What with all the other exciting things going on I forgot to say how I celebrated Black Friday. TGIBF! That is what Howard wrote on Facebook that day.
I went record shopping!
I spent $20 for 40 records. Something like that. The records at Goodwill are 50 cents each.
It is a funny thing about records. My record player and records make me feel so hip. One thing is, my nieces were over on Thanksgiving. One of them is 15 and the other is I think 11. They are the prettiest and most stylish little girls in the world but all they care about at my house is the record player.
They have organized all my records and they go and select a few of them and they want to play them. Then I have to coach them through getting the temperamental record player going. It is a challenge sometimes but that is part of the fun. And the thing always does work.
... but now it is in a new location in the living room where we can all get at it better.
The nieces went and found a stack of Christmas records. They chose one of the Firestone records, with Julie Andrew. And the classic Sinatra Christmas album. And the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas.
After that I got to appreciating my record player all over again and later on, as I was doing the dishes, I played Placido Domingo's '80s era Christmas album. One side is really good, with "O Holy Night" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas." My dad used to say about Lauritz Melchior singing show tunes, "He sounded as if he could eat the song." That is what Placido Domingo sounds like in "I'll Be Home For Christmas." These Wagnerian tenors! I am telling you.
Now we are all on a vinyl kick. My mother made me move her record player so she could get at it better. We put it on a table by the window.
My friend Michelle came over and we drank wine and listened to Carmen Dragon's great Capitol Records Christmas album.
Then we opened another bottle and listened to the Roger Wagner Chorale.
The Roger Wagner Chorale rocked!
I know I am jumping the gun on Christmas music by the whole of Advent but sometimes that cannot be helped.
Now Michelle wants a record player. We are going to look around and find her a dandy one. Except Howard says it will be difficult because no matter which one we find we will want to keep it. Plus I will have to find her extra copies of the Carmen Dragon and Roger Wagner Chorale Christmas albums.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent which means it is the day the Catholic Church switched over to its new translation of the English language Mass that is closer to the Latin. I went to the Tridentine Mass I usually go to, so it did not directly impact me. But I have to say, I am hooked on the drama!
I was reading stories about the switch. The best is this woman in Milwaukee quoted in the Associated Press story -- naturally they found someone like her -- saying, "I'm not going to learn the damn prayers."
I like how after you receive Communion you say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but say but the word and my soul shall be healed." That is what the Roman centurion said to Christ, the centurion whose servant was dying. An even bigger thrill is to say it in Latin, the language the centurion would have used. But I will not go there.
Naturally I love "and with your spirit" instead of that vanilla "And also with you."
And this is cool. In the Gloria, they restored that line that goes, "We give You thanks for Your great glory." I wrote right here on this Web log that I loved that line and it was too bad it was gone. Now it is back! Does that show the clout I wield with the Vatican or what?
Wow, reading that post, I cannot believe it. I had no discipline at all, frittering away my whole morning! I am much more disciplined now. That Leonard Pennario book is coming along nicely now, thank you very much.
Anyway, back to the new translation. I like those poetic lines. I remember them from when I was very little, when the Mass was in English but it was in a more formal translation.
Reading through the new translation, though, I am disappointed that so much is unchanged.
There are also all these options. You use this version of a prayer OR that version OR another version. Why all these options? One thing I like about the Mass I go to, the Mass in Latin, it just goes. No choices to make. It is like a train, you get on it and it rolls along the tracks. I like that.
Small as the change is, though, it is great it is getting all this ink.
Even though the writers in general seem to have a dim grasp of Roman Catholicism.
Even though the comment section invariably descends pretty quickly into: "What about the pedophilia? Are they going to stop that?" and "I got away from the Catholic Church years ago blah blah blah."
These people, they think they are being all original, you know? You just want to shake them.
That woman in Milwaukee, at least she was original.
Today I made it to Zumba class plus I made two (2) pumpkin pies. Good thing I went to Zumba, you know? If you are going to make pie it is best to exercise.
I would take a picture of the pies except you know what, we ordinary mortals cannot take food pictures and have them look good. It seems I am always searching for recipes on the Internet and I wind up on other people's Web logs and they always have pictures of their food and it always looks gross. People who are not professionals just cannot take pictures of food, I am sorry.
So, no pictures of my pies. But they look yummy! They look pretty much like the picture above. Except the crusts on my pies are more creative and homemade-looking.
For some reason the crusts mixed up really well and rolled out really smoothly.
Speaking of which, today Howard and I stopped by the Hyatt to say hi to Jocko and we ran into our friend Joey Giambra and he let me talk about Leonard Pennario for, I want to say an hour. A long time!
I told Joey Giambra I could not wait until my book was in print so I could tour the country and talk about Pennario.
Meanwhile there is Thanksgiving tomorrow. The two (2) pumpkin pies are made, if not photographed. Two (2) dressings for the turkey are also made. One is with dried bread that my brother George brought me. It was his gift! And I used it wisely. The other is with brown rice and walnuts.
I am off to a good start, I think -- compared with other years.
Ha, ha! I was thinking of this, there was one year I was so panicked that the Martha Stewart Everyday Food issue was lying on the counter and all I did was turn the pages and make the recipes. I just had not planned one bit. Now it was Thanksgiving Day and I had no plan and so I just kept turning the pages. "OK, what's next," I remember saying to myself. I think I made the whole menu!
Things will not be that bad this year ... I think.
"Stir-Up Sunday" is the last Sunday before Advent starts. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. It gets its name because of the "Collect" prayer you say at the beginning, which on this particular Sunday starts with the words "stir up." The prayer starts out: "Excita, quaesumus, Domine," which means "Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord..."
It became customary over the centuries to take your cue from this prayer and stir up your Christmas pudding!
You would mix it up and then it would mellow with brandy or whatever until Christmas.
In response to "Stir-Up Sunday" I would like to make fruitcakes. They are not the yuchy desserts everyone thinks they are. Fruitcakes are yummy!
I did them a few years ago and even the little nieces and nephews were jockeying for extra slices. That was before I got involved with Leonard Pennario so I had time back then. I even made my own candied citrus peel, imagine that!
I do not know if I will be able to micromanage my fruitcakes to such an extent this year. But I should be able to toss one or two together. It is fun because you bake it and then douse it in brandy or some other liquor every week until Christmas. That is an adventure! I remember going down in the cellar to douse these fruitcakes and saying, "I'll believe this when I see it."
Well, it worked!
What got me baking those fruitcakes was, they showed up in Martha Stewart magazine, which in turn showed up on my doorstep. There were two that I made. One was the Dowager Duchess fruitcake. I loved that one! If you try only one fruitcake do that one. It is a pale gold with lemon and orange peel.
The other fruitcake I made I cannot for the life of me remember. Well, that must mean it was good!
I was not there for when he arrived but my brother George was. Apparently the chimney guy was really taciturn. George said "Hi, I'm George." And the chimney guy said nothing!
George said: "And you are?"
The chimney guy paused and then said: "Howard."
His name was Howard! After that, as I understand it, my mother looked at him and said: "But you aren't wearing a black hat."
That is the name of the company, Black Hat.
Howard just walked into the house saying nothing. He did not get much of a kick out of my mother's joke.
He was not like the chimney sweeps at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
Burt would have laughed at my mother's joke!
But Howard, he was efficient. Darned if he did not go into the back room and fix the stove. He was still there working on it when I got there. I think he worked on it a couple of hours, in complete silence.
After he got it up and running my mother charmed him into looking at the gas fireplace and he fixed that too. Then, gallantly, he said he did nothing, that it was working all along.
Thank you, chimney sweep Howard!
My mother and I went to two estate sales in celebration.
No Leonard Pennario record. No records at all, zut alors. But I did nail a big book on music that my mom and I are going to read in front of the newly functioning stove.
It is time for another quick round of gripes about cooking magazines.
One, the inordinate amount of space devoted to desserts in Cooking Light magazine. Do you know how you edge a slice of cake to under 400 calories? You give the recipe for the big yummy and gooey cake and then you say, "Serves 20."
That is what the magazine does! One reason my subscription has lapsed.
Another reason being the last page which used to carry a yummy recipe from years past and now features a blame-filled claim in big letters like "Your turkey is dry." Then they tell you how to remedy that but the damage is done, you know? You have that headline pointing its finger at you.
And another thing, as Laurel and Hardy ...
... used to say.
Hahahahaa! Does anyone else besides me remember Laurel and Hardy? Leonard Pennario did but now he is gone. It is just me left to be the keeper of the flame.
Couple of other complaints.
Who in the world has ever sauteed anything in a teaspoon of olive oil?
Would a teaspoon of olive oil even cover the bottom of your skillet?
What is with all these breadsticks?
Why does every cooking magazine want me to develop an addiction to them?
Cooking Light is constantly suggesting they be served alongside pasta. Why in the world would you serve breadsticks with pasta? As if life did not just deal you enough starch.
There are some things that it appears to me are not worth the calories. Breadsticks are one.
Quesadillas are not worth the calories either. They are thin and unfilling but it is the same calories as eating a grilled-cheese sandwich. They are no bargain, those quesadillas! Do not be fooled.
"Cloudy skies and 54 degrees." That is what I heard just now on the radio.
It is hard these days to know what to wear and sometimes I screw it up. Monday I screwed it up. It was in the 60s or something and I wore a kind of light and swirly skirt and then I got really wild and crazy and ditched the black tights.
Was that ever a mistake!
I had an, ahem, business lunch and we ended up walking from The Buffalo News to the Pearl Street Brewery in a cold drizzle. Then when I left the office I walked out into whipping winds and a cold rain.
That was all because of me! Because I dressed as if it was nice.
I made mistakes like this when I was in California. It was supposed to be nice in San Diego, right? Well, guess what, they get cold rain too. And there I was dressed for the beach. Pennario would laugh at me. Heck, I laughed at me.
With which, I said to my mom last night, these black tights are here until further notice. Which means at least until March. Black tights.
The other day I decided I had to start playing the piano again. For a couple of months I had not so much as put my hands on the keyboard.
It felt terrible not to be playing because for so long I had worked pretty hard on the piano, you know? And I hate to let it all go.
Anyway, on Sunday night I think it was, I walked past the old Steinway in the living room and it was just sitting there forlornly all quiet with nobody playing it. Howard does a lot of his playing at Big Blue. It felt like forever since anyone had played this piano. And I remembered when my world revolved around it.
So I felt for the piano, sitting there like this big silent animal. And I sat down.
The first thing I did was play this Schubert Impromptu that I could play in my sleep pretty much. I thought I could start with that. Here is Al Brendel playing that piece.
I always have to say "Al Brendel" because that is how Earl Wild wrote it in his book.
Howard came in while I was playing the Schubert and he stood there and listened and told me it sounded great! Not only that but he took that picture of me up above, playing the piano. I am going to keep it to commemorate the occasion.
After the Schubert I got brave and decided to play a little part of Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata. I love the slow movement ...
... how Beethoven gives you this melody and then he doubles up the notes, then he takes it in threes, and then in fours. The part where he goes into fours is my favorite part. And, more importantly than what I felt about it, the music was sitting right there.
I started playing the Beethoven and then something funny happened.
I wound up playing the whole sonata!
I could not believe it!
It is not as if it was the greatest but it was way better than I had thought it would be. And this one part that used to give me problems mysteriously no longer gave me problems. I could not believe that. I stopped and checked myself to make sure I was nailing all the notes. Yep, I was.
Thank you God! Thank you Beethoven!
Today I felt different because I had played Beethoven's "Appassionata" the night before. I mean, already I am different because I am the authorized biographer of Leonard Pennario. But having played the "Appassionata" the night before added that other dimension.
No thinking person should be surprised. I mean, seeing that the book includes a thousand recordings, you would assume Pennario would easily make the cut. But so many of his records are out of print that I am surprised when he turns up.
Pennario is in the book for a record he made with the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. They recorded sonatas by Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss which have been released on Testament.
There is a cool Piatigorsky site I just found where you may read all about this great cellist. Piatigorsky's autobiography is reprinted online, chapter by chapter.
Supposedly there are photos too. I eagerly clicked on a couple thinking maybe Pennario might turn up in one or two of them. But I could not get the photos to show up.
Ha, ha! What did show up was a pop-up ad: "Date a Russian Beauty. Get Scores of Replies."
The Internet kills me sometimes!
That is a famous picture up above of Pennario, right, smiling with his colleagues who are, left to right, William Primrose, the world's greatest violist, Jascha Heifetz, the world's greatest violinist and Piatigorsky, the world's greatest cellist.
An all-star team!
Here is a great clip where you can hear Heifetz and Piatigorsky accompanying Pennario in a trio by Dvorak.
Last night I went with my mom to the Steer and to see "Anonymous." My friend Lizzie joined us for the show. "Anonymous" is the movie based on the premise that Shakespeare did not write the Shakespeare plays, that Shakespeare was a poor loser and the plays were in fact written by a nobleman, the Earl of Oxford.
I love that premise!
Everyone was telling me how excellent the movie was. My friend Michelle saw it last weekend. She said, "When it is over you are totally convinced that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's plays."
That is the truth! I mean that is how you feel.
Plus, she informed me, "The Earl of Oxford is hot." That is the Earl up above.
Or perhaps she means Young Earl of Oxford, here dancing with Queen Elizabeth.
The movie, which seems to be some kind of British/German collaboration, is wonderful to watch just for its scenes of Elizabethan London. That is why we went to the Steer, you know? Before seeing a movie like this you must go to a tavern with a Shakespearean name.
Er... an Earl of Oxford-ian name.
There is a scene I loved when the great poet Ben Jonson finally tells off the Earl of Oxford's wife, who hates that her husband spends all this time writing.
"Madame," he says, "we, our civilization and even our Queen will be remembered only because we lived in the age when he put ink to paper." It was something like that. See the movie.
The elitist in me loves the idea that only a nobleman could have written Shakespeare's plays. It is funny but it is kind of the same premise behind "Amadeus." How could an ordinary guy have come up with such sublime creations? And Mozart and Shakespeare sit together at the pinnacle of Western civilization's achievements. The two are often likened to each other. Mozart had a book of Shakespeare's works, by the way. When he died he did not leave many books but the Shakespeare was one. Also there was a book by the great German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of Felix. It is fascinating to snoop through Mozart's library! One day we must do that thoroughly.
For now, back to "Anonymous." In the movie, Mozart's and Shakespeare's paths cross.
While the Earl of Oxford is getting married the soundtrack played Mozart's Requiem.
The music was not actually written until what, 200 years later? So it was kind of a mistake. On the other hand that stark, powerful music fits strangely with any age. It could be a soundtrack to an Elizabethan movie, or it could be futuristic. It is timeless even though it epitomized its age. Sort of like the piano artistry of Leonard Pennario. I gravitate toward greats!
But talking of Mozart reminds me: As far as I could see, there was no mention of him in the credits!
The goofy thing was, I did not understand what I had done to get in there. It was some kind of white-collar thing, violating some law or other, and I had not been aware I was violating it. I think this came out of a scrap of interview I heard on the radio yesterday. Someone was saying he was not aware at the time he was breaking the law. And my brain took this and chewed on it. It is funny how your brain does that.
But anyway, back to this jail. It was not unpleasant. There were about four rooms, and a courtyard with picnic tables. It bothered me a little that inside you could not open the windows, but there was some fresh air that came in and besides you could go outside.
This is another thing, outside there was, under a shelter, this unbelievable grand piano. I went over to the piano in my dream and opened the lid over the keys and was going to play something when a guard stopped me.
She gave me the usual, "We don't allow people to play this piano."
"Oh, but please," I said. "I'm good. I play ... Rachmaninoff." I do not know why I said that. I do not play Rachmaninoff. Maybe I was being Leonard Pennario.
"Play something," she said.
All of a sudden I was in trouble. I have gotten to do hardly any playing recently in my life, because I have no time, and I realized there was not something showy I could just call up, out of my head. I felt kind of hopeless but played a few notes from this Brahms piece I do. And the guard -- she was this Asian woman, a funny detail -- smiled.
"OK," she said. "You can play whenever you want."
At that point I got kind of excited. I looked around this jail ...
... and thought, this isn't half bad. It was embarrassing and I was going to have a rap sheet, which sort of upset me, but there was nothing I could do. Also my Tridentine Mass habit was going to be a problem. I was going to be stuck with some annoying English language jailhouse Mass.
But still. There were a few other prisoners but they were not obnoxious or anything. I looked at the picnic tables. I can go there and write, I thought. I can sit there all day. And I can play the piano. I can ask someone to bring in my music. It was night and the piano looked beautiful under the stars. Concertos Under the Stars!
I did have Pennario in my subconscious.
I totally understand this dream now. The thing is, my life these days has been such that I have been getting no work done, not on the piano, not on Pennario, not on anything outside of my actual job. I have had to spend a lot of time with my mom because she is getting over something. And the situation has been frustrating me. When I cannot get in work on the book, especially, it starts to hurt me physically. Because I have been getting kind of close into getting it into some kind of shape and I really do want it complete.
So my mind is exploring these other options. What is encouraging is that the dreams are calm and cheery. The other night I dreamed I was at the office and everyone kept taking my desk and putting me different places and it was impossible to get anything done. I managed to get things set up so I could work anyway. That was one option, find order among the chaos.
Another option is, ahem, jail.
You have to admit, people get things done in jail. You hear about people getting law degrees and writing books. People in jail have time. I do not.
Something in my mind went, click, what if I were in jail and it wasn't even my fault?
Yikes, that hour we gained last weekend, I have already squandered it!
I do not know what I did with it!
I am afraid I went and put it with all my other hours. Then it just got swallowed up.
Howard and I were talking the next morning about, we wish that all the computers and everything did not switch the hour for you. You get a satisfaction out of changing the hour for yourself. The clock reads 8:45 and you say, Aha, it is only 7:45. You switch the clock and you feel you have gotten away with something.
Sunday morning I awoke at 7 something or other and I lay in bed blissfully for a few minutes thinking it was only 6 something or other. But no, the appliance had already made the change.
Now it does not even tell you.
Used to be, the computer would say, "Time was adjusted for Eastern Standard Time." No more!
Now your precious extra hour ....
... just goes in with all the other hours. It is like CVS giving you $3 Extra Bucks for your birthday and instead of buying something special with it, a pretty candle or notebook or something, you put it toward your normal purchase of dishwashing liquid, vitamins, whatever.
Today I was cooking dinner for my mom and voila -- the greatest -- I dragged out the Dutch oven.
My mom has a Dutch oven! I located it last week. It was on a shelf under the table. Instinctively I opened a drawer nearby and there was the lid.
Whenever I have a cast-iron Dutch oven on the stove I feel so much better. I put the pot on the stove and just looked at it for a minute, feeling happy. Then I chopped up an onion. And I was in business!
My mother said: "It feels so good to have someone cooking in the kitchen." Meaning, someone who was not her.
I made my mom a pork roast in that Dutch oven. It cooked atop shredded Savoy cabbage with potatoes and cauliflower thrown in after a little while. Then I made stewed apples in an iron skillet. I am never going to have an iron deficiency, that is for sure. Not me, nor any of my kin.
The Dutch oven gave off a kind of musty smell as it sat on the flame. I had washed out the inside, although it was very clean, not grungy or anything. The smell came from the bottom of the pot, I think. It meant that the pot had not been used in decades.
My mom said it was her mother's Dutch oven.
That Dutch oven skipped a generation between my grandmother and me!
It is a Griswold which, we usually laugh about the name Griswold, thinking about "Christmas Vacation" and "Vegas Vacation." I was just talking about "Vegas Vacation, is why I mention it specifically. It was one of the funniest movies I ever saw.
Especially the dam tour!
But the truth is that ironworker Griswold, whoever he was, was the Leonard Pennario of cast iron. Griswold cast iron is deemed the best in the world. They stopped making it in 1957. It came from Erie, Pa.
Zut alors, Howard's cold came back! It blew in out of nowhere.
We were at the Statler standing by the koi fountain and that is when it came back.
The exciting thing about someone getting a cold is you get to make a hot toddy. I was going to make Howard a hot toddy but he seems to think things are hopeless. He drank some hot cider and that was all he wanted.
Once not too long ago my mother had a cold and I made her a hot toddy and it cured her almost instantly. She slept like a log the whole night and woke the next morning and was well.
Had Leonard Pennario had a cold when I was with him I would have made him a hot toddy. As they say in "Dr. Zhivago," it's a gift. I am good at things like this.
Hahahaa! There is this recipe I just found. Everyone is praising it in the comments. Someone writes: "This drink tastes terrible but it made me feel much better."
Then this killjoy writes:
we haven't made this drink yet, and we're not sick (at least not in *that* way), so we were wondering what the hell you're all doing, just using colds as an excuse to get drunk? geez, you're all like, my nose is dry, pass the whiskey.
Yesterday I had the thankless job of calling the chimney folks on behalf of my mother.
My mom has this stove sort of thing that heats a room, and it happens to be her favorite room to be in, and it could be heated other ways, however, this stove is the favored way. So if the stove is on the fritz the room is closed off.
A few weeks ago the chimney folks were over to fix the thing but they needed parts. My mom paid for the parts and the chimney folks said they would order them, and they left.
And that was that. End of story.
"Call them up, will you?" my mother said. "Tell them I'm old and sick."
So I did.
And you know what happened, is what always happened, the two words I never heard from the chimney company were "I'm sorry."
No: "I'm sorry this is taking so long."
No: "I imagine your mom must be getting impatient."
They found the order and everything, was the good news. My mom had paid a deposit of something like $350. But all I got was that the parts had not come in yet. No apology, no time frame. Just: "It's a busy time of year."
The woman I talked to even got in a "honey." "Honey, it's a busy time of year."
Of course I was sweet as pie. Aren't we always? We always figure that the nicer we are, the nicer people will be to us.
I am starting to rethink that.
I am starting to think that if you are nice everyone walks all over you. Obliviously, too. They do not even give you credit for getting out of their way. They do not notice! They just walk.
I see that in Leonard Pennario's life, never mind that he was the world's greatest pianist, and I see it in mine.
Exhibit A, this chimney schuft yesterday. Can't be nice like Burt in "Mary Poppins."
Wow, just watching that cheers me up! I had forgotten a lot of that. How Admiral Boom gets into the act.
Then: "It's the master!"
"What's all this?"
Sigh for the days when chimney specialists were men of talent and principle.