Sunday, September 30, 2012

Planet tomato

As I told my friend Jane yesterday, I so should not have gone to the Clinton-Bailey Market. I came away with 100 pounds of tomatoes! Well, just about. I got a deal on them. I spent $11 on a half bushel which is pretty good in this day and age.

However they are use 'em or lose'em tomatoes. So now I have to use them.

I am making ketchup!

That is not as unglamorous as it sounds. I made this ketchup a few years ago out of "The Joy of Cooking" and it is delicious. I burned through all my jars of it. It is different from store-bought ketchup. It is spicy rather than sweet. My mom wants some of it because it would be better for her. Plus she likes that sweet/sour taste you get with the homemade stuff.

Right now the ketchup is bubbling happily in the pot on the stove so in a minute I am going to go work on the book. I have cleared several hours for Leonard Pennario so that is my day.

Meanwhile I find myself laughing at everything I had to go through to get this project going. It did not take long. There was just a lot of drama crammed into the time it did take.

First I had to find the recipe. My copy of "The Joy of Cooking" is all beat up and missing its index and also missing the chapter early in the book where it tells of preserving. That book has the only ketchup recipe I want to use. Surprisingly, this is the new "Joy," not the old one. The new one has a good chapter on canning and preserving including a great chili sauce and an excellent tomato chutney. Unfortunately though I had the book new in hardcover, it was cheaply bound and completely fell apart. It could not withstand the rigors of my kitchen. So I have lost most of that chapter, alas.


I did find the ketchup recipe! I thought I had the page stuck between the other pages and sure enough, I did! It took me a while to find it but still. Yay for me!

So that was one thing. Next I had to find my canning equipment.

I was looking for this big canning pot I knew I had. It was an upgrade from the one I used to use. But zut alors, I found the pot but not the thingie that goes inside and holds the jars. What in the world?

Where was that jar holder thingie?

While I was looking, I came upon the greatest little canning pot. It is a mini-canner! Just the size of a normal stock pot, with the greatest little jar holder rack inside. This canner was brand-new, too. It still had the price sticker on it from -- I love this -- Vidler's five and ten, in East Aurora.

"Oh-kaaaay," I said out loud, looking at this.

Who knew I had this canner? I could not remember having seen it before in my life.

A piece of paper inside told the story. It came from the Tonawanda Goodwill. It had cost me $2. What a steal! Way to go, me!

Now for the jars. Ah! I found a brand new box of wide-mouth Ball pints. Well, brand new in a way of speaking. The box of jars was from about 1960, looks like, but the box and the jars are both in practically mint condition. I forget whose basement I bought this box out of.

Next, the lids. This could be a challenge. But St. Lawrence, the patron saint of cooks, was smiling down on me: I found a box of brand-new wide-mouth lids, all ready to go. I am more organized than I give myself credit for, you know. Except for the canner -- well, and the recipe -- everything was in the right area.

So now I am cooking. I am cooking with gas!

Wow, news flash! Looking around on the Internet for the "Joy of Cooking" recipe, in hopes I could link to it, I could not find it -- but somebody did say it is in the old edition too, spelled Catsup. I checked and it is! This is the 1970s-era edition we are talking about now, not the 1940s edition. It was not in the 1940s edition. I checked.

OK, now I have to run and apply my research skills to a certain concert pianist.

I cannot let these tomatoes eat my life!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The prince of pencils

There is a tremendous interview today in the Wall Street Journal with the pencil mogul Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell.

Who knew there was an actual Faber-Castell family and that it had run this pencil business since the 1700s?

Count von Faber-Castell looks like a count.

It makes me want to run out right now and buy some Faber-Castell pencils. And Mongol pencils, too! Mongol is their brand. They started it hundreds of years ago because, the story said, it emphasized that the graphite they used came from the Orient. That is another term I love, Orient.

Orient yourself to this article! I know you are busy but pencil in the time.

I love when I find out a brand is august such was the case with Candle-Lite Candles.

And this pencil story, I love to buy colored pencils. Usually I buy them with good intentions of giving them as presents to my little nieces and nephews but then I end up keeping them, looking at them, doodling with them.

I have found in my Pennario project that pencils come increasingly into play. Not sure if that is a good sign or not. But Pennario loved pencils, come to think of it. He wrote with them all the time.

Perhaps I could get the endorsement of Faber-Castell!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The night life, it ain't no good life...

... but it's Howard's life!

Yikes, where did this week go?

I love this portrait of Howard taken tonight at the Statler. At right is Buffalo broadcasting legend Doris Jones and at right is our friend Ari Silverstein, visiting from New York. Ari loves the picture! He called it Buffalo Bon Vivants.

Ari lives in New York but he is a Buffalonian at heart. He went to school here and he is no stranger to this Web log.

A wonderful time tonight. We ended up at the Hotel Lafayette. Or the Hotel @ the Lafayette as they so stylishly call it. Our friend Ryan was having a Hotel Crawl for his 30th birthday. Not a pub crawl as he emphasized. A Hotel Crawl.

Buffalo is really on the up and up when we have multiple luxury hotels to crawl to! Within walking distance. Or should we say crawling distance.

Surely we shall regain our stature as the city of luxury, the city that gave birth to the Pierce Arrow ...

... the Barcalounger, air conditioning, and Leonard Pennario.

The greatest city on earth!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

There's the rub

Today I got the first massage in my life. I have to say the experience was hilarious.

Especially the phone call to set it up!

I just had no idea how to arrange a massage. It was my friend Lynn's birthday and I was setting it up for both of us. I mean, I volunteered to make the phone call. Was that ever a mistake!

It was in the middle of an extremely hectic day which did not help things.

I did all right as far as handing over our names and securing an appointment. And I let them know I had never had a massage before. (I was not saying this to be conversational. First-time customers get a discount.)

Then they asked if I wanted a man or a woman to give me this massage.

I was not prepared for that question. "I don't know," I said. Then I said: "I guess it doesn't matter."

How about a gay man? That would give me the best of both worlds, hahahaa.


Before I could dwell on that too long they shot the next question at me.

"Is this a couples massage?" I was asked.

What in the world? "Well, we're, uh, girlfriends," I said. "We're not a couple."

I sensed on the other end a touch of exasperation and pity. I was rubbing these people the wrong way! So to speak. They must have been thinking I fell off the turnip truck.

Then the woman hipped me to the fact that a couples massage meant that you were getting your massages in the same room, so you could talk, or whatever. Well, why didn't you say so?

They said "couples." I mean, what was I supposed to think, in this freewheeling modern day and age?

Feeling like a total jerk, I said yes, we would like the, um, couples massage.

Finally I get off the phone and I buzz my friend Lynn.

She texts me: "Did you get the Swedish or the hot stone massage?"

I text back something along the line of how should I know, I am an expert in Leonard Pennario, not in massages. They had not asked me that question, about Swedish versus hot stone.

Ding ding! Another text.

"I like the hot stone," Lynn wrote.

End result: She had to call them and straighten everything out.

As for the massage itself: I have to say, it was relaxing.

Anything would be relaxing after this!

Monday, September 24, 2012

High on the hog

Over the weekend I went to Albrecht Discount and I bought a ham. It could not be helped! There were these beautiful hams sitting there just as if it were Easter. And they were 99 cents a pound, a magnificent thing.

 So here I am with this ham in the fridge. Yesterday it occurred to me to check to make sure it was cooked. You always have to do that because once, I remember, my Easter ham was not cooked. Surprise, surprise! Luckily I found out in time so I could cook it. If you have an uncooked ham it is not the end of the world but you have to stick it in the oven for a few hours.

Well, guess what, this ham was not cooked! Instead of "Fully Cooked" it says: "Ready To Cook."

Two nice things came out of this adventure. Well, three nice things.

No. 1, the house took on this beautiful aroma of ham roasting. These are hectic days and I do not often have this pleasure, of smelling something cooking slowly in the oven.

No. 2, I diced up some of the ham and made Pasta Fagioli with Ham, Mushrooms and Herbs" from Bon Appetit One-Dish Meals, this great cookbook I bought at a library sale. When I get a ham I like to spread it around, dicing it into little pieces and enjoying it this way and that way.

No. 3, while the ham was roasting I was working on my Pennario project. And I found a recording of his I had no idea existed. It is in a university collection which, this very day I will begin to bug them.

Not to ham it up but this is a great discovery for me and for music. Slow cooking is great for this kind of thing, you know?

Put something in the oven and you stay right there in the house.

Things get done!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Walk the walk

This evening my mom wanted to go for a walk after dinner and of course I said yes. I love to walk. I am like a puppy dog.

Speaking of puppy dogs the person who is really like one is my nephew George Andrew who is, I don't know, 4.

Georgie wanted to go for the walk with us and his dad let him. The first thing he did was run, run, run down the sidewalk in front of us. When he got to the corner he ran up a neighbor's pathway and out the other side.

He was so free! Whenever he ran past trees he would take some instrument in his hand, a spoon or something, and knock it against the tree trunk. Once he began climbing up a tree.

Another time he ran up to a patch of grass by the curb and started digging in it with the spoon, or whatever that was.

Ha, ha! Just like a puppy!

My mom and I were thinking he reminded us of Christopher Robin.

Wow, Christopher Robin was born in 1920, making him four years older than Leonard Pennario. I always thought Christopher Robin was much older. I thought he belonged to the Victorian Age.

Georgie looks kind of like him, minus the girlish smock. He is about the right age and he has this kind of bowl haircut. Really cute.

I think I will have to get him a bear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Flash in the pan

Tonight I made the greatest casserole for my mom. It is a cheese broccoli rice casserole!

This is violating a new rule I made for myself which is, do not use recipes when cooking for my mom. It is too fancy! I have been striking out recently on account of I get too fancy. The other day I was a big hit because all I did was do pork chops in a pan and serve them with applesauce from Albrecht Discount.

I made brown rice to go with the pork chops. I caught myself wanting to make a pilaf and I policed myself and told myself NO.

My dinner was a huge hit!

That is what I should do, find retro cookbooks ...

... and cook out of them. Wow, where do I get the cookbook in the picture? That is a classic!

Meanwhile this casserole looks like a keeper. I love that word, casserole. You do not hear it much these days. We used to bring casseroles to Girl Scout potlucks.

Anyway I was Googling around looking for a yummy cheese broccoli rice casserole and I found this one.

It is just on somebody's Web log! And I made it. I liked it because it did not have canned soup or heavy cream. Just do not give me recipes with heavy cream, you know?

So there I am, in a hurry, simmering vegetables, mixing up this white sauce. Only an idiot would do that, you know? But it was fun. I do not know what makes this drudgery fun but it is. Like working on the Pennario book. Other people would call it drudgery but I call it fun.

I doubled the broccoli and I had some cauliflower and cooked that up too.  I think I ended up with six cups of vegetables as opposed to three, which the recipe calls for. Also I forgot the half cup of Parmesan. Who needs it, you know, with all that Cheddar?

If my mom does not like this ... well, I cannot imagine her not liking it.

If casseroles be the food of love, cook on!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eggs with Ella

This morning Howard and I had the idea to put on a record as we ate breakfast.

I recommend it!

It feels good, to play a record first thing in the morning! It colors your entire day.

We played a record I picked up over the weekend along with the Leonard Pennario record I mentioned. It was Ella Fitzgerald singing the George Gershwin songbook.

It is the record in this picture!

I was trying to find an excerpt from the album on YouTube but alas. The only one I could find, "He Loves and She Loves," someone had fitted it out with a really goofy beat.

That is too bad, because I wish I could share this experience!

Listening to it felt illicit, like having a cocktail with breakfast.

Try it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Save me the waltz

Today after Mass and after Zumba I had a lot of work to do but I did a tiny bit of thrift shopping. I mean I stopped into a Goodwill. I know, this is a shock. But I did.

It is a long story what I was looking for but what I was looking for was not what I found. I found Leonard Pennario's LP of "La Valse." From the 1950s, on Capitol. It was 1956 if memory serves me but it is late and I have stuff in the oven and I do not have time to look it up.

This was the record that had the world premiere of Ravel's solo-piano "La Valse." Pennario was the first to play it by a very long time, I mean decades. Now nobody remembers that. Everybody wants to be a big shot and play that piece, but no one could tell you the first person to play it, who was Leonard. And Leonard played it better than anybody too. Listen for yourself.

Pennario records do not turn up as often as you would think at Goodwills. As Howard says, they are heirlooms. When they do turn up it is usually "Concertos Under the Stars" because that was such a massive best-seller, up there with Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole.

To find "La Valse" is extremely rare. It is more a piano-nerd album. Niche-market, you would call it. It is so beautiful, with its cool, cool artwork.

But here is what killed me.

I took the record out of the jacket and it was just as I expected.

It was all played and scratched up. The grooves were worn thin.

Honest, I get tears in my eyes when I see that. That is what I usually see when I take out one of these records. It just touches me so much how Pennario was loved. The people who bought his records did not stick them away in some cabinet somewhere. They played them. Even this egg-headed, piano nerd record! Someone had obviously loved the hell out of it.

A few weeks ago I was at a Salvation Army where the records are three for a buck, such a deal. Sometimes you see this situation, where somebody who obviously loves classical music and piano dropped off a collection. Or else his heirs did, who knows. Anyway there were all these beautiful piano LPs and I bought a few dozen of them. Horowitz, Al Brendel, Van Cliburn, Leon Fleisher, Byron Janis, etc. It was a treasure trove and I got all of it!

I figured there would be Pennario in there somewhere and sure enough, there was his album of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1.


I began taking the records out of the jackets, just glancing at them. They were all in pristine condition. Archive quality. I loved that! I was getting a deal here, these beautiful mint-condition records.

Then I looked at Pennario's Tchaikovsky concerto.

It was all beat up!

Whoever this record collector was, he or she had played this record TO DEATH.

That was what was sitting on the turntable when all these other records were safe in their pristine little jackets.

What a wonderful legacy for an artist to claim, you know. That his records were played. That people loved them.

I have a newspaper clipping I love, that I found, from 1959. The writer referred to Pennario as "America's most beloved pianist."

He sure was!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ships passing in the night

It was thrilling last night down at the waterfront because the Brig Niagara was there. That is what it was called, the Brig Niagara! Usually it is in Erie. That is what one history nerd told us. But today it was in Buffalo.

The Brig Niagara, pictured above, was from the War of 1812!

Imagine it surviving all these years. It is here for just a couple of days and it is being celebrated.

The whole waterfront was alive. People from all walks of life were walking everywhere and reading posters and asking questions.

And in the middle was this sweet little ship, with sails that smelled musty, like the inside of an old house. This being Buffalo there was a private party going on so you could not get on the ship. But you sure could smell it, that centuries-old smell.

My friend Michelle from work and I were walking around agog. When we finally started walking away, the wildest thing happened.

We heard this giant, loud foghorn!

The kind of noise that cannot be ignored!

We turned around and what did we see but this gigantic freighter heading out of the Buffalo River, honking its horn.

Hahahaa! Get out of my way!

The freighter was the Cuyahoga.

I have never seen it before. Not that it cared. It was all lit up, the length of multiple football fields, heading out onto the Great Lakes. The Cuyahoga is a Canadian freighter, the second-oldest in Canada. It was built in 1943. The year Leonard Pennario made his debut with the New York Philharmonic!

The above picture was snapped by a friend of a Facebook friend who was also there last night. I took pictures with my phone but I cannot figure out right now how to import them. Perhaps tomorrow.

Anyway, it was just too funny. This delicate fragile old ship from 1812 sitting in the harbor, and here comes this massive ship, the Cuyahoga, blowing its horn.

It had to leave now, you know? It could not wait.

In a way, being built in 1943, the Cuyahoga was historic too. And all the people lined up on the shore admiring the brig Niagara began admiring the old freighter, too, as it steamed forward, just doing its job, bathed in lights, brimming with power and presence.

But still you had to laugh at the possibility for disaster.

You could just picture it crashing into the Brig Niagara!

If this were a Richard Scarry story ...

... that is what would have happened. The captain of the Cuyahoga -- he would be a dog, or a pig -- would be having a beer or something and.... Crash!! Oh, dear!!!

Later everyone would be saying, "That poor Brig Niagara, it survived all these years.

"And then we brought it to Buffalo...."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

India ink

My mom and I went to the movies and we saw "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." We saw it at Movieland 8. Admission is usually $4 but Wednesday is cheap night so it was $2.

I watched the preview on YouTube ...

... and thought it looked like a riot and that my mother would recognize half the English actors and actresses.

Which she did, but that was about all she recognized about it.

"It was nice to look at," she said afterward. "But I couldn't follow anything that was going on."

Then she said: "Where did it take place, India?"

Uh, yes!

Ahem, was someone, er, snoozing?

I can actually see it being the kind of movie where your mind might wander. There have been movies where I just cannot focus and I let go and let my mind wander.

I am not exactly proud of it but I hardly ever go to movies any more. About 10 years ago (yikes), when Howard and I were in that halcyon time of dating before getting married, we used to go to movies on Sunday nights. So we saw all kinds of crud, in addition to occasional good stuff. Anyway I was up on my movies back then.

Then with Leonard Pennario in California I used to go to the movies a couple times a week. Same thing, we saw a lot of garbage, and a few good things.

A lot of the movies now are, I am sorry, just not very good. Even this one was not that great. I would call it pretty good. That is a terrible title by the way, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." It is too long and cumbersome and hard to remember.

At the end of it they threw all these philosophies at you. Things like, "All you know about the future is that it will be different." Folksy little yoga-like sayings like that.

Then they said: "And everything always comes out well in the end. And if it does not come out well..."

Here my mother came to life and hissed to me: "It's not the end!"

She was right! That was how it ended!

Anyway, cute movie I guess, and it is always fun to watch Judi Dench dealing with life and loss and whatever. And, as my mother said, it was fun to look at. It made me want to buy Indian skirts and bedspreads. And cook curry! And kedgeree!

Plus, as my mother also said, if you are going to see India, this is the way to see it.

From a comfy seat in the Movieland 8!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Remember that Totally Awesome Dollar Tree floor cleaner I bought back in the spring? Sure you do!

I used it again the other day.

It is terrible because Howard told me not to. Back when I wrote about it before we were both having fun slip-sliding all over the place but then Howard came to his senses (after crashing into the fridge one too many times) and he told me not to use that stuff again, that it was unsafe.

So I did not.

Until yesterday.

It was just that the kitchen floor was getting too awful. And I started thinking about this bottle ...

...  in the closet. I knew it could do it. I knew it could take care of all that dirt.

The temptation grew too strong to resist. Surely a little puddle of it on the floor, as directed, would not hurt.

I could always fib. I could say I picked up the wrong bottle by mistake. I could say something.

So like Eve picking the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, I found the Mop & Shine in the back closet and I could not help it, I cleaned the floor with it. Boom, in five minutes, the grimy floor is all clean. That is the way this stuff works. I put it back in the closet and went back to working on Leonard Pennario forgot all about it.

Until Howard came home and slid half the length of the kitchen.

"Darn it," he yelled. "I told you not to use this stuff again!"

I launched into my fib. "Oh, Howard," I said. "I'm sorry. I picked up the wrong bottle and --"

"Baloney!" he shouted.

Then I just gave up and started laughing. I guess that is it for me and Mop & Shine.

Oh well. Mop the floor first, apologize later.

Clean, then come clean.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Undead ahead

Signs that Hallowe'en is coming before we know it: I tuned into Catholic Radio the other day and the subject was zombies!

Someone called in and wanted to know if the current zombie craze, people running around dressed as zombies, were the work of the dark side.

My heart was heavy hearing that, I admit it. Last Hallowe'en I did a break from the Leonard Pennario beat to do a story for the paper on Buffalo's zombie community. We have a zombie community! All the better cities have them.

Here I am among the zombie undead. That is me on the right, taking notes! The zombies took this picture and Facebooked it to me. I am now Facebook friends with certain of the zombies.

And these zombies to my knowledge were upstanding and very kind citizens who dress up as zombies in their spare time and raise money for charity. Every October they put up a free haunted house for poor kids. I did not see anything wrong in that. Would the radio say I was wrong?

What about in Zumba class, every once in a while we do the Zombie Walk? Would I be told that was off limits like yoga?

In short ...


God love these priests, they took a humorous view of the situation.

One of them gently told the caller, we are sometimes too quick to think something is the work of the devil. Obviously some things are the devil's work. (I can think of a few things off the top of my head.)

But as for zombies, he said, human beings have an age-old tendency to act out things we might be afraid of, things we do not know about. Look at kids playing cops and robbers, he said. And this is not harmful. It is human.

The zombies, exonerated!

The Zombie Walk, exonerated! Again may I express my love for a faith that frowns on yoga but has no problem with Zumba and the Zombie Walk. Catholicism rocks.

This will be a happy Hallowe'en!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Last night I could not sleep and so I took a notebook and began piously writing down ideas to, ahem, better my life.

1. Finish book on Leonard Pennario.

2. Stop biting nails.

3. Get to the gym every day.

4. Sleep every night from midnight until 6 a.m.

5. Get to confession more often for crying out loud.

6. Pray the Rosary every day.

7. Stop lying to Lose It.

8. Scrub the kitchen floor.

9. Don't spend so much time cooking.

10. Get house fixed up.

11. Play the piano daily. (And stay sane.)

OK, it is not all that taxing, not like what my friend Michelle from work is doing, which is reading "Moby Dick." I kid you not, she is actually reading "Moby Dick." I had to hide my astonishment and bafflement.

But even without "Moby Dick" mine is a pretty good list.

So what did I do?

You had to ask???!!!???

I went out and drank wine.

Well, Howard and I went out after he played the piano at the Statler. We went to hear our friend Mari McNeil sing at Iris. So much fun and Mari sang beautifully. And the waitress said the restaurant would soon be installing an ice cream machine. "So we can make different kinds of ice cream," she said.

Music to my ears!

The list can wait till tomorrow.

On the other hand Franz Liszt cannot.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

So you think you can dance...

At Zumba class yesterday I began to get dissatisfied with my lot.

My Zumba clothes are so 2010. Nobody wears Zumba clothes any more like the ones that I wear. I have the fluorescent green and blue and pink pants. Now the trend is for more muted colors. I am so out of fashion!

Also my body is all wrong for Zumba. Last night I kept seeing myself in the mirror and thinking that.

Those belly dancing moves look ridiculous when I do them.

The petite curvy girls look better doing the salsa than I do.

The teacher does all these cute moves that I just cannot make work.

I am so tall and straight up and down! I have never felt so tall in my life. In my family you could call me the runt of the litter -- I am littler than my brothers and sisters  -- but in Zumba I feel tall, and unsuited to the moves. I am constantly being reminded just by looking at myself that I am descended from German soldiers. Reluctant German soldiers, perhaps, but German soldiers all the same.

So. What I need is new clothes.

I know, that is the answer to everything! But in this case it really is.

Maybe I can get knee-length pants and a top that is not so tight, the better to create the impression that maybe I have something to bring to the table here.

Or how about this outfit? Is it me or what?

Those clothes would fool people into thinking I am this Zumba pro and not an, ahem, music critic, not to mention Leonard Pennario's biographer.

Oh well. Who cares if I am not cool in Zumba class?

Not cool still burns calories.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blues in the night

The sounds of a sweet summer night:

The electric fan oscillating.

Radio going, Joseph Dispenza giving me reasons why I should bury myself and my loved ones in Forest Lawn. Forest Lawn is not full! It keeps telling me it has room for me.


(Wow, they are prettier to hear than to see.)


And most importantly the guy in the nearby group home swearing.

The group home guy just burst out with a string of creative applications of the "F" word.

Sometimes on Saturday mornings he sits outside and I feel sorry for him, he seems full of the blues. He kind of moans and groans as if terribly depressed. And once, in a weary voice, I heard him grumble:

"You son of a bitch. You son of a pup."

And then the moaning commenced again.

Later, with more energy:

"You bastard! You jackass!"

It is funny, I take my mind off Pennario and transfer it for a moment to that.

And I admit it, I am kind of affectionate about it. When the winter comes and the windows are closed I will not hear him until the spring, when his voice will be like the call of the chickadee.

The beauties of summer!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cool it!

One thing I like about the heat is that my mom and I get to laugh about her new air conditioner.

We got my mother this boxy little window air conditioner several weeks ago when we were in the middle of one of these heat waves. She fought it tooth and nail.

My brother George made the mistake of consulting her at the last minute about buying one and she told him no. Then I got on the phone and talked her into it. Then I yelled at George for consulting her in the first place. Why ask her if it is OK to go out and get one? Just do it!

After that all of our lines lit up with calls from my mom having second thoughts about this air conditioner and trying to tell us not to buy it after all. She called all of us including Howard!

No one called her back and in a few hours Mr. Air Conditioner arrived at her house and took up residence in her bedroom window. My sister-in-law Nat installed it.

You know what happened next.

Mom never looked back!

She blasts the room with it for maybe 20 minutes before going to bed. After that she turns it off because she does not like the noise. But the thing is at the foot of her bed so she can just sit up and turn it on whenever she wants.

So we laugh about this thing. I understand her initial arguments, you know. You live 150 years in Buffalo without an air conditioner, you don't know why you need one now. Even though air conditioning was invented here, by a guy who worked for Buffalo Forge. The Wall Street Journal did a recent story lauding him. I am ashamed that now I cannot think of his name. I know the name of the guy who invented the cotton gin -- that is Eli Whitney -- but not the inventor of air conditioning. And here he was, from right here in Buffalo! It is like forgetting Leonard Pennario. Well, almost.

But anyway. It is amazing, how we resist air conditioning. You think: How many hot days do we get? You think: I'm tough. You think: A fan is just as good.

But when you need A/C, you need it! I am telling you.

You do not look back!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Polar express

The other day I had coupons for Polar pop and that is what we drank at dinner tonight, being that we ate late. I do not like to drink wine too late.

I am getting like a snobby sommelier about my pop. On Howard's birthday I was bragging about the riches I had stashed in the fridge. I had Diet Pepsi with lime and with cherry. I had Diet Squirt. I had Pepsi Throwback. I was very proud of all that.

Polar has the greatest selection of diet pop. You can even find Diet Grape if you are lucky. I was not lucky in the pocket-sized Tops I went to the other day to find the elusive Diet Grape, but I did find Diet Half and Half (that is an exquisite quaint name for a grapefruit pop) and Diet Orange Dry (another great quaint name).

I also bought two bottles of Diet Cream Soda. It is delicious.

The Polar Web site is the greatest. You call it up and there is a roaring and then a polar bear ambles lazily onto your screen.

The other day we celebrated the Regal company and today we praise Polar! It is in Massachusetts and it was founded in 1882. By the time Leonard Pennario came along Polar pop was already working on its fifth decade.

Johannes Brahms ...

... could have drunk Polar pop! He was a beer drinker but I have a feeling he would have liked it. I take him for a Diet Grape kind of guy. He would do what I do and drink diet pop to save up his calories for other stuff. And I have had that Diet Grape and it is mighty tasty.

Now that I read about Polar I see it had a great name when it was founded. Originally it was the J.G. Bieberbach Company! A tremendous name. Justin Bieber, meet J.G. Bieberbach!

Originally the company handled beer and liquor but with Prohibition it focused on pop.

Whatever, it's good. That was one good that came out of the evil of Prohibition. Looking at its flavors I see it has a Diet Birch Beer. That has so far escaped me. There is also a Diet Raspberry Lime. Yum.

Wow, they have a great lineup of diet pop. They are virtuosi! They have Diet Strawberry, Diet Pomegranate Dry, and Diet Black Cherry. And you would never guess the best one. It is Diet Double Fudge!

The rest of the world is dragging its feet when it comes to diet pop. So much pop is only sugar pop. All I can think is that is what most people drink. The diet stuff, though, is just as good.

I am a connoisseur!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sweet deal

My mom and I hit a few garage sales and here is the purchase that takes the cake (or will, one of these days):

An aluminum cake carrier!

It is Vogue Quality Aluminum Regal Ware, Inc. That is what it says on the bottom. I like to bake cakes for people. I made a spice birthday cake a few weeks ago for my brother Tony and the other day I made a chocolate marshmallow cake for Howard's birthday. I also once soared like an eagle and baked a red velvet cake for my friend Michelle. Here I am presenting it to her...

That was last October. Time sure moves fast. And now, so will my cakes!

I expected my mother to object to the purchase just because the thing is so massive. But she did not! She says it is useful when you have to take a cake somewhere. And she admired the handle which has holes in it for your fingers, like a bowling ball. And the three cool locks that keep the cover in place.

My newly acquired cake tote looks like this one on eBay.

Hmmm, that auction is starting at only $6.99. I paid $5 so it is not as if I got that sweet a deal. But I do not buy things to resell them. I buy them to use them.

This Regal Ware company seems to be famous for cake carriers. There is a whole range of them on eBay with prices from that $6.99 all the way up to $50 or so.

Here is a fascinating history of the Regal Company. It is in Wisconsin and goes back about 100 years.

I love how that history is written. They have a timeline! I have a timeline for my Leonard Pennario project and they have a Regal Ware timeline, starting in 1911. Regal is older than Pennario.

In 1976, for instance, Regal produced 5 million canteens for the Boy Scouts of America. That was one of their earliest items, Boy Scout canteens. It is also interesting that no bigger company appears to have bought Regal. It is a privately owned company. Regal has snapped up several other companies along the way.

The family that owns Regal is named Reigle. Cute! There is a great quote from founder James O. Reigle:

"Remember, the past is only a stepping stone into the glorious future."

I will carry my cake with pride!