Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cookie monsters

We cannot let one more of the 12 Days of Christmas pass without memorializing at least one kitchen disaster from this season.

Ours was minor but vivid. It happened while we were baking at my mom's house. That is a picture above of the occasion. My sister Katie is at right and those are Rosie and Millie in the background. They look like models! In the foreground, little niece Barbara, who loves the camera.

What happened was, someone put cookies into the oven on a tray that it turned out should not go in the oven.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo:

On the bright side because we were at my mom's I could dirty a kitchen that was not mine. We had to clean up afterwards but still. It beat cleaning off my table which was covered with Leonard Pennario clippings and binders, such has been my work schedule lately.

I hope my mom had no plans for that black tray.

Whatever it was for!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Confess

Today we return to a popular topic: Confession!

It has been at least a year since I last mentioned it. The reason is simple: I have not been going. It is sad but true. It was always so dramatic when I went! Remember my first confession? And the confession when I confessed I drank too much wine? And then there was the watershed event of going back after several decades. Watershed event: I am not kidding! I shed water all right.

I swear, swear I, that the devil gets in the way of you going to confession. There is always something! Once I  was going to go but I had the time wrong. Another time I was going to go but I had to go to my mom's. Something was always getting in the way. Often I would make plans to walk to St. Michael's, the Confession Capital, from the office. But it would rain. Or I would be stuck doing some emergency story. It is always something!

Finally I thought: This is ridiculous, I make time for Zumba, I can make time for confession. Also the fact that I had not been to confession in so long came to symbolize to me how frayed my life had gotten. I could not stop biting my nails and I could not get my hair cut and I could not lose 10 pounds and I could not get to confession.

So, today.

Today I went!

My unwitting accomplice was my friend Lynn. She invited me to get together for lunch downtown and I said yes. Not only do I love to have lunch with my friend Lynn, but I thought: This way I can get to St. Michael's and DO IT.

So, after lunch at the Washington Market ... their chili is good!! ... there I am, kneeling at St. Michael's.

And you know what, you get away from confession a little, you forget how it's done. There is one confessional with its light lit but no traffic in and out. St. Michael's is a funny church. It is perfectly normal for people of all ages and ethnicities to show up and just hang out in the church praying or meditating and not doing anything else. There were several dozen people there, by themselves, or in twos or threes, whatever. One gentleman was going around quietly praying the Stations of the Cross.

And I am kneeling there thinking: OK, someone, go to confession. Because that light was on! And I wanted to make sure no one was in there. I thought, if I could watch someone go in and then leave, I would know that no one was there behind that curtain.

But no one went.

Finally I got up. Someone has to be the first to eat an oyster. I asked a gentleman in a nearby pew to take a snapshot of me approaching the booth.

Then I pulled aside the curtain, gently, as I had that other time when I was delinquent and did not know the etiquette. I could not believe I was almost at that same point again, you know?

No one was in there. I knelt down. The kneeler squeaked.

Immediately the window slid open and I had the priest's undivided attention.

Which, I have to say, I loved. One other time I went to confession, the last time I think it was, I felt rushed. I felt the priest was rushing me, because other people were in line, or Mass was about to start, something like that. I get jangled when I am rushed.

The good news today was: This priest was wonderful. He listened to me, he had good advice on my various situations, he waited  to start talking. It crossed my mind: Priests go through this same thing. They have to go to confession too. And these Jesuits at St. Michael's, they are terrific. What tremendous, patient, caring, humorous, smart, worldly-wise men. They listen to you and they can help.

I got tears in my eyes just because of this priest's kindness, humanity and understanding.

So. That is the good news. That, and for my penance, all I had to say is a "Hail Holy Queen." Which is my favorite prayer. If that is not the bargain of the century I do not know what is, other than finding Leonard Pennario's "Rhapsodies Under the Stars" for $3 at an estate sale.

Now that we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop, the bad news is...

That priest wants me back in that booth! In a week!!

I have been put on the once-a-week confession plan!


Remember when that other priest told me to come back once a month? Haha, that really worked.

The priest today said, "Use our Holy Father as your model. He is a very holy man but he goes to confession once a week."

OK, I am going to try to do this. I get to Zumba, I can get to confession. I am going to go on this plan.

I will look on the bright side.

Think of the stories I will have to tell!

Friday, December 28, 2012

150 shades of grey

I got in a little Nordic skiing in Delaware Park. It was good to get back to it because it seems the last few times I attempted to ski it ended up going blooey.

Remember when I froze?

Anyway, you must get back in the saddle! Or rather on the skis. So I did. And this time around it went OK. I like the prettiness and silence of the park. No sound but the skis in the snow -- and the birds, when you pass the rain forest exhibit at the zoo.

I got some thinking done on the book which I have been working on a lot recently.

And I took a few pictures. The one at the top is my favorite. It reminds me of a pretentious work of art plus it captures the feel of being out there in the park completely by yourself. And I love when the snow and the sky are the same color.

Here are other pictures I took. Join me on my skiing expedition!

When I took that last picture, the one with the crazy tilt, I knew it was time to go home.

Lucky for me it takes only five minutes!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Hoowa Christmas

Gloating over my gifts yesterday I did not mention what I got for my brother George.

I went to the Hoowa Supermarket! And I picked up a bunch of bottles and cans of stuff. That is what George loves. In return he and my sister-in-law, Nat, gave Howard and me for Christmas what we love, a subscription to Mad magazine.

Every time I go to the Hoowa I feel I do not go nearly enough. You walk in and the first thing you see is this wall of ceramic pigs. Next there is this wall of fish tanks, huge tanks with lobster and crab and creatures I do not recognize. I wanted to take pictures of the Hoowa but the staff was all watching and I did not want to explain what I was up to. Imagine explaining the Leonard Pennario Web log. So I borrowed the above picture from Buffalo Chow. Next time I will try to take my own.

Anyway, I went happily through the store picking up this and that. Not too carefully. It is all good!

At checkout the Hoowa staff was taciturn as always. It was freezing in there and they all wore coats.

Hahaa... this is funny, the other time I talked about going to the Hoowa it was 90 degrees and they were all fanning themselves!

I startled myself by speaking up.

"I am getting all this stuff for my brother for Christmas," I announced, slowly and distinctly because at the Hoowa you can never be sure of their English. "Every year this is what I get him."

And they all perked up! And started laughing.

"He loves Asian food," as I said. "Every year I come here and this is what I buy him, just anything -- sauces, cans of spices."

Now they are all gathered around and everyone is in a great mood.

The Hoowa Supermarket, you cannot beat it.

It is your headquarters for Christmas spirit!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The gifts that keep on giving

This Christmas I am happy that my presents were hits!

It is funny, when you nail this on the head, that is when you realize that the cliche is true and giving really is more fun than receiving. I am just proud of myself! I kept thinking about it today.

Howard liked the Honey Bourbon I gave him ...

... with the ice shot glass molds. We have already made three rounds of ice shot glasses and there are two more in the freezer as I speak.

My niece Rosie liked this craft book I got her that, the front cover quoted Amy Sedaris saying how great this book is. Rosie said two days before Christmas that she was a David Sedaris fan and I could not believe my luck.

My brother-in-law David loved the book Howard and I gave him about growing fruit. And perhaps there will be some fruit for us to eat because of it!

My sister Katie loved the metal mixing bowls I gave her. She was talking the other day when we did the Christmas baking about how she wished she had metal nesting mixing bowls. And voila! I had a set I was not using. Well, I was using them, because I like them, but I have other mixing bowls.

At Christmas it was so cool, there were these mixing bowls, being used for a million different things. They were even brought to the table as serving dishes!


Now it is back to my book.

I hope I am as good at that as I was at Christmas presents!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Bourbon and Beniamino

This morning at church we did the Mass at Dawn. And it really felt like dawn!

It was 9 a.m. but our organist, Josephine, told us to be there at 8.

"I'm sorry," she kept saying on Sunday. "I'm sorry."

Which, no way was I going to be there at 8. That just was not going to happen. But I got there at 8:25 which is not bad for me.

It still felt like dawn! I had to tackle things like the Puer Natus Est, pictured above, without benefit of coffee. I had just rolled out of bed! Well, that was OK. Christmas is the one day when everyone just figures you were into the eggnog all night. Not quite true but, ahem, sort of true, in my case.

Santa Claus gave Howard frozen shot glass molds and last night, after we got home from my mom's, we put them in the freezer and while they froze, that was when the Christmas tree went up. On Christmas Eve, as God intended! My mother was saying that her parents never put up their tree until Christmas Eve. This is the first time in my entire life that I have waited that long. Inadvertent? Sure. But correct all the same.

After putting up the tree we opened the freezer again and there were these two little ice shot glasses. We sipped honey bourbon out of them and sat into the wee hours listening together to Caruso and Beniamino Gigli.

 A fine Christmas Eve!

Today I continued the Italian theme by going to St. Anthony's, where Leonard Pennario was baptized and where everyone but me is Italian.

I came home and Howard said: "Where were you? Did you go to work or did you go to Zumba?"

Uh, Howard?

I was at Mass?

It's Christmas?

Men are so cute sometimes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My aluminum tree

It is Christmas Eve and so I listened to Carmen Dragon's Christmas album and put up my tree.

I was afraid to take it out of the box but when I did it went together really easily. Now it sits there looking cheerily hokey.

I love my artificial tree! It cries out for a ranch house by still.

No muss, no fuss with a faux tree. You can put it up and go back to working on your book on Leonard Pennario. Well, I can, anyway!

It is funny, when I was growing up, I remember my dad trying to reason with us and asking why we would not consider an artificial tree. "It would be like an old friend," he said. "Every year we can take it down from the attic and put it up again."

And we always said: No!!

But once you go artificial you never look back, is what I say.

One funny thing: After I got Howard to bring home this tree, what did I find upstairs? A new Christmas tree stand, still in its box. I could have gotten a real tree after all at that grouchy Kenmore nursery.

Oh well.

Too late!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday, disheveled Sunday

Today owing to the stress of getting my Christmas act together in addition to my Leonard Pennario project, I went to Mass with both ...

... and hat-head.

Yikes, look at that hat-head ad! As if you are supposed to do anything to avoid wearing a hat!

Anyway, bed head and hat head.

Two reasons God invented the chapel veil!

(Here modeled by Charlene Wittstock, Princess of Monaco, in picture cribbed from this Web log.)

I never understand people saying, "But I don't want to wear a veil."

It makes it so much easier to go to church!

Friday, December 21, 2012

They're baaaaaack

I know.... wrong holiday!

It is almost Christmas. Tomorrow my nieces and I are getting together for our annual Christmas cookie bake. And here I am still stuck on Halloween.

But I cannot help it.

I am looking for pumpkin cookies to make because... once again, my fridge is filled up with huge roasted pumpkin wedges. The world did not end as the Mayans predicted and so there are pounds and pounds of pumpkins to be eaten.

Zut alors, this keeps happening to me!

This is not only the Leonard Pennario desk, this is the pumpkin desk. These pumpkins keep appearing! My other little niece and nephew find them and these pumpkins find their way to me. They are big pristine pumpkins and I just cannot throw them out. So I roast them.

Pumpkin oatmeal bars, anyone?

Pumpkin cream cheese swirl brownies?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Christmas Tree, Fake Christmas Tree

Remember all my Sturm und Drang last year, and the year before, about getting a real Christmas tree?

This year I am, ahem, branching out.

Howard has an aluminum tree down at Big Blue and he is bringing it home so I can put it up. It is a Martha Stewart aluminum tree that he bought under my influence a few years ago so we could put it in the window of Big Blue and make it look occupied. That was in Big Blue's dark days.

I am not going to miss paying what, $50? for my real tree. Also there is the mourning when it goes out the door, its needles still miraculously clinging to its branches. I will not miss that either!

What I will miss is tormenting the guys at that Kenmore Avenue nursery where I usually get my tree. They are such grinches and I love annoying them. While they are grouchily showing me different trees I am skipping around singing carols and stuff. And when I leave I always sing out ...

Oh well. Sacrifices must be made.

What pushed me toward my decision this year was that I am afraid I do not have a decent Christmas tree stand. That has been a problem every year! I mean, just read back on these other Christmases. And over the course of 2012 I failed to make sure I had a decent stand for this year.

You cannot write a book about a great pianist and keep track of all this domestic trivia! It is sad but it is the truth.

It did not help either that I forgot all about it. That Christmas tree stand business is like something being wrong with your car. It has happened that I have driven in to work with my car making some kind of noise, or acting funny. As soon as I am out of the car and in the office I forget all about it! It does not enter my mind again until I get back in the car.

That is what my Christmas tree stand problem is like. It looms large while I am trying to set up my tree but then after Christmas I forget about it and do not think about it again until the next December, and then not until the day I am going to get my tree.

Which, that day gets later every year.

It just moved one night later because today Howard forgot to bring me the tree. So now he is bringing it tomorrow. No biggie because I was not thinking I could get the tree up tonight anyway.

La la la la la la.

Fa la la la la la la.

At this rate I will not be putting the tree up until Christmas Eve.

On the bright side, that is in accordance with ancient tradition!

Even if the aluminum is not.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend at Wegmans

For some reason over the last few days  I have been spending a lot of time at Wegmans.

It started when Howard and I were going to dine on lobster to celebrate our anniversary and shrewdly, I noticed the lobster at Tops was $14.99 a pound, while at Wegmans it was just $7.99.

So I went to Wegmans. And then I just kind of stayed there.

You know how in "A Chorus Line" someone sings, "Life was beautiful at the ballet?" That is like Wegmans. Life is beautiful at Wegmans.

The piles of pedigreed cheese. The department of exotic mushrooms. The baking aisle. It is good for you just to walk through the place!

Plus, I signed up for my Shopper's Club card. I thought I had had one before but apparently I didn't. I think I lost it when I was in California with Leonard, that is how long ago I had it. I was rewarded today for my scatterbrained-ness. They gave me a new card and on top of that, two coupons. I got a free Basting Oil and a free Shopping Bag.

The Basting Oil ...

... retailed at $5.99. So, nice freebie!

Something about Wegmans kind of bugs me. It is that the shoppers are aggressive and competitive. The women are all fashionable in those new knee-high boots we are all supposed to be wearing, and the knee-high boots make them stride about like storm troopers. Also there is the noise of the carts clattering over the cobblestones. It gets everyone keyed up.And there are lots of couples in Wegmans, kind of posing.

Remember my experience going to get those hoagy rolls?

When you are in the right mood though Wegman's is funny. It can make you giggle. Today  I saw this woman striding through with this cart just overflowing with stuff. I just smiled at the sight of her. I could not help it. There was just all this stuff piled in her cart and she was making her way so aggressively through the aisles of customers.

I smiled at her and she couldn't help it, she smiled too. At how ridiculous she looked.

Of course everyone looks a little ridiculous at Wegmans.

It is part of the fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Campfire girl

This evening I made dinner for my mom and we just wound up having this great time. My brother George was over and he had this kind of little stove, you set it in the back yard and you can build a fire in it. So he did that, and then we all sat around this little campfire. It was as if we were out in the wilderness!

There is nothing like when your hair and your coat and everything all have the scent of campfire. It is not an experience I have every often these days.

And it was just so much fun, because it gets dark at 5 p.m. or something and there we are, out in the dark. There was a crescent moon. My mom had a coat and a blanket over her. We were all just sitting there, watching the fire, talking. The little niece and nephew were zipping around the yard on a scooter. They wore flashing sneakers and we could see these little lights darting about, like fireflies.

Priceless, you know?

A perfect evening. And I had even gotten in some work on Leonard Pennario before that. Do not ever think I forget about Leonard Pennario. I do not!

I am loving this California winter.

If this is a warming trend I welcome it.

I am just fine pretending I am living in San Francisco, thank you very much.

See you by the campfire!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Mayor drops in

Howard was playing at the Statler tonight and the Mayor was there. I took the above picture of Howard and  the Mayor, Byron Brown.

I take good pictures!

I mean look at the composition of this one. You have the piano in the foreground, the planter on the right, and in the background there are those steps, and that painting. It all fits in!

It is fun to live in Buffalo because you know the mayor. I could go up to him and ask him if we could declare a certain day Leonard Pennario Day and he might not say yes but at least he would listen to me. That is a most excellent thing in a public servant and not something you see every day.

After Howard got through playing at the Statler we went to my office party. The Newspaper Guild at The Buffalo News has an annual Christmas party and that is where we went. It was at the Pearl Street Brewery. We walked because it was just as easy as finding a parking space. On the way home the walk seemed shorter. The walk home always seems shorter plus I was enjoying a big candy cane.

That is one thing I love about the Christmas season, candy canes.

It is funny, in my missal, I read that the Christmas season does not start until Dec. 25. But we kind of dive into it early. I like candy canes and cookies and today I was on Spotify assembling a Christmas play list.

Tomorrow I am thinking I will get my tree.

I will have to go by the grouchy place on Kenmore.

It is time!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Everything's coming up roses

It was Howard's and my anniversary! We have been married eight years. When I went to see Leonard it was only three years.

"It doesn't feel that long," Howard said.

"Correct comment," I said.

Howard brought me roses! He came home with them the night before and completely startled me. We are not a flowers couple where every day someone is coming home with flowers. That is just not us.

Although we were agreeing that we would like more fresh flowers in the house. (As opposed to old flowers that kick around for weeks.)

Next summer perhaps I will amp up my flower ambitions and grow them in between the bishop's weed and the runaway mint.

I shall have a cutting garden!

I will also grow some at my mom's. That is space I am not using.

Also I should cut my roses more. Apparently if you cut your roses they grow better anyway. Every summer I  let those roses climb all over the house and never do a thing with them.

So, big plans for the first half of next year. On many, many different fronts.

It is funny how easy it is to be ambitious in December, you know?

Before the year even starts!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pilates princess

Today I went to Pilates class at the Colvin Buffalo Athletic Club. Above is a picture of me on a Pilates machine!

OK, I am just kidding. That is a person on a Pilates machine but it is not me. I just wanted to grab people's attention. Wow... imagine doing that exercise! I do not know where to begin to ask questions. How do you get up there, hanging upside down like that? What is that next to her, a trapeze?

I just do plain mat Pilates. That is enough for me!

And this class, I am always a little late for it. It is funny because when you walk in late, you have to thread your way among all these people on mats flailing this way and that. You just have to walk through smiling broadly and not being embarrassed. You grab your mat and you join them.

The rest of the gym was pounding. The gym plays the most awful music. Eventually I will have to quit the gym because of that. I mean, I just cannot stand it.

But in Pilates class we got to listen to Tony Bennett singing standards.

It was like heaven!

Only Pennario playing the piano would have been better.

You could hear this dull pounding outside the door. That was the rest of the gym. And this was funny too: In the middle of class, Tony Bennett was singing "The Sunny Side of the Street" and we were all doing the Corkscrew, which is excruciating, and suddenly there was this clattering and twanging.

It was someone's cell phone going off!

Finally the teacher goes, "Is that someone's phone?"

A few people helpfully spoke up and said it was, and the person was no longer here.

"They left?" the teacher asked.

Then she said: "Haha, that's probably them calling their phone now."

She said: "That's what happens when you leave my class."

I didn't leave! I sweated it out. It's funny, I wrote how massages do not affect me. A Pilates class or a Zumba class does! After it I feel good.

Hahaa... I just found this cartoon on the 'Net.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The patron of pawnbrokers

It is funny how you think you know a lot and find you know nothing.

For instance about St. Nicholas, whose feast day is Dec. 6, the day that is just ending, I had no idea who he was the patron saint of.

Stocking makers?

Stocking stuffers?

Leonard Pennario biographers?

No no no!

He is the patron saint of bakers and pawnbrokers.

Pawnbrokers ...

... have their own patron saint and Nicholas is it!

We must quickly get baking in the good saint's honor. Work fast, and your Dowager Duchess Fruitcake could be ready in time for Twelfth Night.

Plus if somebody wants to pawn something off on us we should say yes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Martini the size of your head

The Wall Street Journal has a big story in its Off Duty section called "Make Mine a Mini." It is all about miniature cocktails, particularly martinis. Above is a picture of Padre Martini, an Italian musician and priest who was a mentor to Mozart and also to Johann Christian Bach, J.S. Bach's Catholic son. I love how when you Google "Martini" Padre Martini comes up.


Underneath the headline the Wall Street Journal asks: "Do you really want a Martini the size of your head?"


Next question!

How come everything always gets smaller, not bigger?

Cooking magazines are always lecturing us on portion sizes. The Journal today has this preachy statistic: "Between 1895 and 2012, the volume of whiskey in a typical Manhattan increased by 37.5 percent."

Oh, so what?

Maybe we need it!

Howard and I are unfortunately soon going to stop receiving the Wall Street Journal. Whoever runs their subscription department scammed us. Apparently Howard agreed to a price a long time ago per year, and they renewed it against his wishes, and they not only renewed it, they quadrupled the price. So for years we have been paying hundreds of dollars a year for the Wall Street Journal. We love the paper. But still.

We do not like such underhanded ruses.

He who subjects us to ruses, loses!

However when my book on Leonard Pennario comes out I will still let the Wall Street Journal write about it. If they are nice.

And if they hand me that Martini the size of my head.

Which by then will be pretty big.