Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I've been having fun these days shopping at Dollar Tree as part of my everyday errands. One thing I have done is explored Dollar Tree's freezer case.

And behold, good news! You can get great frozen vegetables at Dollar Tree. A whole pound of mixed veg, California Blend or Stir Fry, for $1. That beats what you spend other places. So I picked up a few. I bought the blends, plus a pound of broccoli. You are lucky, you know, to find broccoli for $1 a pound, and here it is for that price all neatly cut up for you.

And speaking of good news ... When I got home something made me look at the bags closely.

These are holy bags!

One of them said, beneath the cooking directions:

"God is strong and can keep you from falling. He can bring you before His glory without any wrong in you and give you great joy." -- Jude 1:24.

That was California Blend speaking. Broccoli Cuts had their own quote.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." -- Isaiah 41:10.

It is like the Aldi eggs, where you open the carton and read a psalm! I am telling you, it is the little things like this that can make your day. The Lord speaks to you from unexpected places!

These veggies are from TJ Farms. Let us look them up. I get the idea it is just this generic brand under the umbrella of Flagship Food Group. There is no mention of Scripture.  And yet still, there it is.  Someone is having a little fun, somewhere.

These are the frozen vegetables the Lord has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Journal angst

Zounds, I am getting a late start to the New Year!

Yesterday, and only yesterday, I got around to starting my 2017 Bullet Journal. BuJo, to use the hip abbreviation. I did a story last summer on bullet journals  -- actually the bigger story was this one -- and I actually have kept up the habit, since June. Right on schedule, my old journal ran out, and so it is time for the new.

And so I broke open a sketchbook I bought at Vidler's. I opened it up.

But darn, it is difficult to start a new journal!

Above is a painting of me holding pen in hand and wondering how I should start.

The old journal, it was a book I had bought at a garage sale. Faintly ruled, hard cover, I think I bought it thinking I would give it as a gift, but in the end I used it myself. No one else would have loved this book as much as I have over the last six months, I will tell you that.

But we were casual with each other, this notebook and I. I thought nothing of flipping a page and starting some new list or goal. "Ways in Which I Will Lose 10 Pounds In the Next Two Months." "Books I Need To Read Before the End of the Year." Yeah right as Leonard Pennario would say.

There was a lot in the old journal pertaining to Pennario. And a lot pertaining to church coffee hour. You would think I did nothing but write and bake. Oh wait, I do in fact do nothing but write and bake.

Anyway, the new journal. The paper is heavier. There are no rules. It seems to cry out for something more momentous.

Oh well. That will change. It will get used to tripe and drivel. That is what a journal is for! I will post some pages from it now and then, I was thinking. Other people post their journal pages and I love ogling them so it is time I contributed.

It is kind of exciting now that I think about it.

Welcome, 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On the third day of Christmas...

Once again we return to our annual crusade. As my friend Ryan put it on Facebook today: It is not two days after Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas!

With which, I baked rum raisin cake.

It is from Cooking Light but it won my approval anyway. There were no errant egg whites. Plus I got to use up the end of a bottle of rum that had just been kicking around. It was not bad rum. There is no such thing as bad rum! It is just that I do not normally drink rum. I cook with it.

While I worked I listened to my Carmen Dragon Christmas LP. La la la la la la la.

Fa la la la la la la.

I have sung the praises before of this Carmen Dragon record. You can tell from listening to it that Maestro Dragon -- his real name was Carmen Dragon -- loved Christmas very much. I bet he would not be satisfied with anyone trying to cut Christmas off on the First Day. Forget that!

Leonard Pennario liked Carmen Dragon and they had Christmas in common, I can see that.

Anyway. This is the third day of Christmas and there are many more to go. From now on, it is the gym every day, because I have to continue my Christmas treats.

It is ridiculous that we have let go of most of Christmas, you know? The Jewish people have Hanukkah and they have held tightly on to their eight days. Christmas folks must do likewise. So there's three months of commercialism beforehand, so what. All the more reason to stretch out the actual holiday and revel in the fruits of your labors.

Speaking of which, back to the Rum Raisin Cake. Zounds, I looked back on my Web log and I mentioned it before! Back in March. 

I wrote that I wanted to make it for church coffee hour and I was planning on making it in loaf pans, not in a Bundt pan as the recipe asked. That picture above, that is from the magazine. It is not from me.

Sure enough, today I made it in two loaf pans. And one loaf will go to church.

And another funny thing, back in March I mentioned eyeing up the Eggnog Coffee Cake recipe, in the same magazine as the Rum Raisin Cake. Sure enough, today too I eyed up that recipe.

I guess I know my own mind.

Merry Third Day of Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The cat and the tree

I put up my tree on Sunday. It was Gaudete Sunday! That is THE day to put up your tree.

All kinds of people put up their trees. I saw it on Facebook. Jeoffry assisted me in putting up my tree as you can see in the photo above.

After it was up I sent this photo to Howard who put it up on Facebook.

OK, well, things are not perfect. But we are moving into the season!

The day you put up the tree is always one of the happiest days of the year. The day you take it down is, I am sorry, one of the saddest. I hate to take down the Christmas tree! One of these years I will just not do it. It will stay up until next year. Some of my Facebook friends have already taken that route.

I should just leave it up all year! I am a grown-up and this is America.

And Jeoffry would love it!

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!