It is like when I was in San Diego with Pennario and dressing all summery because I was in Southern California, darn it. And Pennario would be laughing at me.
Yesterday it was hilarious. I went running out of the house in -- well, not open-toed sandals, but pretty close to it. All day I froze! I went to the gym freezing to death. I even shivered at my desk. I looked enviously at other girls wearing black tights.
But I cannot go back!
No more black tights for me!
Which, I have to say, worries me a little. We still have some of March to go and then it is April and then May. None of those months holds any promise here in Buffalo. It could do anything.
On my way over to my mom's today I stopped at Dollar Tree again. I could not stay away! And I bought more of that Mop and Shine. I also bought a ton more cleaning stuff for Howard to use on Big Blue.
This is heavy-duty stuff for a heavy-duty house!
One thing I bought was the Concentrated Dish Soap. It smells kind of industrial which I like about it. None of this lemon or lime la-ti-da. And I picked up the laundry detergent. Give it a try.
I look for the Totally Awesome brand!
I bought $35 worth of stuff. My cart was full and people were laughing at me with all my plastic bottles.
"I'm cleaning my house," I said.
Naturally nothing is ever easy, otherwise I would have gotten this book on Leonard Pennario done a long time before now. When I got home I put everything in the front hall and later, zut alors, I realized the front hall was soaked. What had happened was, one of the Bang Bathroom Cleaners had burst open.
Bang is Totally Awesome's answer to Kaboom. That is what I have figured out after reading last night's reviews. There was much discussion on the Internet as to which had the better smell, Bang or Kaboom.
So, end result as we say here in Buffalo: I wasted 50 cents worth of product, about half the bottle. On the other hand the front hall is more clean that it has ever been in its long life.
Today I cleaned my house. What an adventure that was!
For one thing I realized how long the vacuum cleaner cord is. It was plugged in downstairs and I was vacuuming upstairs! I could not get over that.
Another thing, I went through all my new vinyl purchases and got them into boxes with others of their ilk. Then I cleaned off my desk so I can continue wrapping up my Leonard Pennario book without all this clutter of receipts, notebooks, cooking magazines etc.
Yet another thing, I did not even mind cleaning my downstairs toilet because of when I discovered how old and rare it is. Now I take pleasure in polishing it because it is this rare antique. I am like a normal person would be polishing a Corvette.
I am saving the best for last.
It is my Dollar Tree Mop and Shine!
That is the bottle of floor cleaner I picked up at Dollar Tree. I had never heard of the brand, Totally Awesome. But it is, well, totally awesome! It lives up to its name!
It says to pour the stuff out into a "little puddle." Which I did. The I poured it into several puddles. The kitchen floor was pretty dirty.
Then I went at it with the Swiffer Wet Mop. I had gotten this Dollar Tree bottle thinking maybe I could use it with this wet mop instead of the expensive cleanser that fits the mop. The Swiffer cleanser did not work that well, anyway, when I used it last time.
The Totally Awesome Mop and Shine is a different story!
There was this sticky spill I was dreading tackling. I had spilled this stuff not long ago and I could see where it was and I decided I would save it till later. So I am sort of dragging this mop over it to get to this other, easier spot. And then this miracle occurred.
The spill vanished!
All the mop did was glide over it and it was gone!
The Totally Awesome Mop and Shine had erased it, just like that. I could not believe it. Anyway, the floor was done in a snap with this stuff which, I cannot see how it can be legal. There have to be forbidden ingredients, is all I can think.
It says made in U.S.A. but still.
Now the floor is all sparkly clean and it feels as if it is waxed. You can slide on it in your stocking feet. I have had a good time doing that! Howard and I are both slipping and sliding all over the place. Howard could not get over it and he wants me to go to Dollar Tree and get him numerous bottles of Totally Awesome Mop and Shine to use at Big Blue.
Hahahaa... I am on Dollar Tree's Web site because I wanted to find a picture. And there are three reviews. Everyone loves this stuff. "Best Floor Cleaner EVER!!" someone writes. The first writer is the best. She writes: "Slickest Floor in Town!" She says her dog was chasing her cat and slid right into the fridge!
This stuff is the greatest! For $1! And here I was at Dollar Tree feeling stupid for buying it. Thinking I was wasting my buck on something that was cheap and would not work.
I renewed my subscription to Cooking Light magazine.
The price just came down too low. I just could not help it. They gave it to me for $8 a year. I wrote a check. Heck, I had just bought a publicity photo of Leonard Pennario for what, $30? What are a few magazines?
Back to Cooking Light. It was just so cheap I had to say yes. But already I am worrying it will start to bug me. I was just cooking out of one of my old issues, from a year ago. I made Italian Roast Chicken, just today. But I was reminded of the things that bug me. The lecturing on sustainable fish. I hate that! And the accusatory articles titled things like: "Your Chicken Is Incinerated." "Your Gravy Is Soupy." "Your Mashed Potatoes Are Lumpy."
How demoralizing is that?
And here is another thing: Even the ads are picking it up!
There was an ad in this one magazine: March 2011 we are talking about. The ad goes blah blah blah about something or other and then proclaims, in big letters:
TOO MUCH FAT IN YOUR BLOOD.
The ad was for some drug or other, I think. It sure tapped into this magazine's mentality.
But still there I was today, cooking out of it. And that Italian chicken did not turn out too bad.
Today I went to PiYo downtown which is short for Pilates/Yoga although technically I am not allowed to do yoga. A lot of the class is Pilates so it is not too bad.
I figure I can get away with it as long as they do not get into New Age speak. Besides which there is no way that what I am doing could be construed as praying in any way, shape or form. There is not a thought in my head while I am doing these exercises other than my Leonard Pennario book and whether or not I look fat.
My cousin Katie does my PiYo class with me on the next mat. She always looks great in these black outfits. I wear a variety of Goodwill clothes and some look better than others.
We had to laugh at a few things including but not limited to when the teacher told us, "Relax your nose."
And I always wince at the end if they hit you with that "Namaste."
Who do they think I am, this person?
I am not allowed to say Namaste!
So I look away and pretend I am busy rolling up my mat or something.
For St. Patrick's Day I decided to make Irish soda bread. It is the easiest thing in the world to make. I made Irish soda bread when I was a little kid. I am sure my 6-year-old niece, Barbara, could make it.
My kitchen is where the luck o' the Irish runs out.
I was all excited about this recipe by Deborah Madison -- I will name names -- that had oats and whole wheat flour. And it looked so easy. I take two big bowls including the one I scored at Vinnie D's a few weeks ago, and I set to work making two loaves of this stuff so we could eat it while we watched the parade.
"Gather the dough up into a ball," read one line of the recipe. You could not gather anything up into a ball, that was for sure. It was like a bowl of batter. So I am adding flour, and more flour. Meanwhile the kitchen gets coated in dough because it is all stuck to my fingers and everything I touch gets flour-y and buttery.
Finally I glopped the stuff into the flat discs you are supposed to shape it into. One goes on a cookie sheet, the other on a baking stone. That was one positive aspect to this situation, I got to use my baking stone.
Into the oven they went and I anxiously watched them. I kept turning on the oven light to peek and see if they were rising at all. They were not.
What is Gaelic for zut alors?
Only I could goof Irish soda bread!
As I was watching and waiting the phone rang. It was my friend Lynn who was going to watch the parade with me. She was making Bailey's chocolate cupcakes.
She said that when she baked the first half dozen, she noticed they were kind of blond for chocolate cupcakes.
That was when she noticed the cocoa still sitting in the measuring cup.
As Lynn said, "This is what happens when an Italian and a German try to celebrate St. Patrick's Day."
However. It did all come out OK and Lynn's cupcakes, heaped with green frosting, looked most professional and we enjoyed them while watching the parade on this glorious warm day from the steps of Big Blue. And the soda bread came out well too no thanks to that deeply flawed recipe. Normally I trust Deborah Madison but I do not know what happened here.
St. Patrick, pictured above, has me remembering the Irish branch of my family. My family is not Irish but there is a sort-of branch that is. That is the family that my father's family was close friends with in South Buffalo.
That family was the Nash family. They lived on McClellan Circle, on McKinley Parkway, right next door to the house where I lived until I was 4, which was at 193 Choate Avenue. The big cheese of the Nash family was Monsignor Nash who used to be the pastor of Holy Family Church. That was where my dad went to school and where I was baptized.
I am proud of having been baptized at Holy Family Church! I was a Holy Family baby and that means I am honorary Irish.
My Aunt Elizabeth Nash, though she was technically not my real aunt, lived in the great house on McClellan Circle when I was little. I think Monsignor Nash was her uncle, or something. After we moved to the suburbs our families kept in touch and sometimes we would go to Aunt Elizabeth's house for dinner.
Those evening I will never forget.
I was little but I always remember how we had to behave. We had to sit and shut up. The dinners, all I can remember is that they always included peas. Frozen peas, which still remain one of my favorite foods.
We had to sit and shut up and eat these peas and we were on our best behavior because we were around adults. There was no kids' table at the Nashes'. You sat with the grown-ups. You sat there and shut up and there were always priests and nuns at the table because the Nash family included a lot of priests and nuns. And it was only a matter of time until the dinner conversation turned to the Church, and stayed there.
The adults all talked about the Catholic Church and we kids all sat there and ate our peas in silence.
I did not mind. I thought it was cool to be among the adults. It was funny, I had no idea back then that anybody was ever anything but Catholic.
But here is what was really magical.
After dinner everyone would go into the living room where there was a piano. It was not a grand piano. The grand piano was upstairs. This was just a spinet, or an upright, something like that. Someone would sit down at the piano and the Nash family elders would sing.
I remember my Aunt Elizabeth singing: "Oh Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that's going round..."
And this is how I know how young I was, because I remember how I did not get the concept of the news going 'round. I kept imagining something like a carousel going around. I did not get it. I did not know what "Paddy" was. I did not know it was short for Patrick.
"They're hanging men and women there for wearin' of the green."
Those words! They frightened me and thrilled me.
My Aunt Elizabeth would sing that song and she was always so matronly in my memory, but I always thought she was so graceful and beautiful and glamorous, in a way. They would sing that song and other Irish songs. "Danny Boy," or whatever the lyrics were then. My Uncle Simon Nash was a judge and a wonderful singer who sang at the Latin Mass at St. Vincent de Paul. Leonard Pennario ...
... used to go to that Mass when he was in town. And you wonder how Pennario would work his way into this post. This is how!
Looking back I know I was seeing something that is in the past. These were people born in, if not the 1800s, awfully damn close to then. These Irish people, they would eat dinner and then go and sing. All those beautiful old songs. That is something you will never see now. It belongs to a time that is gone. I am so lucky that I got to hear it, to see it, way back when.
Zut alors, today I was tired. And I mean tired! I did not sleep last night. And so...
The first thing that happened, I was at work and I had to interview a major musician. I had 10 minutes to talk to him and I asked him about bowling. I told him I read that he bowled and people in Buffalo like to hear about bowling and wasn't he worried about it hurting his hands?
He just started laughing.
I said, "Admit it, I am the only reporter today to ask you about bowling."
There were about 10 interviews in a row, something like that.
So that was one thing. I am trying to remember if I asked Leonard Pennario about bowling the first time I talked to him. He was known to bowl a game or two in his day.
Another thing today was, I had to go to the doctor for my annual checkup. And the doctor is out in Kenmore, impossible to get to easily from downtown. So I took the 190, hoping to do kind of a shortcut.
Mapquest had suggested I get on the Youngmann and take the Elmwood Avenue exit. Fair enough, right? But no, I had to get off the 190 at Sheridan. The Sheridan exit, where there is nothing.
Nothing but U-Haul places, parking lots full of truck cabs, school bus pounds, that kind of thing. You know that exit. It is utter wasteland. It is like going to the moon.
I am making my way up Sheridan past Military thinking: Why did I get off here?
Finally I make it to the doctor. And then ... and then ...
You would not believe what the third thing that happened was.
I did not figure this out until they left me alone in a room and I had to change into a hospital gown.
I was wearing ...
What in the world, you know?? This had never happened to me before. Somehow when I was getting dressed in my sleepless haze I had put one skirt on over another skirt.
Darn, and I was wondering why when they stuck me on the scale, I weighed a pound or two more than I thought I should! It might have had something to do with wearing twice as many clothes as I needed, you know?
Hahahaa .. it was like being five years old. Except I do not think I did that then!
Being sleepless can do that to you. On the other hand, you have an excuse.
It was really warm but I did not make the right decisions. I think I am not quite right after losing that hour for Daylight Savings Time. Losing that hour is tough on me! I never get over its loss and I am always happy to get it back in the fall.
Even though it was sort of neat to get up at 6:30 and think it was really 5:30 and to hear the early morning birds.
This is funny, I wrote this on Twitter but it bears repeating. When I went to Zumba, it was noon. The big stately clock tower at Erie Community College's downtown campus read 11 o'clock.
The clock at St. Joseph's Cathedral read 1 o'clock!
What was the situation? I went back to work and discussed it with my colleagues and we got so mixed up we gave up. Our best guess was that Erie Community College forgot to set the clock forward as we were supposed to do yesterday for Daylight Savings Time.
But what was with the Cathedral? How did they wind up being two hours the other way?
They must have put the clock back and not forward!
It is like something out of Richard Scarry.
Notice the clock in the upper left-hand corner.
Oh well. At least it is not my problem. I can go back to Leonard Pennario and the other things that matter.
Today in the morning I was a loser and got to Mass late. It is embarrassing to get to Mass late today of all days. Everyone thinks you forgot to set your clock forward and are scrambling.
I remembered to set my clock forward! But I was still scrambling. That is me.
By the time I got to church the Asperges was already going on. Those are the prayers before Mass. Everyone was all silent and I was standing in the back of the church with a couple of daddies and their infants. I said to one of the dads, "I don't want to go in! I am too embarrassed."
He was all nice and said, "Don't be."
He was feeling sorry for me!
I was pitied!
Well, later in the day I redeemed myself. Today I made Beef Stroganoff for my mom. She assisted me. While we worked on our Beef Stroganoff we listened to Shostakovich who is one of my mom's favorite composers.
When the Beef Stroganoff was done, we dined listening to Rachmaninoff.
Then I went home and I made another round of Beef Stroganoff for Howard. While I was cooking I decided to listen to a record. I tried to put on a record of "The Merry Widow" I had just gotten at Goodwill.
But it would not play! My record player, I mean the one I was listening to, is from the 1950s and it likes old records. The newer records do not sit so well with it. They skip around.
So as it was skipping around on "The Merry Widow," I thought, I get the hint. There was a record sitting nearby which was Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, with Erich Leinsdorf and Pennario, so I put that on. It boomed forth and I kind of stood there marveling at it, and then I thought:
It is the Beef Stroganoff, requiring Russian music!
Shostakovich. Rachmaninoff and now Tchaikovsky!
My dish, needless to say, turned out really well.
How could it not??
There is no Pennario playing the Tchaikovsky First on YouTube but here is one of many clips of him playing Rachmaninoff.
Yikes, I just blink and I miss two days! I will try to make up for lost time.
Today my mom and I went to get our hair cut and then we went to Dollar Tree. This is the Dollar Tree at Kensington and Harlem. It is the greatest dollar store in the world. It is bright and cheery and big and everything is $1, unless otherwise marked.
As soon as we walked in my mom shrewdly zeroed in on peanut snack packs -- you got five .8 ounce packs to a pack -- that had been marked down to 25 cents. We both picked up a few of those. Yum!
Then my mother bought one more thing, I forget what.
I spent $25!
I am trying to think what I got without peeking. I got a big blue pail to help with cleaning. And a pack of sponges. Two bottles of bathroom cleanser. It is good to have new cleaning supplies, you know?
What else? A bottle of lemon juice. Go ahead and sneer at lemon juice from concentrate, there are times when life does not give you lemons. I got two Rubbermaid lunch containers. Tupperware is one of the few areas where I do not buy generic. The lids never stay on. You must have a reputable name.
A silicone spatula. Two bright yellow gift bags. Oh, and notebooks! I am a fool for the school supplies aisle, always have been. You should see this aisle. You should see the pencils.
I bought a pink stapler with mini staples. And a notebook to carry in my purse. It is a mini four-subject notebook! Which is great because I can sort my scribblings into categories: Personal Web logs, Work Web log, Buzz column and Leonard Pennario.
What haven't I accounted for? Two cans of clams so I can make my mom linguini with clam sauce one of these Fridays. A bottle of floor cleanser. I am trying for a clean house. And a floor cleaner that had the amazing brand name Totally Awesome. I saw that brand name and said, this I must have.
A bottle of coconut liquid soap. I love the smell of coconut. It reminds me of Hawaiian Tropic which reminds me of summer.
What else, what else? I might have to peek.
Oh, right. A crossword puzzle book for my mom. And -- oh, this is funny. Denture cleaner. For me! I do not have dentures but there is this retainer I must wear nightly. I scrub and scrub this retainer but someone tells me denture cleaners could help.
The denture cleaners are tablets, mysteriously enough. With which, you do not have to ask what happens next. Confused as to how to use them, I will let them sit first on the stairs for a few weeks, then upstairs in the bathroom on the counter, then in the linen closet for about six months before I ever get around to figuring out how to use them.
What a beautiful day today! I walked down by the river.
It is fun to walk by the river when it is a little bit chilly. There are not too many people and so you hear the birds and not boom cars. I heard the birds and the water lapping up on shore. Summer sounds!
Next weekend is daylight savings time which, I hate losing that hour. But my mother is gladdened by the idea that when it stays light later we can sit on the back porch and have our coffee after dinner. We sit out there and sip our coffee and admire the landscape and I share stories of Leonard Pennario.
And we can welcome Annie and Spike.
Spike is the white cat that visits my mother. He is a guard and he guards the perimeter. Spike will walk around making sure there is no evil afoot. He is a force for good! He is nice to me but it is my mother he really cares about. There was one day when Spike walked right past me and up to my mother. He said a kind of "Meow?" as if making sure she was all right, then proceeded on his rounds.
Annie is the dog next door.
My mother might be yelling at me about something and then suddenly her face will soften and get all mushy and that is when I know that Annie is behind me, walking up the walk.
This harks back to the days when I was a kid. When dogs could roam free! I got to write about this on Facebook the other day because a dog chewed through his leash and was found unattended in Delaware Park and everyone was going crazy.
I was thinking: Come on!
This dog chewed through his leash and headed for the park. So what?
Dogs used to go where they pleased all the darn time and nobody said a thing.
We used to have Stacy from up the block. This was when I was a kid. Stacy was an ancient black Lab, so old she was walking sideways. She could hardly stand up! She would kind of amble from yard to yard and everyone fed her and loved her. It takes a village to raise a dog!
There was another dog we only knew as Big White Dog and it used to terrorize my sister. She would dread running into Big White Dog on her way to school.
That was the breaks, back then. No one thought to contact Big White Dog's owner, whoever that may be. Instead my parents counseled my sister on how to deal with dogs.
Then we had Baron next door. Baron was a big German shepherd and had a big long fenced-in run in the hard. Now and then Baron would escape. No one knew how he did it! Until once I saw him do it. What he did was, he climbed up one side of the chain-link fence, and then down the other side. It was that easy!
Once my dad opened the door and Baron was outside. As if in a dream we heard my father say, "Oh, Baron! Come on in." Baron loped into the house and looped all around, running from bedroom to bedroom. We were all laughing and screaming. We could not believe our luck, that this big dog was running all over our house.
Growing up my mother had German shepherds in the family. They had Rex I and Rex II. And Pepper. If the dog was a girl it was Pepper. Boy dogs were Rex. My mom's parents got the dogs when they were puppies. I never knew until recently what a German shepherd looks like as a puppy. Adorable! See above.
The great dogs of my past!
I feel their presence, on beautiful days like this.
I went back to Zumba class today at the downtown Buffalo Athletic Club. I was very happy about that.
I had so much fun!
I am not sure I could afford the time. One reason I fell off the Web log wagon was, I was trying to get a draft of the book about Leonard Pennario into the hands of an editor who volunteered to help me with it. Which I did, but I am not sure that situation is going to work out.
I found myself saying yesterday: "If it gets too onerous, you can give it back to me..."
And I did not hear: "Oh, no, it will not become too onerous."
I heard: "I will let you know."
My book is onerous!
And that is even without the voluminous discography which I am working on. And a couple of other chapters still in progress. Zut alors, zut alors, zut alors.
But meanwhile there is Zumba. As I said I could not really budget the time but I thought, perhaps it will make me feel better. It will jazz me up.
And it did! They had all these new dances I did not know and I had fun trying to do them. I am without pretention or inhibition in Zumba now. I just dance and I do not care. There were all these guys in the class, was one change. It used to be all girls. One guy dancing next to me seemed to know everything and so I followed him. He looked incredibly hip. Where had all these people come from?
I had so much fun and before I knew it the hour was up. I went home in my Zumba get-up. It was like going home in a wet bathing suit. It felt like summer even though it was chilly so I opened the moon roof. That is what the sun roof is called if it is night! And I drove home down by the river. I admired the lights on the Peace Bridge.
I am exercised! Kind of a new feeling these days because I have not had time for that. I try to walk once in a while but walking does not even count for me.
I must needs write something of great import to celebrate this milestone.
Here is another exciting thing I did over the weekend!
On Friday I was preparing for the soup kitchen so I had to stop by and see what was there. After that I looked across the street at Vinnie D's. I decided to go on over.
My friend Susan at work had just written this story about color, about the bright colors of fruits and vegetables. And so I found myself looking not for Leonard Pennario records, but for bright mixing bowls. You rarely find Pennario records in thrift stores anyway. They are heirlooms!
End result as we say here in Buffalo: I walked out with a big mixing bowl, bright retro blue.
Plus two other Pyrex ovenware bowls, white with a blue pattern, that matched, one inside the other. Like this. It is the Horizon Blue pattern! That is what this picture says.
They were 50 cents each! Probably because they were, well, scuzzy. I had to go home and wash them out. Funny, it was not that difficult to do. You would think they would wash them off at the store because no one wants to buy scuzzy mixing bowls. Except for me!
Now these bowls are gleaming and I have already thrown them into the mix. I used the blue one to marinate pork tenderloins overnight and the medium-sized blue and white bowl to toss Brussels...
... sprouts in maple syrup dressing.
At this rate I can amass a giant collection. What inspired me was, at the soup kitchen I covet their collection of mismatched brightly colored mixing bowls. They have yellow and orange and green and blue, all these psychedelic flower patterns. I love them!
I want them!
Now I am off to a good start.
If only other aspects of my life came together so easily!
Today my nieces Rosie and Millie and my sister Katie helped me cook at the soup kitchen. The jazz singer Peggy Farrell cooked with us too.
We made the jambalaya pictured above. Thank you, Rosie, for the picture! I have been reluctant to put pictures of my cooking projects on this Web log because did you ever notice how awful most people's food pictures look? I am sure the food is yummy but the photos do not usually do them justice. There is a reason there are people who specialize in taking pictures of food.
Rosie might well wind up being one of those people! Because that is a not-bad picture of our jambalaya.
That was a wonderful jambalaya but it will never be seen or tasted again because like any one of a thousand performances Leonard Pennario gave of Ravel's "La Valse," it is completely unique. The jambalaya was fashioned artfully out of all kinds of various frozen leftovers: a sausage and chicken stew, a frozen bag of shrimp and mussels, a tray of something that was labeled Spanish Rice. We added some fresh vegetables and onions and spices and Zatarain's Creole seasoning and it was magnificent.
The girls made a chocolate cake.
After that we went to Spot Coffee and drank hot chocolate and were all high on ourselves. We were planning what to cook should they be able to join Peggy and me again. My sister liked the idea of shepherd's pie. I made chicken pot pie at the kitchen once so I like that idea.
I am happy volunteering at this one kitchen because you get to design your own menu and cook it up. I did not want to volunteer as somebody's slave, just stuck in some corner somewhere chopping onions. But oh, that reminds me! Before the girls got there, Peggy and I and my brother George were chopping onions. You could not breathe! We were all crying.