Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The king and I

Last night my mom and I went to see "The King's Speech." We go and see every Colin Firth movie. I have liked Colin Firth starting with "The English Patient" when he played the boring British husband. I did not care if he was supposed to be boring. I thought he was cute.

"I like the husband!" I remember whispering to my mother in the theater.

She said: "So do I! So do I!"

The only Colin Firth movie we have intentionally skipped was that movie where he plays someone gay. My mother and I cannot stand the thought of Colin Firth being gay even if it is fiction. So we skipped that one.

Anyway, last night, there we were, at "The King's Speech." It is an excellent movie and I am going to drag Howard to see it. Because Howard, with his fine sense of style ...

... would observe and learn from the figures in the movie, which revolves around King George VI of England. Howard would appreciate their ceremony, their comportment.

But enough about Howard.

What about me?

I am very me-centric, in case you have not noticed. Watching the movie I kept drawing parallels between the relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist, the Geoffrey Rush character who is challenged to cure the king's stutter, and my relationship with Leonard Pennario. That is a long story but there are clear parallels. Well, I could find parallels between anyone's relationship with anyone and my relationship with Pennario. I am beginning to notice that.

After the movie I went home and went to bed and I dreamed I had met the King of England!

In my dream the King of England was single. I was still married, so do not get all excited. But we were friends and we went out and I was delighted to be friends with the King of England. And here is what killed me. In my dream he told me to keep quiet about knowing him. "No problem," I said. That is what we say here in Buffalo!

Then I dreamed I went to work and all I did was brag about it to all my friends in the office!

Nobody believed that I knew the King of England!

I specifically remember certain figures in the newsroom laughing at me and dismissing me. Ha, ha! I would fix them!

Then I woke up.

No King of England.

Wednesday morning.

The friends at work did have the last laugh as it turns out.

Oh well.

It's a good movie. See it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This bites

On top of everything else I broke my retainer yesterday.

"That'll be $300." That is what my friend Melinda told me at work.

How did she know a retainer cost $300? I asked her that.

"Everything costs $300," she said.

Son of a snaggle-toothed sea cook! I keep replaying the moment in my mind, the moment when I broke my retainer. It could have been avoided. The trouble was, when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is take my retainer out and brush it off. You brush it with a toothbrush. I was not awake and I scrubbed the retainer a little too hard and a little piece in the back snapped off, the part that fits over two back teeth.

Zut alors!

From the beginning, the retainer has worried me because it is not this metal robust thing you picture. It is just a thin plastic case that fits over your teeth. That is it pictured above. You could wear it around and people would not notice. Howard did not even know that I wore it. "You're still wearing a retainer?" he said.

I said, "Howard, uh, yes!"

In the future I will change my routine. I will not scrub out the retainer first thing in the morning because how are you supposed to do anything right when you are not awake yet? That flimsy thing, it is a miracle it lasted this long.

Still I keep replaying things. In my mind I go back over yesterday morning and in my imagination I retain the retainer. I am careful with it and I do not break it and I am not looking at spending $300. I get this way. It is because I am a biographer. Being Leonard Pennario's biographer I am always going over and over things.

Today, anyway, it is off to the ortho.

On the bright side it has been a long time since we talked about teeth.

It is way overdue!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Quoth the prophet

Merry Christmas everyone in Blog-O-Land! I am prepping for church. I like to have a few minutes to take my mind off food and Pennario and everything else that I constantly think about, because I was a schlep years ago in Latin class and these are the wages of that.

Thrilling lines today.

"Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri saeculi: cujus regni non erit finis."

"A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born to us: and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come, of whose reign there shall be no end." I love those words "Admirabilis" and "Princeps pacis." That is from the ancient Prophet Isaiah.

Also from Isaiah: "Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: cujus umperium super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, magni consilii Angelus."

"A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, whose government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, the Angel of great counsel."

Everything is more exciting in Latin.

You have to wonder what in the world they thought Isaiah was talking about! That is a picture of the Prophet Isaiah up above. I took it off someone else's Web log so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. But come on, what else would the Prophet Isaiah look like?

Anyway I am studying up on this before deciding what fattening foods I can eat today. Perhaps I will make an impressive dessert. Perhaps another batch of cookies.

Hmmmm.. this explains the pensive look on the Prophet Isaiah's face.

He is foreseeing my caloric intake!

Friday, December 24, 2010


A highlight of Christmas Eve at my mom's was when Howard sat down at the piano and all of a sudden as if by magic instruments began appearing from elsewhere in the room.

My sister Katie, right, and our niece Millie, left, whipped out flutes. Who knew they had brought them? Who knew they could play them?

Our niece Rosie, surprise, had brought along her trumpet. There she is in the armchair trying to figure out what to play. She played! She sounded great.

Even little George Andrew got into the act, using a coffee can as a tom-tom.

Together all these musicians amounted to quite a band. Their most successful number was "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." It rocked the house! The greatest thing was, we could not believe it, when these instruments appeared. No one had mentioned bringing them along. No one had to run out to the car to get them. They were just there, and nobody knew.

So that was one highlight. Another highlight was when Howard and I got there, about 6 p.m. We brought a spinach salad with apples and walnuts and blue cheese. And bread that was right out of the oven. My brother George was supposed to be bringing a turkey. And he had! But the turkey was stripped to the bones.

"How long have you been eating?" we asked.

They had all been there only an hour!

There was also only a couple of spoonfuls' worth of mashed potatoes left. I am the only one who cooks in quantity, you know? Everyone always mocks me out for making so much food but I will tell you this, when people come to my house, they eat.

My mother had been making the traditional split pea soup that we eat for some reason on Christmas Eve and she had even borrowed a Crock Pot to do it so it would not burn. It is way too easy to burn split pea soup. But the split pea soup was cold because the Crock Pot had been turned off. Hello! You do not have to turn off a Crock Pot. You can set it on Warm and it will do fine for days.

Well, no matter, because there was a lot of wine and that was what mattered. Brother-in-law David had brought his elderberry wine. Yum! And there was elderberry pie.

My brother Tony asked me a few questions about Leonard Pennario which I loved.

The presents for the kids were hits so that was good too. Except how was I to know this, the presents that put Rosie over the moon were all hair products. I did not have to think about it. I could have just stopped by a drug store! She was showing me this one bottle of product she loved. The label was Long-Term Relationship. It is pictured here!

And we thought we were silly back in the day with Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo! Long-Term Relationship shampoo is even sillier.

OK, tomorrow we do this all over again.

Elderberry wine, here I come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A tree grows in Buffalo

My Christmas tree!

Taken with no flash so you can see the lights.

Trimmed with the inspiration of Carmen Dragon's Christmas album plus after that Howard playing the piano. I put on a string of 100 lights I got for $4 at Goodwill and then I turned without warning into Clark Griswold and added another string.

I was thinking, mostly on the Web log I have been kvetching about how behind I am. And it is true I have been working a lot on the Pennario book. I have this bargain with myself that I want it to the, ahem, editors by the end of the year. And I am darn close!

But as far as Christmas goes, this is funny but I have done a lot right. You know how all year I have been hitting the estate sales and garage sales with my mom? All year we have been buying presents. I mean since last January. All my life I have planned on doing this, getting my gift act together early, buying all my presents in advance. And this is the first year I actually did! Last week I took inventory and I could not believe that I was ready. But I was!

In my family it is normal to buy things from garage sales for each other. We are actually not supposed to spend more than $10 on each other. This was raised from $5 not too many years ago. The trick is to score the biggest bargain you can. It is not unusual in our family to ask, guess how much I paid for this, and then brag that you got it for a quarter. Then everyone else admires and praises you. And the recipient feels honored to have been presented with the spoils of the hunt.

So that is one thing I did right. And it made a big impact! No malls. No last-minute panic.

Also last night I got most of my presents wrapped and over to my mom's in advance of Christmas. That is another thing I have always wanted to do yet never done. Every Christmas there I usually am schlepping all these presents in addition to a ham and cookies and whatever -- through, I might add, our inevitable Christmas snowstorm. So I have improved that situation too.

The one down side of all this excitement: Last night after I took the picture of the Christmas tree I could not sleep. 

I am not used to this kind of organization!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Tannenbaum

So... my Christmas tree.

I did not have one last year and I missed it. The reason I did not have one was that I was not having anyone over to see it, plus I was too busy with the book and everything. It is funny how a year passes and here I am, still busy with the book. Leonard Pennario, the project that never ends!

But I missed it, you know? It just was not right not to have a tree, even though I tried to rejoice in January when I did not have to take it down. I just missed my Christmas tree.

Which brings me to this past Sunday. I go to Mass. It was the fourth Sunday of Advent. I felt like this loser because here it is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and here I am with no tree. I go dance Zumba. Then I am heading down Kenmore Avenue and my car swings as if by its own accord into the parking lot of that nursery there.

There were three tabletop-sized trees and I selected one. It cost $25 whereas the one next to it was $20 because it had short needles and was a prettier tree.

It was also bigger than I had expected! I saw that when I got it home. It made me remember when I brought my Steinway home. Here I had stupidly thought I was buying a baby grand and when the piano movers looked at it one of them said, "That's no baby grand." And I was like, "Huh?" Well, that was a long time ago. I was not yet the brilliant woman I am now.

I guess this tree could stand on a table but that would be pushing it. It would be like me standing on a table. The other thing is, I could not get it into the stand.

I had thought I had my act together. I had found my stand in the cellar, neatly bagged up. But when I tried to put it together I could not. Parts of the stand were missing, and the bowl would not fit in the other bowl. Back down to the basement -- aha, I knew I had another stand! I take the new stand upstairs. But it was for a much smaller tree.

So now here I am in complete Christmas emergency mode. I tried calling stores. I called Valu and Target to see if by any chance they had an unsold Christmas tree stand. At all stores, with no exceptions, the hired help took great and obvious pleasure in telling me they did not.

Schufts! Oiks! If I were a store owner and people wanted Christmas tree stands, I would have a million of them, you know? Give the people what they want!

Well, all this was wasting too much time. I had blown what, two hours, on this stupid project? I took the tree and put it in the back yard, in the snow. If I kept it inside, at this rate it would dry out. I resisted the impulse to fuss with the stands one more time. I went upstairs to work on the book and that was what I did for the rest of the day.

When Howard came home I was like the typical wife. I expected him to fix things. Howard was so kind and he looked at the stands and explained to me that one was too small and the other was missing parts.

Then he suggested he could make me a Christmas tree stand!

"We have a wood shop," he said.

What an angel! Howard said he would make me a stand the next day. I was not sure he would get around to it but it was nice of him to consider it.

Monday I come home from work and the tree is gone from the back yard. My first thought was, someone probably lifted it. My second thought was, that is probably just as well.

But it was standing in the front sun room!

Howard had managed to assemble a stand from the parts of the two stands and there it was.

Am I a lucky gal or what? Now all I have to do is decorate the tree. I have all the ornaments and stuff sitting right there. Now all I need is the requisite hour or so.

Perhaps tonight!

It is a funny thing about us women and Christmas trees. We have to have one but we cannot usually install them ourselves. One of my friends also got a tree this week but she had to call up an ex-boyfriend and have him come over and put it up.

Men .... can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Just like Christmas trees!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The door to progress

Voila my beauteous wreath! Today my house is looking less as if Scrooge ...

... lives here.

That is a great Alastair Sim Scrooge! It is the picture my friend Michelle is using as her Facebook profiile. Ha, ha! She is the most un-Scrooge like person I know. I am sure she has had a wreath on her door for weeks now.

But me, I just got mine up. I am a little like Scrooge, let's admit it, because I cannot stop working even though it is almost Christmas. For some reason I am really going on the book. I have trouble putting it down. When someone interrupts me I look up just like Scrooge in the picture above.

On Saturday, though, I was knocking around with my mom and we were at Goodwill and I bought a plain old wreath for $3. Late the other night I actually got around to decorating it. Howard played Christmas music on the piano while I worked. He is not Scrooge! He is more like Leonard Pennario who used to play Christmas carols on the piano at all the Christmas parties he went to over the years. Leonard's friends have told me that.

The next challenge is the Christmas tree. That is an adventure that warrants a post in itself. What I did was, on Sunday after Mass and Zumba I stopped and ... oh, you know what, this really does have to wait.

It is just too long and goofy a story!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuff it!

Over the weekend I was not only cooking, I was cooking with gas! And one thing I made was the stuffed pumpkin off the cover of my Native American cookbook.

Howard said it looked like an optical illusion, sitting right next to the book! I got this book just for the cover.

Was that stuffed pumpkin good!

It was easy. I could do it in between writing about Leonard Pennario.

It was also cheap! I used this 50 cent pumpkin I got from the Clinton-Bailey Market. Here is what you do: You saute up a chopped-up onion as well as a pound of ground meat until the meat is brown. I used ground turkey.

Put it in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt and four beaten eggs and 2 cups cooked rice. The recipe called for wild rice but I did not have that so I used brown Basmati rice.

Plus one teaspoon dried sage and a quarter-teaspoon pepper.

Cut the top of a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and roast them. Fill the pumpkin with the stuffing. I also added raisins and a chopped-up Braeburn apple to the stuffing. You can be creative! Also the pumpkin I used was a little smaller than the one called for so I also stuffed a Buttercup squash.

Take a baking pan and put a quarter-inch of water in it. Then place the pumpkin in it. Bake it for an hour and a half at 350 degrees.

And then it is done!

Cut it into wedges and serve everyone a wedge plus some of the stuffing. I will tell you one thing, that pumpkin was good! I even ate the skin. So did Howard!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A visit to the Presepio

The Mass today had the beautiful "Rorate, Caeli." Here is the "Rorate, Caeli" chant I love. The words are from the Prophet Isaiah who, I have come to think of him as a poet. The "Rorate, Caeli," besides being part of the Mass today, is part of the "Rorate Mass" which is a thousand-year-old ceremony traditionally taking place very early in the morning, by candlelight.

What about Candle-Lite Candles?

I guess you could use them at a Rorate Mass. I often light Candle Lite candles from CVS when I pray the Rosary and I have heard no complaints from above.

We held a "Rorate Mass" yesterday at St. Ann's but due to a series of complications I was not there. Here is a clip of a Rorate Mass in Berlin. Wow, it looks stunning. I was a loser, not being there Saturday! Well, it was not exactly my choice.

Plus, I made up for it today. After Mass at St. Anthony's this morning I took pictures of the Italian Nativity scene. One of them is up above, at the top of this post.

Here is a picture of our church. The Nativity scene -- it is called Presepio in Italian -- is behind the podium. You can see the little girl approaching it.

Here is a closeup that shows the Three Kings arriving on camels.

Our priest, Padre Secondo, made the buildings in the background and he made this little temple with three columns. Blow up the picture at the top and you will be able to see it. He got the columns from a wedding cake!

Most impressively of all he made the donkey himself, out of plaster. He turned the donkey so I could get a good shot of him. Unfortunately I was out of focus. I should not have turned off the flash. But you can get an idea all the same. Look at this donkey. Isn't he charming?

I said, "Padre, I did not know you were so talented!"

Later I thought enviously about how I am not that talented. All I can do is write this book about Leonard Pennario. I cannot make plaster figurines of donkeys.

Then I realized I had violated one of the 10 Commandments, the one about not coveting your neighbor's ass. Thou shalt not covet his ox, nor his ass, nor anything else that belongeth unto him, do I have that straight?

Well, I am due for another confession!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Into the wild

Today I mismanaged my Saturday as usual. I am so used to my over-compartmentalized, overbooked drudge life that when I actually get a day without structure I panic and do not know what to do.

My No. 1 mistake was I went skiing with my brother George.

I do not mean downhill skiing as in Kissing Bridge. I mean, ahem, Nordic skiing. George and I like to ski around Delaware Park. We did it last Saturday without incident and today we decided to do it again.

As we entered the park with our skis we gloated about how today would not have been possible without last week. We had gone skiing once this season and so we could do so again.

Once I got started, though, I realized my mistake.

Son of a rum-guzzling sea cook, I was cold!

My hands were the worst. I was wearing these mittens and I thought I was fine. These were warm woolen mittens from a garage sale. Remember, that garage sale where I bought all those clothes?

I told George I was going to speed up and see if I warmed up. But I did not! What a nightmare. Finally I told George I had to turn back. And I did. Above is a picture George took of the incident. It shows how far from home I was.

George laughed about it with Howard later. He said I was off like a shot. Like an Olympic skier! I went flying back around the park and did not stop until I was home.

Home!! On the couch.

I said, "Didn't like that! Didn't like that!"

That is what my little nephew George Andrew said after something or other he didn't like. I think his sister hit him or something. Now we all say it in the family. "Didn't like that!"

George came back to get his extra clothes and the copy I had promised him of Leonard Pennario's "Concertos Under the Stars." He teased me about what a wimp I was, how unprepared for the cold.

Then I went to Zumba and exercised like a normal human being.

Then I took my mom to Albrecht Discount. I bought dark chocolate and a cauliflower and a ham. And I made dinner. And we went to the Philharmonic. And the day passed.

Just two weeks left to the year. It is flying.

Flying like me, skiing around the park.

With my freezing fingers.

Didn't like that!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A tree grows in dreamland

Voila, a picture of my Christmas tree.

Ha, ha! In my dreams.

Tomorrow, I am thinking, I must get a Christmas tree. I am the only one on my block without lights! People are going to think some kind of atheists live here. Or Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas. I have a friend at work who is one and she told me that.

They do not celebrate birthdays either!

Thank God I am not a Jehovah's Witness. They do not exactly sound like a barrel of laughs, you know?

As long as I am being politically incorrect here is a joke I picked up somewhere. What do you get when you cross a Unitarian with a Jehovah's Witness?

Someone who rings your doorbell for no good reason.


Where was I? My Christmas tree, or lack of one. The other night at Zumba class while I was doing the Cumbia it occurred to me that perhaps I had a Christmas tree in my basement. I was struck by this memory, that I was at an estate sale, in the cellar, and there was a tabletop tree, and I bought it. Yes, I had. I was sure I had.

But when I got home I could not find it in the corner of my basement where the Christmas stuff is.

OK, granted, I was looking in the dark, and since then I keep meaning to go down there in daylight. But I think I would have found this thing. I guess it is one of those memories that is just half complete. I do know I considered a tree, but maybe I did not end up buying it.

It is not my fault I am so messed up. There is no room in my head sometimes for anything other than Leonard Pennario and I get up so early.

But enough excuses.

Tomorrow, the tree!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'This ghostly little book'

That was a rather un-Yule post yesterday, I just realized that! I have not even bought a Christmas tree yet. Instead I am sitting around thinking about exorcisms. I am like that kid in that movie, whatever it was? "Harold and Maude." The kid who drives around in the hearse. So ...

Here is something cool and Yule.

Who knew "A Christmas Carol" was on Google Books?

You do not want this one.

You want this one.

It is like an onion! All you do is look at it and you get tears in your eyes.

Here are all the different covers for "A Christmas Carol."

And all the versions on Google Books.

And a clip from the great 1951 "Scrooge" movie starring Alastair Sim. Leonard Pennario knew Alastair Sim and told me a thing or two about him. Alastair Sim was a Scottish actor known mostly as a comedian but he makes this movie, this "Scrooge." He is perfect. My friend Michelle posted this video on Facebook yesterday and everyone was crying.

The entire movie is posted on YouTube. Is this a wonderful era we live in or what?

Here is a beautiful clip where you see Scrooge going to his nephew's Christmas party after all. A magnificent Scrooge! Look at the looks that cross his face. And I like how everyone is gathered around the piano.

"Dennis! Polka!"

As Howard says a piano is the ultimate home entertainment system. Well, you need a pianist to go with it.

Now I am in the mood only for fun and games.

One thing I can say about today:

It is shot!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The exorcist

There is this Anthony Hopkins movie coming up in January called "The Rite." Anybody else want to see it? I want to see it.

Well, I kind of want to see it and I kind of do not.

It is about exorcism!

I watched the trailer just now and I was impressed by the beginning, when the screen is covered with Latin. I heard on Catholic Radio that the rite of exorcism has never been translated into English. Do not crack any jokes about Latin being the devil's language. It is the language the devil is afraid of, is more like it.

If you talked to the devil in English the devil would just snicker at you.

This movie is based on a book written by a journalist from San Diego which, I do not know if he was there when I was there with Leonard Pennario, but it was just as well I did not know him. I would have wasted a lot of time. It is not as if I am obsessed with the dark side but I am interested in the situation, in the power we hold against the devil.

I read an interview with this author, whose name is Matt Baglio. He was saying that he followed a priest around who went to exorcism school in Rome. He talked about cases he had learned about, exorcism cases.

He also said that to avoid the devil getting his hooks into you what you should do is stay close to God, go to Mass, go to Confession. One thing he said gave me pause. He said that Confession is an exorcism. I am thinking, remember when I wrote that??? I had that feeling, that something was being pulled out of me. It was not my imagination. I was right!!

But there was something that really gave me the creeps.

The author was telling this story of this one woman who had a problem with some, ahem, sinister being and had contacted a priest, an exorcist, and had made an appointment. And one day she got a phone call. The phone call was from someone who told her the priest she was going to see was going out of town, that he would not be able to see her. "You do not have to come in," the caller told her.

Something gave this woman a funny feeling and she called the priest.

He said, "No, I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. No, I want you to come in.Who called you and told you I was going away?"

That is a very good question.

Who or what made that phone call??


It is funny, here I am reading stuff about people screaming out in guttural devil voices and their skin turning green and whatever and what really gives me the creeps? The idea that the devil can make an ordinary phone call. It sounds ridiculous, I know.

But just imagine this thing, whatever it is, calling on the phone.

Thinking in its diabolical way, "This is how we can work this out. Fix it so she does not go in to see the priest."

Then the physics gets to me. How exactly does this happen, that the phone rings and there is someone on the other end of the phone? Where is the voice coming from?

Perhaps the movie will tell us.

Anyone want to see it?

Oh, oh, the damage done

This is the driver's side door of my car after I was hit last night by a snowplow.

Notice how I toss that off so casually. Note to out-of-town Leonard Pennario fans: In Buffalo it is business as usual to be hit by a snowplow! It is nothing to write home about. Plus, you are home in Buffalo, otherwise you would not be getting hit by a snowplow.

I was hit by a snowplow when I was coming home from Zumba and sitting at the light at Kenmore and Colvin. I was on the Kenmore side. It was a Town of Kenmore snowplow.

I was sitting there listening to baritone Stephen Varcoe singing a Schubert song when, crash!

And it was funny, in Zumba class our teacher -- this was Eileen, at the Colvin gym -- had wound up the class by telling all of us to drive slowly and carefully, which I had obediently been doing. She had said that if anyone on the way home did anything stupid, just give him a friendly wave, because as long as he did not hit you, what the heck. As we were stretching she had looked at us beatifically and said, "May God bless you all."

God did bless me, because this was just a fender bender. It was not like my Facebook friend Steve Cichon who, last week a car came flying down his street in the middle of the night and took out the car in his driveway and then the porch of the house two doors down. This was nothing next to that. This was just life in Buffalo in December.

One thing that struck me later, I mean struck me after the snowplow struck me: Both the snowplow driver and the Kenmore cop who showed up to supervise the situation were both very polite and nice and good-looking men.

This would never have been the case had I been single!

Had I not been married, both of them would have looked like Cousin Ron.

Just one of those things about life, you know?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gentleman of Japan

Yesterday after being married six years Howard and I celebrated by going to Orchid. Orchid (if you click the link watch out for the music) is a tiny Japanese restaurant on Elmwood in Kenmore! We had never been there before. We were not out to break the bank or have this incredible dinner to end all dinners. We just thought it would be fun to go somewhere different. Because we always used to go to Fanny's to celebrate, because we met there, but now Fanny's is gone.

It is a funny orphan feeling you get when the place where you met is not only closed but knocked down! Vaporized.

Which brought us to Orchid. I called in advance to make sure the staff spoke little to no English. Also to make sure they have beer and wine. Got to have that beer and wine! Or in our case hot sake.

The phone call answering both questions with yes, we went.

We had fun!

There was the threat of an ice storm and it was Sunday night so no one else was out. Meaning we could park the Vic right outside the window. This is America!

We ordered this Tuna Martini and loved it. That is it pictured at the top of this post! It is tuna served in a martini glass, glistening with red roe. I think this is the first time the word "roe" has appeared on this Web log. It will not be the last!

Howard taught me how to use chopsticks.

The sushi was presented with something glowing green. And the something was supposed to be glowing green. I mean it was glowing green on purpose.

No one else was in the restaurant and there was tremendous calm. The place is very clean and bare. They played Kenny G.

As Howard points out, it is the opposite of our home which is covered with all the stuff that your home is covered with when one of you is refurbishing a big ol' building downtown and the other one is writing a book about Leonard Pennario.

I wonder if I could go to Orchid and work. Set up a laptop.

It is nice to know it is there!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Today was Gaudete Sunday which, Gaudete means "rejoice." Technically according to old-guard Catholicism, Advent is a season of penance while you await the Savior. Gaudete Sunday is supposed to give you a break from that.

Pause for BIG laugh.

I can hardly get to the clothes in my closet for all the wine bottles around my house!

I have parties scheduled for four different days this week! They are not my parties, I mean I am not holding them, but still.

I could get righteous and say it is my wedding anniversary so I have an excuse to rejoice, thank you very much.

But the truth is:

Once on the radio I heard a guy describe the Catholic religion as "the Marine Corps of religions." So I can admit this: Normally I think for me, this religion is two steps forward, one step back. Today, I am telling you, I was thinking it is one step forward, two steps back.

Even going to the Latin Mass, here I am thinking I am taking things more seriously -- but I have found that now I can go on autopilot just the way I used to do during the ol' English language Mass. As a kid I was a loser in Latin  class but now it is as if some force has taken me over and I am able to recite whole pages of Latin from memory.

That means I can be singing the Credo: "Visibilium omnium, et invisibilium, et in unum Dominum, Jesum Christum, Filium Dei ex Patri na-a-atum... ante omnia saecula..."

With the missal forgotten on the pew behind me.

And all the while I am thinking about Leonard Pennario playing the "Minute Waltz." 

Or else I am thinking: "Look at that woman's coat.

"Why can't I have a coat like that?

Where did she get it?"

La la la la la la la.

The good news is, today we had a potluck after Mass and as I may have mentioned yesterday, I made these Spiced Apple Squares that are, and I do not know how to say this in Latin, da bomb.

The recipe is from "The Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies." They tasted all the better because I made them with the apples that those grinches did not initially want to sell me yesterday at the Clinton Bailey Market. Let me tell you this too, they were Crispin apples, my favorite.Those Crispins are so big that it took me only two apples to make this whole recipe!

Should anyone else want to make this, and I highly suggest it, I am reprinting it here. Renamed by me.


Take two sticks (1 cup) of butter. Melt the butter.

Remove from the heat and stir in:

1 1/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup normal white sugar


4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together with a wire whisk and then add:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves (this was not in The Joy's recipe but I like cloves, just something about them)

Finally you stir in:

2 1/2 cups coarsely grated peeled apple (they say 5 medium but if using Clinton-Bailey Crispins it is 2)
1 1/2 cups raisins (optional in my experience but I added them)

Spread batter (it will be yummy) in buttered 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees on middle oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes until firm and toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet. Cool. Cut into bars.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The apples of my eye

Today I promised myself apples so after my Zumba class and before going to pick up my mom, I swung by the Clinton-Bailey Market. With Christmas around the corner the market is mostly turned over to selling Christmas trees. However. However!! I was late but still I saw a few baskets of apples. They were being loaded into the Tower Farms truck.

I pulled into a parking space and leapt from my car.

"Excuse me!" I said to the women packing up the truck. "Can you take a last-minute customer?"

These girls looked at me as if, I was the last person in the world they wanted to see. Wordlessly they turned and continued packing the truck.

"Oh, please!" I said. "I need to buy a half bushel."

Those grinches looked as if they were going to ignore me. Apple farmers, I am telling you, they own the world.

Suddenly Bob Tower emerged and my problems were over. Bob Tower, the boss at Tower Farms.

"Oh, Bob, thank goodness," I said. Well, maybe I did not say "thank goodness," but trust me, it was in my voice. I explained to him what I wanted and Bob Tower custom-packed me a beautiful basket with both Crispin and Braeburn apples and maybe another kind, I cannot think what. Two Crispins have already gone into the cookies I baked for the church potluck tomorrow.

This is why it pays to be not only the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario but a regular customer of Tower Farms. I have apples whereas other people have none.

The red apple in the picture may be the Braeburn and it may be not. I have other apples that look more like the Braeburn than that one does.

But only one thing is important:

Whatever it was, it was good!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh what a beautiful morning

This is the kind of morning I love.




No storms anywhere that I knew of. Traffic moving normally. But still ...


These are not my pictures, by the way. I am shamelessly ripping them off of other people's Web logs. Instead of getting out and taking my own pictures I listened to Pennario playing the virtuosic Schulz-Evler transcription of the Blue Danube Waltz which few pianists ever attempt, let alone carry it off the way he does.


The best time of year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going green

The occupational hazard of doing Zumba dancing is you wind up with the goofy songs on the brain.

There I am today going into Mass for Immaculate Conception, and my mind is going, "She OK, she OK! She OK, she OK!"

There is a real Immaculate Conception thought! And the angel said, "She OK."

I fall victim to this kind of stuff extremely easy. Pennario had this problem too. It was easy for him to get stuff on his brain and it is easy for me too.

She's hot, she's blazin'
Everybody wants her name 'n
I got to take her home with me toni--ight

What else?

Don't want to lose no time, baby
Don't want to lose no time

I just refuse, you know? I am not going to get stupid and go around singing this stuff.

On the other hand I just got new Zumba clothes! Screaming green pants this time and a tight blue T-shirt that says "Crazy Happy."

Just one way to describe me!

She OK!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dance or die!

We now have snow and its situations.

The other day I drove through snowy downtown after work to Zumba class. I called an hour in advance to make sure the class was still on. But by the time I got there it had been canceled.

Walking into the gym in my bright blue Zumba pants I was appalled to see people busying themselves with weights and risers.

"What is this?" I asked.

The teacher apologized that Zumba had been canceled and she said, "This is Boot Camp."

I said, "That sounds strenuous." Everyone laughed.

I did not, needless to say, stay for Boot Camp. I can see why men might like that, you know, but I cannot imagine why any woman would want to pretend she is at Boot Camp. All I could think of was Lou Gossett Jr....

... yelling at me. Forget that! And having to do 50 push-ups. Ha, ha! To use my friend Gary's expression, well, THAT's not going to happen.

Back down to the locker room, change back into my skirt and tights. Into the car. Then I got on my cell phone and ascertained that there was a Zumba class in 45 minutes at the Boulevard Mall gym. So I went there. I got in my Zumba!

It is like the book on Leonard Pennario. You do not want to let it lapse for a day. Momentum is what it is all about. That is what Howard says. The only time I have missed Zumba class in recent memory was on Thanksgiving because I went to Mass. In an extreme situation like that Mass trumps Zumba. Luckily it does not usually come to that.

Yesterday I drove through the snow to Zumba.

Dance or die!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Evening with the stars

Tonight we went to Founding Fathers Pub and celebrated the release of a documentary about Buffalo broadcasting! Above is a picture of the action.

In my masterful photo you can see our friend Steve Cichon, from WBEN-AM, at the microphone interviewing radio's legendary Stan Roberts. I and my household used to listen to Stan Roberts in the mornings when I worked at Citibank, or maybe after that, who knows. All I remember is my housemate and now Facebook friend Severin and I loved him. We loved his voice and we loved how for a while they had him on with this other guy, Stan Boschansik. I have no idea if I am spelling that right.

They were always saying, "Well, Stan..." to each other. We laughed and laughed.

The things that amused us back then!

It was exciting that Stan Roberts showed up at Founding Fathers because now he lives in Florida. Facebook friend and radio and TV biggie Al Wallack was also there. So was Dale Anderson from the paper, writing a story. Stan Roberts sat with him.

And when the documentary was not showing the TV screen switched to WNED. That is my Facebook friend Doris Jones, another television legend, on the screen, on the left!

Anyway, good times, talking about radio, which ranks right behind Leonard Pennario among things I like to talk about. It is whispered that our friend Shane, Brother Shane, is going to be inducted next year into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Dignum et justum est, as we say at Mass. That means, "It is right and just."

Here is a picture Howard took of Shane and me.

Ha, ha! I love how Shane's socks are glowing white. That picture was taken at Big Blue.

I like myself when I am in conversation with broadcasting legends!

OK, now I am going to bed.

Enough name dropping for one day!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's a crock

In an effort to streamline my life and be able to devote more time to Leonard Pennario I have been trying to use the Crock Pot more. A while ago I shelled out on Amazon for this book called "Not Your Mother's Crock Pot Cookbook." Because I hate those old recipes you are always running across, with 10 cans of this and that. And dry onion soup mix. What is with that dry onion soup mix? I have never even seen it.

It sounds like something that would have the Shur-Fine label, though, I will say that.

Anyway. This morning waiting for the coffee to brew I am looking through "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook." The recipe the book opened to was "Chili Casserole."

The book is not before me at the moment because, well, what happened was, I threw it across the room. But I can recite what was in this thing.

Three cans of chili. That's right, ready-made canned chili. One can of olives. Two cups of grated cheese.

And a half a big bag of nacho chips, crushed.

"Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook," my foot.

How about "Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook"?

That does sound like a recipe my mother would love.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grin and beer it

Today's paper has a fascinating story by my colleague Andrew Galarneau about Buffalo being a beer tourism town. That is a phrase I love, beer tourism!

I also like the phrase "craft beer."

And "Trappist ale."

The story also makes mention of, ahem, "Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Brewers Reserve Grand Cru."

Where do I stop? I could go on like this all day. By the way, is that not a beautiful beer picture up above? I cribbed the picture off the Web log of this great beer brewing company, KegWorks, that I just discovered. The picture was taken at the Buffalo beer bar Blue Monk which I guess is busy, busy, busy, packed all the time. That is why I have not gone there yet. I am too busy with Leonard Pennario to spend time waiting in beer lines. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Andrew's story is about how all the Canadians have to come down to Buffalo to find decent beer. The story paints a chilling picture of socialism in action when it talks about the beer situation in Ontario. The rules and regulations are such so that small beer brewers cannot break into the market. Their beer up there can be sold in only two outlets: the government, or the Beer Store, which is owned by three major beer companies. Lots of luck getting in there.

What is their government doing in the beer business, anyway? This is what happens when you let government run your business. Your choices disappear.

Learn from this, America!

I am grateful to this story because it knocked Pennario out of my head. Normally I get up early and work away at the book and it is hard to switch beers when it is time to turn to other work. Did I write "switch beers"? I meant switch gears.

This story did the trick!

Unfortunately it also left me craving a beer, at this unholy hour.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I have read, and what I have failed to read

My Facebook friend Meg sent me this list going around of 100 books. You are supposed to put in bold all the books that you have read completely and put in italics all the books you read part of.

The books listed just in normal type, those are the ones you never bothered even to open!

In many cases I had not even heard of the books.

I am pasting the list below with my, ahem, erudite comments. I counted up how many I had read and I think it was 39. I don't know, I counted it three times and got three different answers.

One thing though that bugs me, and has for a long time: Why do books matter so much in life, we are always obsessing about what we have read and not read, but music does not seem to matter?

How many of the eggheads who made up this list know "Don Giovanni"?

How many of them know who Leonard Pennario was? Had to throw that in.

Everyone knows all about the great books but no one knows anything about the great music. Music is not like books, is I guess one reason it gets short shrift. It is not, OK, been there, done that. Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony, you do not just cross it off your list and say, that's done.

And it is not fair, the way life goes when it comes to music. I got into music as a kid and, I mean, it takes up a lot of your time. And it did not take me long to realize that here I was listening -- and really learning, I mean getting them in my head -- all these symphonies and operas and string quartets and quintets and whatever, and it was doing me absolutely no good in school.

Here I was, I knew every word to Schubert's "Die Schoene Mullerin" by heart -- every song, every word, in German -- and I was flunking music. I am serious, I almost flunked music one year at Sacred Heart.

On my job now, it is not as if I am this Pollyanna but sometimes I blink and think, I cannot believe I have found some line of work that actually makes use of this knowledge. Who would ever have guessed? Not I, I will tell you that right now.

OK, enough wailing and howling and carrying on. My books, my opinionated comments:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen. 
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman. What, they're telling me I should read this Satanic book?

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller 
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk. I have not only never read this, I have never heard of it!
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger. I should read this, being something of a time traveler myself.

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell. 
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh. I have always wanted to read this because of its Catholic themes and when I am through with my book I will.

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll  This never knocked me over the head the way it did other people but I read it. I like the Disney song.

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy. I read part of this but I think it should count as reading the whole thing because the part of it I read, I read when I was drunk in a hotel room.
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis. Isn't this part of the Narnia chronicle? Why is it listed separately?

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. Pennario and I saw the movie but no, I never read the book.

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving. Lots of people I admire love this but I could not get into it, just couldn't.
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins. Who?

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood. I find her the most boring writer, I'm sorry. Bleak, boring.
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding 

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan. Saw this movie with Pennario too. 

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen . I guess I really did the Jane Austen thing. "Emma" was the one I liked best.
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens . Another book I want to read when mine is done. 

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Saw this movie very memorably with Leonard.

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas Loved this swashbuckling stuff when I was a kid.

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac. Overrated.
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding . I admire this woman's success with this. I could not see reading this whole thing but parts of it made me laugh out loud.
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville . My dad was an English teacher and said this was the most boring book ever.

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker LOVED this when I was a kid. Plus Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson BurnettI still think of this book all the time.
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath. Depressing because you can't help thinking how bad it all turned out. She strikes me as a weak and depressing person. She may be a good writer but I would not cross the street to read anything by her.

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray. My dad loved this book and I trust his judgment. I keep the copy he signed to me in my nightstand. I would like to finish this. I have tried but life always got in the way. One day I will.

80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. How can anyone not have read this? Come on.
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazu Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom. I picked this up in a bookstore and read enough of it so I remember it. It seemed like a real weeper!

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My dad read these to us. Every single story.We loved all of them.  "A Study in Scarlet" is really creepy.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (in English and French) I figure I read this whole silly book somewhere between French class and all the girls at Sacred Heart doing readings from it at Mass.

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams. This was my friend Anne's favorite book in high school and I promised her I would read it but I never have. I think it is about rabbits.

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl. A great book, in a different way from the movie.

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. But I can sing "Bring Him Home"! Does that count?