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?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hungry, hungry hippo

One thing good about Thanksgiving being behind us is, I get back to my normal eating.

I have gotten used to eating all the time!

This is a true story. On Friday, I went to see "Amahl and the Night Visitors," which, you can read my immortal thoughts on the production here. After the opera, my sister, my nieces Rosie and Millie, my little nephew Georgie, and I went across the street to the Yummy Thai. That is a restaurant name I love! And we drank jasmine tea and had this huge Thai meal. Noodles, rice, the works. Bok choy. That is a vegetable name I love!

Anyway. I get home after that gigantic meal and the first thing I do is open the fridge.

Thinking: What's next for me?

You get into that mindset!

It gets worse. On Saturday I went with my brother George to sign copies of my dad's book at the Historical Society. There were these Hershey's Kisses on the table and what the heck. Normally I would never dig into Hershey's Kisses. I know better! But now there was no stopping me.

It is like when I was with Leonard Pennario and he got me eating sundaes. That was one thing I was thinking about yesterday while I was putting in a marathon book session.

I wondered then as I wonder now...

How do I get back to my normal life?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rock that refrigerator

When Thanksgiving dinner was over and the family left, around 10:30 p.m., I had to do the cleanup. The best way to deal with something like this is simply to settle in and figure you will be there a while. So I did that.

I put on this new disc I had of William Backhaus playing Beethoven sonatas.

I poured a tiny (she said piously) snifter of Southern Comfort.

And I went to work.

Howard went to bed. I worked placidly on, sipping my Southern Comfort, listening to the Beethoven. It was good for me. I had enjoyed Thanksgiving, I really had, but it had made me hyper. People underestimate Beethoven's soothing effects. I do not mean it makes you sleepy or anything. But if your mind is jangled Beethoven can set it straight.

I finally finished up around 1:30 a.m. It was worth it!

Because that fridge, pictured above, have you ever seen anything like it?

What a fridge-packing job I did!

I know great art when I see it so forgive me if I take time to point out that I am the Leonard Pennario of fridge packing. Were there an audience I would have taken 12 curtain calls.

My crowning glory was how at the last minute I was able to rearrange things to fit in the carrot cake, shown in the center with the birthday candles my brother Tony ran and got at Wilson Farms. My mother had made the carrot cake for my brother George and my sister Katie's birthdays which were both this week. At the last minute I remembered the cake. And I thought, oh, I can not do this. I can not fit this in.

But I did!

The leftover turkey is on the top shelf over the cheese drawer. One secret of fridge packing is you take the leftover turkey off the bones and put the bones in the Crock Pot. No muss, no fuss. By morning you have turkey broth.

It is Friday so I have not eaten the leftover turkey yet. That all works out. Tomorrow I will be ready for it again.

Meanwhile, I can sit back and admire my handiwork.

It is immortal!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey in the sink

Here it is just Wednesday and already we have had our first Thanksgiving turkey crisis.

Thanks for that goes to my friend Lizzie. Lizzie and I have been friends since I was 16. She is now a prison guard in the Finger Lakes but when she is not there she lives in the Town of Tonawanda. On the same street that Howard grew up on! Is this a small town or what?

Lizzie called me last night in a panic. Apparently it was her niece's job to pick up one of those 38-cents-a-pound turkeys and deliver it to her house. The niece had done that, a few days before. However! The niece had not put the turkey in the fridge. She had left it in the sink.

So there the turkey had sat, for 48 hours.

Me, I would have been torn about what to do. I mean, that big ol' turkey is a big ol' block of ice when you buy it. I would imagine it would be OK for a while. But Lizzie being a prison guard is a no-nonsense type and so tossed the turkey and bought a new one.

As we have delineated before, to get that 38-cent a pound deal you have to spend $25 on other stuff. So she did that. Now she was on the phone raging about it. Her niece is brilliant, just graduated from some big military academy, West Point or something. Her niece is no dummy. What was her niece thinking?

Secretly I was thinking, that sounds like something I would do, leave a turkey in the sink and forget about it.

So I tried to soothe Lizzie. You did not waste $30, I reasoned with her. You wasted $5. That is what the turkey cost. The other $30 went on other food. Stuff you will use.

"Thanks," she said finally. "I feel better."

That is what we are here for!

To talk about two things, Leonard Pennario and turkey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I love my mom but she can get on my nerves, you know? It is funny how your mother knows how to get you. Even when she does not mean to get you.

That is supposed to be a picture above of a mother and daughter but it is not us, I will tell you that right now!

I was in a good mood heading over to my mom's because I had finished this story at work and then I had gone to hip-hop Zumba class and had a great time. But then I start telling my mom about my nieces, Rosie and Millie, coming over the other day. I was bragging about the fun we had baking and how they organized my vinyl records.

My mother said, "You know, this is time well spent."

"I know," I said happily. "It was fun seeing them. Plus who would have guessed I would have my records organized? All of a sudden I am enjoying what I have."

My mother said, "That's not what I mean."

Then she told me that I do not have any kids I would need my nieces to look after me in my old age!

Excuse me, could we just not talk about my old age?

It is not exactly a pick-me-upper!

Also I do not need it pointed out to me that I do not have kids. Which is fine with me, to be honest. It is why I get to go around devoting my attention to things like Schubert and Leonard Pennario and Zumba and Confession and how to cook a kohlrabi.

But what killed me was here I was enjoying my nieces' visit, and now my mother made it sound all mercenary. Here, Rosie and Millie, if you will look after me in my old age, you can bake pumpkin cookies with me.

Hmmm. The good news is, those pumpkin cookies are downstairs.

Comfort food!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A turkey of a day

Sunday was the last day you could buy turkeys at 39 cents a pound before Thanksgiving. Son of a pumpkin-roasting sea cook, I almost missed it! I had forgotten how close we are getting to the big day.

I rushed out and bought those turkeys, yes sirree.

That is correct, turkeys, plural. I bought two. One from Tops and one from Wegmans. Venturing into Wegmans on a Sunday is not easy because it is such a zoo but I did it.

I have found the secret to calm grocery shopping. I have figured out something that keeps me smiling the whole time I am in the store. No, it is not Leonard Pennario on the iPod, although if worse came to worst, it is there.

My secret is: I wear my Zumba clothes!

I went to church in the morning and came home and changed into my Zumba clothes and went to the gym. And when I came out of the gym I went shopping in them, my bright teal blue Zumba pants. It is just impossible to be in a crabby mood when you are walking around in bright blue Zumba pants, I am sorry.

I mean look. They are the exact pants pictured above! I had on a pink sweatshirt over my screaming yellow Zumba top but still.

At no time did any of my fellow shoppers in Tops or Wegmans comment on my Zumba pants. But a lot of people smiled at me. I think it was because I was smiling at them.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself and came home with a 21-pound turkey and a 22-pound turkey.

Rejoice with me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Over the river and through the woods

My nieces were over to bake today. It was our pre-Thanksgiving baking session! To be followed by our pre-Christmas baking session, perhaps two of them, if we get fancy.

Today we made pumpkin shortbread bars. Should you wish to make them, they are delicious. The only thing, we found the shortbread did not quite reach to cover the 9-by-12 pan. Either that or the pan we used was too big. In any event we wound up doubling the recipe and making it in an oblong pan and a pie tin. We, ahem, have already eaten the cookies that were in the pie tin.

After that we got to organizing my records. My nieces, Rosie and Millie, are fascinated by records. Millie wants a record player. We put all the records in piles such as piano, orchestra, chorus, classical singers, jazz singers, Christmas, and lounge music such as the Melachrino Strings.

Millie learned how to work my 1950s record player and we listened to her favorite musical, "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

By the end of the session the girls knew that Pavarotti was a famous tenor and to be cool and they were saying Nat Cole instead of Nat "King" Cole. They had also developed an appreciation for the vintage lounge album covers I love. Such as the Capitol Christmas album pictured above. And this one, Nat Cole's "Where did Everyone Go?"

Also they had learned to put Leonard Pennario in a category all his own. Rosie even pronounced his name right! I could not get over that.

I find I am already in that holiday frame of mind. I knew when this morning before I went to Zumba, I was at the stove making chili for when the girls got here. You know it is the holidays when you are cooking at weird hours. The chili beans cooked overnight and now I was cooking the onions and peppers, etc.

You also know it is the holidays when you are drinking a glass of wine at  noon or 1 p.m. because, well, whatever. I did not do that today, truth to tell, but I will, before the week is out.

Also it is the holidays when the four basic food groups are sweets, alcohol, nuts and cheeses.

When you find yourself going to Mass all the time.

When you have to worry about when the supermarkets will be crowded.

And whether the gym is holding your class.

There are suddenly all kinds of concerts. Well, there are always all kinds of concerts.

Anyway it is the holidays now.

We are getting into the thick of it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

AM Buffalo

My life has become so dramatic!

Yesterday on the way in to work I was driving down the 190 South, which I think of as the Carl Paladino Expressway because he got the tolls taken away, thus permitting me to drive it. When it used to cost 50 cents each way I was too cheap. But now that it is free I drive it!  I like driving down by the river in the morning. You see crew teams rowing. You note whether the bridge is up or down. Sometimes a barge is passing by.

You also get to see the Peace Bridge, pictured above. I love the Peace Bridge!

Yesterday morning I had passed the Peace Bridge and rounded the bend toward downtown Buffalo when I saw that a couple of cop cars had pulled a guy over. The lights were flashing.

Not only that, but the guy was bent over the car with his hands in handcuffs!

How often do you see that?

I am afraid I slowed down like a good Buffalonian to get a good look. I even turned down my car stereo! I had on Leonard Pennario playing Gottschalk. My friend Gary points out that in Buffalo we all have to slow down and pay attention when we see trouble by the side of the road. You always have to slow down to see what happened, who the person is, and if you know him. This guy, I did not know him.

But I did know someone else I saw by the side of the road!

That was a bit earlier when I had to take Howard to D&G Welding in Black Rock to pick up his truck. His truck was getting some kind of pull thing on it, so it can haul things. That is how I understand it anyway.

We were going down Hertel on that grungy stretch past the post office and we beheld a figure on the left, pushing a shopping cart.


It was Howard's cousin Ron Moss.

Howard acted fast. He rolled down the window and yelled "Moss, you @W#$(*&!" Moss turned and he had his cat stance on, ready for a fight. He yelled something back.


Drama, in the morning.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Author, author!

My Facebook friend Norman Lebrecht is in town! Well, he was anyway, for one brief shining day. He gave a talk about his new book, "Why Mahler?" at UB yesterday and he gave another talk after that at Denton, Cottier and Daniels, the historic, world-renowned piano store.

This morning Norman and his wife, Elbie, took off this morning from our beauteous Buffalo airport, bound for Yale where he is to deliver more lectures. All I can say is, Yale is going to hate UB after this.

Because we took him out last night and wasted him!

That is Norman in the picture above at right, with his wife, Elbie, and my friend Phil from UB. It is too bad I did not get a picture of Mr. Lebrecht in his hat. He wore a very snappy British hat. They are from London. Not only is Norman a renowned author but Elbie runs a fascinating online picture archive the pride of which is a pair of classic shots of Leonard Pennario.

We went last night to Trattoria Aroma where we ate until we could eat no more. Elbie was falling asleep with her head in her pasta. I did not fall asleep! I was too busy eating twice my weight in cheese. Meanwhile Phil kept pouring us more red wine. It was definitely a red wine evening. Well, is there any other kind?

Yes, occasionally there is a beer evening. We had that the night before at Founding Fathers, where else? We had fun with Facebook friend Norman, that is for sure.

Today he is going to be sitting there at Yale going, "Uh, what was I here to talk about?

"Where's Mary? Where's Howard? Where's Phil?

"New Haven, Schmoo Haven! What is this stuffy place?"

Here is a picture from last night that shows me.

And here is one that shows Howard. This shot is from later in the evening. It is a Victorian picture which means nobody smiles.

Norman's talks were beautiful. Several people came up to me and said they would never forget this evening, listening to him. One woman at Denton's told me about a concert she had been to in Europe 30 years ago and had never forgotten. She said this was like that.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


I went to the Clinton-Bailey Market with my friend Lizzie.

What a mistake that was!

Lizzie did not discourage me when I expressed a desire for one of those huge snowy white cauliflowers even though I already had one at home. Alertly she spotted a deal for two five-pounds bags of carrots, both for $3 or something. End result as we say here in Buffalo, enough carrots and cauliflower to sink a ship.

We both bought half bushels of Golden Delicious apples for $4 a half bushel.

We split a half bushel of squash from Ebenezer Farms and had them split it so each half was part buttercup squash and part acorn squash.

And to top it off:

There was a bushel -- a whole bushel, NOT a half -- of use 'em or lose 'em butternut squash. And Lizzie did not stop me from buying it!

I had to go home and roast all this squash immediately. My whole oven was filled up with squash. Liz only took maybe three or four of them. Howard and I ate squash yesterday and today. Yesterday it was squash cubed and braised with greens. Today it was a squash and cheese souffle. It did not rise the way it was supposed to but it was yummy anyway. If anyone else tries the recipe, let me know if you get it to rise.

This is Squashville! This is the clearinghouse for all things squash.

After buying that squash I went to two estate sales with my mom in Clarence and one of them yielded Pennario's Tchaikovsky record which I did not have. So, score!!

Something I could listen to while I chopped up that squash.

Remind me, someone, next time I go to the market, not to bring Lizzie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Backwards Friday

I had a funny upside-down day! This morning I went to Kleinhans Music Hall to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic play Gershwin. Gershwin is night music and I am used to being in Kleinhans at night. And once you go in it is like being in a casino, with no windows or clocks.

The ushers always tease me when I go to these morning concerts, called Coffee Concerts. Because I always forget it is not night! Invariably I slip and say, "Good evening," to someone. The ushers tease me that next thing you know I will be looking around for the bar! Hey, never say never.

I kept thinking of Leonard Pennario because he owned these pieces, "Rhapsody in Blue" and the "I Got Rhythm" Variations.

After that I had to rush to the office and write up the concert. You would think that because it is in the morning I would have more than half an hour to write it, you know? But that is not the way the kohlrabi crumbles.

Before I knew it, it was time to go out into the beautiful day and go to Zumba class. I wore the loudest and most obnoxious colors I could think of, bright yellow top and hot pink pants. Just like the girl in the picture up above, only upside-down. As I said this was an upside-down day!

Zumba class was fun. The first dance we did after the warmup was "La Patilla." That is my number! I own it the way Pennario owned the "Rhapsody in Blue." I am great at the dances requiring simple brute strength. I found this video of "La Patilla" here which is like the version we did today. At the downtown gym we do a more taxing and down-and-dirty version which mean I am even better at it.

It is funny how in that video everyone is skinny. Here in Buffalo at our Zumba classes we are all sizes.

Back to my weird day. At the end of Zumba class the teacher, Eileen, never dismissed us. She just turned around and silently started putting her things away.

All of us stood there waiting for her to turn and tell us goodbye.

But she never did!

Eventually we all drifted out, awkwardly. On the way into the locker room this other girl says to me, "Doesn't she usually tell us we look lovely, or something?"

That is true! The teacher usually says, "Thank you, lovely ladies."

I said, "Yes, I was waiting to be told I look lovely!" We all kind of looked at each other in confusion. Something was just not right!

On the other hand I will say this:

It was the perfect touch to an upside-down day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The attack of the monster vegetables

I have had mixed luck this week with two ponderous vegetables, the Rutabaga ...

... and the Kohlrabi.

Keep in mind that these pictures, cribbed from the Internet, are no substitute for the real thing, I mean the specimens I actually purchased. I bought my rutabaga and kohlrabi last weekend at the Clinton-Bailey Market. The kohlrabi needed its own shelf in the fridge. The rutabaga was almost a foot wide. Howard was so impressed by it he photographed it sitting on the kitchen counter. I will have to find his photograph and run it so you see what I mean.

Normally I am the master of creations such as these.

It is just that this week I did not have much time. I was getting up early to enter the beautiful and labyrinthine world of Leonard Pennario. Emerging from that world I would have to head for the office. In between were Zumba and my mom, which left only a few minutes, alas, for Mssrs. Kohlrabi and Rutabaga.

I love to roast vegetables and I found directions on how to roast the two vegetables. But the wedges just did not soften up right. I do not know what happened.

On the plus side, I used part of the rutabaga to make Himmel und Erde. That is German for "Heaven and Earth." You take rutabaga and potatoes and apples "in any proportion" -- that is how "The Joy of Cooking" puts it -- and cook them and mash them up together. Yum! It is called Heaven and Earth because the roots come from the ground and the apples come from the sky. This dish came out great. It always does.

I did roast some kohlrabi wedges with chicken pieces. They came out well. But they wound up doused in chicken fat. I mean, what's not to love?

Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, I did have about a 50 percent success rate.

Saturday I will have to go back to the market and buy another rutabaga and another kohlrabi. Perhaps even bigger than the ones I got last time.

I will get this right!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zumba and confession

Yesterday in Zumba class there was someone who was new and I was encouraging her. I told her how the first class I took, all I did was laugh. That is the truth!

It is funny in Zumba class how the teacher usually asks first thing if anyone is new. Usually a couple of hands go up. And we make a fuss over these people.

Whereas with me, no one made a fuss over me because I came into my first class in the middle of class. I found a space on the floor and tried to follow along the best I could. The part where they ask if anyone is new, I missed that part.

I have been thinking, it is just like Confession. I have been writing the last couple of days about Confession. Only I could draw a parallel between Confession and Zumba. Hahahahaha! But there is one!

When I was in grade school I had this problem, I was taken out of kindergarten because my dad had taught me to read. They took me out of kindergarten and put me into first grade.

As a result of this I had missed First Confession. Every other kid in my grade had made a First Confession. But not me!

End result, as we say here in Buffalo: Every month all my classmates went to Confession and I just sat there. Because I had not made my First Confession. I would hear them all rehearsing for it and getting ready but I did not have to go.

This went on for several months, a year, who knows.

Finally one day our class was herded over into church as usual to go to Confession. And all the other kids went. And there I am still sitting there in the pew, as usual. And this nun, our teacher, walked up to me.

"You go too," she said.

"But I haven't made my First Confession," I began explaining.

"Just go," she said. "You know what to do."

"But --"


I was shocked. I stood up. There was no getting out of it. I got in line. My turn came. I walked into the booth and the window slid open. I knelt down. I said, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." I had heard the class rehearsing that. After that is when you say how long it has been since your last Confession. And of course I had never been before. So I whispered, "This is my first Confession."

What I confessed, I have no idea. What I do remember is that the priest made no big deal out of it at all. He just walked me through it. That was my first Confession. No fanfare, no nothing.

Now I look back and think, God love these people. I do not know if now they would be able to get away with doing what they did then, which was just what needed to be done. That nun knew exactly what was going on. I would have sat there forever, never going to confession. I would still be sitting there today!

So she made the call. "You go." Then the priest takes it from there. No biggie, this little girl walking in and saying it is her first Confession. Just do it, you know?

They were right!

All the same, it cracks me up. I remember that and think, this has been my life.

I never went to journalism school and here it is my job. I had never written a book before and there I was telling Leonard Pennario I would do it. I had never been to Zumba class before and I just walked in and started doing it.

No muss, no fuss. And I think it is a good lesson.

Learn by doing!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adventure in the confessional

The good news is, I have earned my Plenary Indulgence! Judging from my mother it is worth it. It negates all the time I would have spent in Purgatory for all my sins. Well, something like that.

More importantly it brought me back to Confession.

I am ashamed to admit this but I had not been to Confession in a very long time. This after going back after all those years and then carrying on so many times about how much my faith means to me. Blah, blah, blah. That was me! Because all this time, I was not going to Confession. That is what working on a book about Leonard Pennario will do to you. It takes up your whole life.

So today there I am, back at St. Michael's. I kneel there for a while, trying to get my thoughts together. Finally I get up and wait for a confessional to open up. Eventually one does. It took a while.

Right away I got off on the wrong foot!

I pushed aside the blue curtain, stepped inside, and the priest is already talking. "How long has it been since your last Confession?" he was asking.

Was he talking to me? I hesitated there in the dark.

"Are you there?" he asks.

I knelt down hastily. "Yes," I said.

"How long since your last Confession?"

Why did he have to ask that question?

"Well, it's been a year, I think," I said. "I may have--"

"You don't have to talk so loud," the priest goes. "I can hear perfectly well. There is nothing wrong with my hearing."

"I didn't think I was talking loud," I argued.

"I'm saying this for your sake, not mine," he says.

"Well, I--"

"If you just whisper I can hear you."

I swear, this kind of thing happens only to me. Everyone else, they go to Confession without incident. I am the lucky one.

Eventually this priest and I, we make our peace with each other, and we talk. The gist of it is this. I am supposed to see him again in a month. Well, not necessarily him. But I am supposed to go back to Confession in a month, is what he told me.

Confession for me is kind of like the chiropractor. Sometimes they even use that word "alignment." The deal is, I have to go back every month for a while until I get myself back in alignment with God. After that, the priest told me today, I can think about tapering it off to once every three months. But for now, they want to see me once a month. And I have to work on this, this and this, and especially, uh, this.

But all that really mattered was, my sins were forgiven. It is great to hear that! Confession, I am telling you, it is the greatest sacrament. You never know exactly what will happen once you get in there.One thing you can count on, though: You will leave feeling good.

So I went and posted on Facebook: "Back from Confession. All is forgiven." And I get this comment from my friend Airborne Eddy:

"Wow, I was wondering where you've been for the last few weeks. Where did you find a Priest with that much time on his hands???"


Lucky for me, the Jesuits are patient.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back into the booth

Son of a sea cook, those chocolate chip cookies yesterday, they turned out great! In spite of my leaving out the egg until the last minute. I could not stop eating them! Neither could Howard.

I will have the sin of gluttony to confess to when I go next to Confession.

Which, according to my calculations that will be tomorrow. Up above is a painting of me tomorrow, going to Confession! I am the girl in the pink dress.

I am way behind with my Confessions but I have to go tomorrow if I am to get my Plenary Indulgence.

I read somewhere that you get a Plenary Indulgence if you go to Mass on All Souls Day, which is optional, to pray for the souls in Purgatory, in addition to going to Confession within one (1) week. I did go to All Souls Day Mass last week and now all I need is Confession to seal the deal. I meant to go last weekend but I got thinking about Leonard Pennario and I forgot. But the good news is, there is one more day I can go and that is tomorrow! It's not over until it's over as we say at Bills games here in Buffalo.

The big question of course is: What exactly is a Plenary Indulgence?

You can read about it here if you are interested and, who would not be? I will tell you this, it sounds like something I could use.

The intricacies of it are a bit much but I interpret it to mean, sometime in the afterlife things will go easier for me and for my friends. I am determined to do it! It is funny because it is as if suddenly the 12th century encroaches on your life. People in the 12th century were preoccupied with Plenary Indulgences and so am I.

So, tomorrow, watch out for me, St. Michael's, because I am coming in!

Confessing my sin of gluttony.

Claiming my Plenary Indulgence!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The cookie monster

Tonight I am baking cookies! I can't believe I am doing this.

I can not remember the last time I baked cookies!

Well, there was the last time my nieces came over to do baking with me. That must have been the last time! But this is the first time in forever I am baking cookies on my own. I think the last time I baked cookies on my own I was 12.

I am baking cookies because Howard likes a treat, candy or something, after dinner. It is funny, the things men demand, you know? We have been working our way through chocolate bars from Germany and Austria that I buy at Albrecht Discount but I began thinking, as long as we are eating just a little bit every day, why not bake cookies instead? Howard could have two. And I could have one.

It will not kill us with all the exercise we are getting.

Anyway. A few weeks ago I make this decision. Since then it has been this kind of stealth thing. One day while I was shopping for my mom I bought a bag of...

... chocolate chips. Twelve ounces. I took it home and stashed it in the cupboard in a plastic bag. That was step one.

Step Two was I thought for a period of weeks about baking these cookies.

Step Three was I looked in my Betty Crocker Cooky Cookbook that was a present from my sister Margie and I found a recipe from 1935 for Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Step Four was tonight after I got home from Viva Vivaldi and wrote the review and got it in on deadline, I actually checked to see if I had all the ingredients. I did!

Researching Leonard Pennario is a snap next to this, let me tell you! But I got my act together and threw these  cookies together and they are in the oven now. Well, one thing I did wrong was I forgot the egg. I thought the dough was kind of floury and that was when I realized I had left it out. I threw in the egg then and mixed it all up.

I will keep my fingers crossed!