when I was little. It had fevered illustrations that now that I think of it, remind me of the picture of Columbus on the high seas.

The best artists are the ones described as illustrators, you know?

A neat observation from Wikipedia: "Wyeth's exuberant personality and talent made him a standout student. A robust, powerfully built young man with strangely delicate hands, he ate a lot less than his size implied. He admired great literature, music, and drama, and he enjoyed spirited conversation."

"He ate a lot less than his size implied." That is priceless and cannot be said of me.

I eat a lot more than my size implies!

Here is something terrible and tragic. In 1945, "Wyeth and his grandson (Nathaniel C. Wyeth's son) were killed when the automobile they were riding in was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home."

All these things we are learning. Some of them funny and some of them sad. Like Columbus we are discovering an uncharted world. Uncharted to us anyway.

Oh, man. This is something that hits home for me. Wikipedia also says that N.C. Wyeth painted the pictures of Wagner, Beethoven and Liszt for Steinway and Sons. I have been to Steinway Hall in New York and seen those paintings. Even if I had not visited Steinway Hall, I would know them from books. That is amazing! I had no idea. I will have to explore that on my Music Critic Web log.

Anyway we can all see now where Andrew Wyeth got his talent. Why is he so much better known than the old man, is what I would like to know.

No justice in the world!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beyond uncharted seas...

In honor of Columbus Day I found myself contemplating a picture on the wall of my breakfast room. Well, the breakfast room that has turned into the cat room. The cat likes it back there with his toys and his food and his scratching post.

But once upon a time it was my breakfast room and after I went to Monet's house in France, I did what Monet did and painted it yellow and covered the walls in pictures. They were pictures people gave me, or the work of local artists that I bought, or things I bought at sales.

And at one sale on Symphony Circle, or thereabouts, I bought this print that was titled:

"Beyond Uncharted Seas Columbus Finds a New World."

Beneath that caption is written:

"Into the Setting Sun, Conquering Tempest, Mutiny and Terrors of the Unknown, the Great Admiral Steers his Tiny Caravels to Give Civilization a New Hemisphere - and Gain Fame Everlasting."

Who could resist such a print? Not I! That is a picture of it up above although I got it off the Internet because it is easier than taking a picture of the one on my wall.  My print is framed I will have you know.

Now I am glad I have that picture because I am writing about another famous Italian, Leonard Pennario. Pennario was a Columbus fan and so am I. And one house where Pennario's family lived in Buffalo is on Columbus Parkway, bringing this conversation full circle.

Let my Columbus print be a lesson to all of us.

When you see something you like at an estate sale, for whatever reason, do not question your judgment.

Plant that flag.