Monday, September 30, 2013

The trouble with angels

Saturday night I had trouble sleeping so I was not up in time for my usual Mass at St. Anthony's.

Instead I went and heard Mass at Our Lady Help Of Christians, my emergency church, which I love. I have already described Our Lady Help of Christians because it fascinates me. The Mass there, adding to its appeal, is very convenient to the Union Road Goodwill. You are allowed to shop on Sunday if it is a charity! Well, that is what I think anyway. I hope I am not wrong because it is too late now.

The Mass was really interesting because instead of following the agenda for this particular Sunday, they celebrated the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, which was Saturday. The priest did his sermon on angels. How great is that? As he said himself, the Catholic Church hardly ever talks about angels any more.

Then he said, every time some people in the Catholic Church throw something out, the rest of the world picks it up. Chant was like that, he said. So are angels. Now you go out and angels are everywhere, as he said. You can buy little figurines of them in stores.

This is me talking now and not the priest, but here is where we get to the trouble with angels: Because of this kitschy treatment of them, people going around confusing angels with fairies or whatever. And there are also people going around saying that you become an angel after you die. That is not how it works! Leonard Pennario died but he is not an angel. He is still himself!

Angels are not human. They never were human. They are spirits. The real St. Michael is so much more fascinating and frightening than anything anybody could make up. This is something I love: At the Tridentine Mass there is a part that mentions that St. Michael is present at the right hand of the altar. He is with us and we are communicating with him. That always thrills me. I find myself looking to the right of the altar thinking I am going to be able to see St. Michael there.

At St. Michael's you do see St. Michael there!

Anyway it broadsided me with how good this Mass was. This priest, I think he is from St. Casimir. He said all the prayers so we could hear them, another thing I liked. I do not like things rushed.

This was a terrific Mass!

And after it I did stop at Goodwill and I did acquire a few things, which I will disclose another day because I have already run on too long.

Meanwhile, please join me in this condensed version of this classic '60s movie.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When writing is like playing the piano

When you are working on writing something it is a lot like working on playing the piano.

For one thing you are sitting by yourself hour after hour, working away and loving it.

Also there is this other thing.

I was just sketching out an intro to what I plan on being Leonard Pennario's discography. Pennario's discography is not like other discographies. It is like the Iliad! Luckily there is a world-renowned mega-scholar who has promised me assistance, otherwise I will tell you this, there would be no discography.

Anyway. I have something special to say in this one paragraph and I am rearranging it, looking at it, changing a sentence, looking at it again. I do this at work, too. Sometimes I actually step back and look at a story like a painting. When I am happy with what I see I might hold up my hands as if to say, OK.

Just now I was not quite happy. But I was happy with what I had sketched out.

So I said, out loud: "Something like that." And I moved on.

And I laugh when I think about that. I got that phrase from my piano lessons!

It did not happen often, me being the superb pianist that I am, but try to visualize this, that once in a while, as I worked away at music including the Ravel that Pennario is playing in today's link, there would be a passage giving me trouble. I would try it a few times but still not get it quite right. And my teacher, Stephen Manes, he would work with me a little, listening to me and offering advice as captured in this candid photograph.

Finally he would say, "Something like that." And we would move on.

Sometimes in life you have to do that, say "Something like that."

Let it percolate!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Martha Stewart Omnimaniac

Today on the way back from Zumba I stopped at Dash Market on Colvin. Hardly had I pulled into the back parking lot when such a sight met my eyes.

There was a street sale on that street!

I left my car at Dash's and set out on foot down the street. Dash's would not mind. I was going to shop there anyway, when I got back.

Among things I bought were 17 back issues of Martha Stewart Living.

My friend Melinda would reproach me. "It's all clutter," Melinda says about things like this. And indeed it is. But then Martha Stewart gives you instructions on how to deal with the clutter. Look at the recent September issue. It is: "61 Ways to Organize Your Home and Simplify Your Life." Yeah right, as Leonard used to say.

One back issue I got was October 1999. These were the glory days of Martha Stewart Living, when the magazine was fat and brimming with ads for Ralph Lauren and recipes from Mrs. Kostyra and all kinds of yummy and interesting stuff. The current October issue, October 2013, is 187 pages. This old one, October 1999, is 300 pages long!

It is leisurely as new issues are not. They devote an entire page, p. 197, to a white background and a photo of what looks like a Vermont country road. Unhurried prose. "What a great sense of accomplishment is contained within a brimming bucket of Halloween candy, collected one precious piece at a time while marching steadfastly door to door ...."

But anyway.

There is this recipe I want to try. It is in the back of the December 1994 issue.

It is for Brown Bread.

You mix 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I like that part), 2 teaspoons salt.

Then in a small bowl you mix, 1 tablespoon yeast, 2 tablespoons molasses and 2 cups lukewarm water.

You mix the wet with the dry until it forms a sticky dough. Form it into a ball, place on a baking sheet, cover lightly with a clean towel (no, a dirty one, you know?) and let it rise for 20-30 minutes until doubled in size.

It doubles in size that fast?? I bet mine would not. But let's continue.

You then heat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 and bake 40 minutes more, or until done.

Does that sound too good to be true or what? It must be tried.

Brave words from me considering I have not yet even opened my Slimcado.

I still have not worked up the nerve!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The avocado desperado

Join me in song:

Why don't you come to your senses?
Come down off your fences,
Open the gates...

There is a slim-down Avocado and I have purchased it!

Actually they had this thing going at Tops where you buy 10 items for $1 each, and you get an 11th free. And a lot of these items were kind of good deals in the produce section. So my Slimcado was free if you want to look at it that way. I wanted to get something zany as my freebie and so I chose that.

It is worth it for the adventure!

Amid my last couple days' stringent Pennario book editing I have wedged in some Slimcado research. It is an avocado that comes from Florida as opposed to California. Response to it is mixed. I liked this guy's assessment of the Slimcado as being half avocado and half dinosaur egg.

Sounds good to me!

I will report.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Library therapy

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

The other day I was drawn into a sort of conversation with Brussels pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont about the concert hall, responding to a post he wrote about if concert traditions still work in today's electronic society. I wrote about it on my, ahem, Music Critic Web log and I wrote I really valued the silence in the concert hall because there is noise almost everywhere else. It is the truth!

I found myself thinking about my experiences in the library, like when that bum tried to hit me up. 

Or remember the guy who kept following me around the music department? Ha, ha! I was just reading back on that and laughing.

Or the time I owed $140?

OK, enough memory lane. Today I have a new library story.

I was waiting for my friend Melinda to get through looking for I forget what, and so I was looking through New Biographies. There were all these biographies of Leonard Pennario's friends, I noticed. There was a big book on Loretta Young. While I was checking the book on Loretta Young to make sure Pennario was not in the index, I heard these voices behind me.

"So," this woman was saying, "what else would you like to talk about?"

Then came a man's voice. "Well, I was just at St. Luke's. You know St. Luke's Mission of Mercy? They have good food there. Free food. They had these cookies. The cookies were a little too sweet for me, but they were good, and ..."

I did have to turn then out of curiosity and sure enough, there were these two people, sitting across from each other at a library table. They were using the library as a counseling office!

Which, come on, you know? It was great that this gentleman enjoyed St. Luke's, but do we have to hear about this in the library? Couldn't they use a place like Brightside Counseling, which I saw when I was walking in Isle View Park the other day with my friend Michelle?

In all honesty though I have to admit, in my disgruntlement was a trace of envy.

"What else would you like to talk about?"

What a luxury, to be asked that question!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank you, Elton John ...

.... for this morning's problem!

Don't you hate it when you have a song on your brain ... and you don't know the words?

This is a problem with Zumba class because there are these Zumba numbers running through your head and a lot of the time, even in class hearing the thing, you can't catch most of the words. So you have just a shard of it stuck in your mind.

"Yo, I'm standin' here with chocolate meltin' on my hands ..."

"The following is not a test, DEEJAY!"

Enough already!

On the other end of the spectrum this sort of problem also occurs with classical songs or opera arias. One day I hope to learn all the words to Mozart's "Non So Piu ..."


from "The Marriage of Figaro," but I do not know much Italian and after the first line or so I am stuck.

Anyway, this morning I wake up, I am loading up the coffee percolator, and for some reason there is one song in me and it has to come out and it is Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

I think the reason it was on my mind was the other night when I had to Tweet about the Emmy Awards, I was hoping old Elton, in his Liberace tribute, would at least come up with a good song. He does not have the piano chops but at least you expect a good song. Which we did not get. And this was my subconscious dealing with the situation, going, "Well, Elton John has written some songs I like."

The trouble is, I have heard them a million times but I don't know the words. I guess I have never listened that carefully. So this is me singing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road":

"So goodbye la la la la la
Where the la la la la la la la
You can't keep me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough.
Back to la la la la la la
La la la la la la la
Because I know my future lies
Beyond the Yellow Brick Whoooooaaaaaaa...."

That was when I almost submerged the percolator in dishwater. I always almost forget that you cannot!

Notice that I spelled plough the British way. It is because Elton John is British! Speaking of the plough, I always like him for that reference to the Roman statesman Cincinnatus. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus owned a farm and wanted to go back to his plow, and he did, but when Rome needed his service again, he answered the call. In Latin class you always learn the story of Cincinnatus and his plow.

You have to wonder, you know, if you stopped a kid on the street in Cincinnati and asked him or her who the city was named after, if the kid would be able to tell you.

Oh well. All this rumination and I am still stuck with my original problem.

"Back to la la la la la la
Where the la la la la la la la..."

Got to nip this in the bud otherwise this will be a long day. Administer Brahms immediately!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Russian pianist plays homage to Pennario

This brightens my Monday! I just found this cool video of a Russian pianist playing one of the virtuosic transcriptions that Leonard Pennario wrote, the Emperor Waltz. In German it is the Kaiser-Walzer and that was how Pennario referred to the music. He knew a lot of languages and did not like to pass up the chance to use them.

Haha, my YouTube is so screwed up. I have been so busy doing these things for work. Friday I went to hear the Philharmonic play Queen and last night I Tweeted about the Emmy Awards. So YouTube does not know if it is coming or going! It is throwing all these videos at me: "Mad Men," Queen's Live Aid concert, and Barbara Bonney singing Mozart's "An Chloe." Hmm, I might listen to that last one.

Back to the Kaiser-Walzer. Pennario would appreciate how this Russian guy handles this piece. He has a real Romantic sweep, this guy does. You can tell he has been doing some serious listening to Pennario and how he approached these showpieces. I am always listening to Pennario playing some light number and contrasting it with how other pianists play it. Too often people don't get that romantic edge.

Haha.. love how the Russian, Andrey Stukalov, nails that extravagant ending! You go!

Here is Pennario playing. With the vinyl and everything it just tugs at your heart. I am glad other people feel this too. It is always great to find a pianist paying him tribute.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Operation Eggplant

Saturday my brother George came over with a bunch of eggplants. I had one in the fridge and so we had an impromptu eggplant bake.

You have to be ready for big operations like this when George is around! He might show up with a bushel of squash or 10 pumpkins or something, you do not know and you do not ask.

George had a craving to make Baba Ganoush such as they sell at Wegmans. Except he did not want to go to Wegmans which I understand because of the desperation there. I love Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food and I have a range of hippie recipes for Baba Ganoush so we tried two different kinds.

For both kinds we diced up the eggplant into cubes of about an inch wide, and roasted them at 400 degrees. I turned the oven off for a while while we went walking in the park and then turned it back on, so all told I believe the eggplants roasted for about 40 minutes. Maybe a little too long! A few of the cubes were kind of tough. But most were just about right.

The kind of eggplant dish I made also had chopped up roasted red peppers and onions in there with the eggplant. I am like Leonard Pennario, I like to improvise. George wanted just eggplant in his Baba Ganoush. However he added mayonnaise. That was his twist. Apparently they do that at Wegmans and he had discovered it was authentic.

Room full of eggplants! But we carried it off., whirling the eggplant cubes around in my Osterizer. A food processor would probably make it easier but that would mean ostracizing the Osterizer and it is my old friend so I could not do that.

Here is a good Baba Ganoush to try. Next time I will probably try throwing in that yummy smoked paprika.

The moral of the story:

Do not be quick to assume that supermarkets make things better than you do!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Remember the Ember

Today marks the beginning of a marvelous and atmospheric time of year. It is the first of the autumn Ember Days! They are today, Friday and Saturday.

I remember brooding way back when about the Ember Days and how they enchant me. The fall Ember Days are my favorite because autumn is such a mystical time of year. It will not be too long until we fall back into Eastern Standard Time and it is dark starting at 5 p.m. I love that time of year, I have to say.

That is when you need your glowing embers! As in this painting by Tissot.

Reading back on my old Ember Days post there are things I forgot. It is funny how my mom said she had not heard of the Ember Days in a long time. I remember discussing the Ember Days with Leonard Pennario too. We used to talk about stuff like that and Confession.

Here is one thing new that I learned just today from this one priest's Web log that I follow. The Ember Days are the reason for the Japanese deep-fried dish Tempura. Who in the world knew that? That is Tempura pictured in that food porn at the top of this post. As if anyone does not recognize it. I would know Tempura anywhere, I will tell you that right now.

During the Ember Days you avoid eating meat. And Japanese Catholics in the 16th Century came up with Tempura as a yummy way to eat shrimp when you were fasting. The word "Tempura" comes from the Latin word for "times." "Quatuor Tempora" refers to the Ember Days.

It is funny how deep-frying is a universal response to fasting! Here in Buffalo we have the fish fry.

Folklore has it that the weather on this Ember Wednesday is a forecast of how the weather will be in October. We shall see.

Meanwhile I have a craving, or shall we say a yen, for tempura.

Must have!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cover Girl

There are so many movies on YouTube! It is pretty exciting.

Last night Howard and I watched the first half of "Cover Girl."

It stars Rita Hayworth as this chorus girl who has this romance going on with Gene Kelly, but then she becomes a cover girl on a magazine called -- I love this -- Vanity.

It won the Oscar for Best Score in 1945. Leonard Pennario was overseas with the army otherwise who knows, he might have won Best Original Score for something!

Imagine the competition back then! All the music was good. Howard was imagining the behind-the-scenes conversation: "Knock out some songs for this movie, can you?" Then you end up with these classics. "Cover Girl" includes "Long Ago and Far Away." A beautiful song!

Hayworth always looks so carefree.

However she was married and divorced five times! Wikipedia says she said: "Basically, I am a good, gentle person, but I am attracted to mean personalities."

There is a personality defect: Attracted to mean personalities!

Better her than me!

OK, watch the movie.

You know you want to!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Having a ball

On Sunday I was a little under the weather and so today I exercised with the medicine ball.

I notice on the Internet that a medicine ball is usually pictured as little.

But the medicine ball I have is big! And that is the kind of ball I learned was called a medicine ball. That is a phrase I love! Other people can call it a resistance ball or exercise ball. But I will henceforth call it a medicine ball. Hahahaa... in the picture above, I love how in the background you see this dog snoozing. The dog has no use for exercise!

Back to the ball.

I found this one impossible video. I did it a few days ago and today too.

It made me feel like such a weakling! But then that is what a medicine ball is for, to make you strong and healthy.  Plus there is something about exercising with a ball. It feels like play!

Even if you are failing and falling all over the place. I was kind of weak so there were times when I just kind of lay there. But tomorrow I will be stronger!

I long to be able to balance on the ball like a seal.

And do this.

But like my book on Leonard Pennario ...

Great things take time!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The toilet triumph

It is a great day because Howard fixed our historic toilet.

The toilet has been running funny for a couple of months. All it took was 10 minutes to fix it! 

There is no triumph like fixing a toilet. When I win a Pulitzer Prize for my book on Leonard Pennario it will not match the triumph that Howard felt today. 

I did, too! I greeted the news with delight.

Perhaps I will celebrate by buying a Toilet Paper Tree.

For the woman who has everything.

Which, now, I do!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A thing of beauty

I liked the heat. I am sorry to see it go.

You could feel it last night, the evening growing restless, the branches blowing. We went outside for the reason that you go outside in the neighborhood where we live: we heard a car crash. It was just a fender bender on the corner. Meanwhile the winds blew in and lightning began flashing.

Howard said, "That is the last of the warm air blowing out."

However. Sometimes summer comes back and stays a while! The fall I met Leonard Pennario it was summer almost into November. It was very warm! I remember that.

At least yesterday I did not waste the day. I wore a Hawaiian shirt to work. A most wonderful thing to do as the summer is flying!

I went for a steamy walk downtown.

In the evening I worked on the book for two hours and later I memorized a bit of John Keats.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. 
Its loveliness increases. It will never
Fall into nothingness, but will still keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

How is that for an accomplishment? It is the beginning of "Endymion." I could write it out without looking it up. It is good to write out the words of the great masters because then perhaps you can internalize it. That was why Beethoven wrote out some of Mozart's quartets.

The Keats was on the Celestial Seasonings box and I was waiting for the water to heat for my Sleepytime tea. I am addicted to Sleepytime tea, with that sleepy bear. I am going to keep rehearsing those lines so I have them in my head. You never know when you will need them!

And I will always remember how I learned it on this sultry and torpid evening, with lightning flashing and thunder rumbling.

It will be a souvenir!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rare find at Dollar Tree

Yesterday I went to Dollar Tree. There are Aldi days and there are Price Rite days and Sav-A-Lot days but yesterday was a Dollar Tree day!

I found something you almost never find anymore.

There is this Totally Awesome Dish Soap that is 50 ounces for $1. Well, it used to be. Like everything else it is going up in price. At Dollar Tree it cannot go up in price so the quantity is going down. The new bottles are 30 ounces.

I saw the writing on the wall about this a long time ago. The old bottles were disappearing and the new bottles were coming in. Nothing I like stays, you know? You get used to being able to buy something and it is gone. Howard and I loved this dish soap. He has described them as these "plump bottles." It is hard to find plump bottles of dishwashing liquid. The big deal now are those tiny bottles with something like 8 ounces.

It is amazing how they have caught on! Now we are used to it, that dish liquid comes in small bottles. People learn to settle for less. Just as they have learned to settle for not-so-great pianists now that Leonard Pennario is not around any more. Well, do not get me started on that.

Yesterday at Dollar Tree I rejoiced to to see a dozen of the old 50 oz. bottles. Son of a sea cook, I bought them all!

You should have seen me schlepping them out to my car!

The Dollar Tree clerk was great and gave me special dispensation to take the cart out of the store. She told me how to unscrew this huge bar that prevents normal mortals from taking them out.

I love special treatment so that got me smiling. It is nice how they hire these senior citizens at this particular Dollar Tree. They are extremely helpful. One of the bottles began leaking, totally normal when it comes to Totally Awesome Dish Soap, but she was distressed and gave me paper towels so I could protect my car trunk.

Anyway, such a deal.

Too bad it is a vanishing one!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stuff Howard says

I ended up with this book "Sh*t Girls Say." I am guilty of saying just about everything in the book. And so I am getting back on it with Sh*t Howard Says. Well, originally I titled the post that. I just could not stand looking at it so I changed it to Stuff Howard Says.

With which ...

"Can I wear a suit?"

"You're going to burn the house down."

"I'm getting stronger."

"We're out of oats."

"Maybe I should play ...

"Stop nagging me about the toilet."

"I should go back to listening to Art Tatum."

"I just like to stay home."

"Why do they have to have a horn?"

"This whiskey is great stuff."

"I have to go downtown."

"Leonard Pennario really was the greatest."

(I love him especially for that last one.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Milk bar

This is not exactly healthy but I have developed an addiction to those ersatz-milks you find in the dairy case.

Silk Coconut Milk. I first found this at Aldi. They had it as a temporary special and it was $2.99 and so I had to grab it. Now I am like an alcoholic with this stuff. Got to have it. I love the taste of it plus the way it feels in your mouth. It is insanely good! So I find myself at Dash or somewhere, checking to make sure I have a plan once my supply is depleted.

Then I branched out into Almond Milk.

But zut alors! The first one I got was good. It tasted, I can describe it precisely, exactly like the way it tastes when you have finished your cereal, lift up the bowl and drink the milk that is left over.

However the second one I got, just the other day, was sweetened. I did not mean to grab that. I was at Wegmans and I was unnerved the way I always am at Wegmans and I did not think. Now I have to cut it with normal milk just to get the sweetness down to a reasonable level.

This milk is good for you and it has a lot of calcium. But it is making me realize something about myself.

That is that I have no self control. I go upstairs with a cup of this stuff, figuring it will carry me for a while as I work on my Pennario project. But I drink it all up right away!

I am like a cat or a dog or something! Slurp, slurp, sip, sip, gone.

I cannot go slow with this.

So much to eat and drink!

So little time!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A word from the Pope Emeritus

It is so cool how we have two popes. We have Pope Francis and then Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, pictured above.

Two popes are better than one!

I just read how Pope Emeritus Benedict stepped out the other day ...

.... and gave a homily. The story said it was a welcome surprise because no one was expecting to hear from Benedict in his retirement.

That is not exactly true. There was at least one person expecting it.

It was me!

And Howard was expecting it too. So that is two people.

I remember when Benedict stepped down, I said to one of my friends that maybe he could have more time to think now, and that he could advise the next pope.

My friend said: "I read he's not going to have any input."

I said: "He'll have input."

My friend said: "But they say we're not going to hear from him."

I said: "We'll hear from him."

Sure enough. Who is right? Me. I was right about Pennario and I am right about Pope Benedict. These octogenarians, I have a sense about them. I speak octo!

They say Benedict is looking stronger than he looked last year. I am looking forward to his next talk.

It will happen!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pennario makes Top 10 list of famous Leonards

Googling around looking for something while doing my research just now, I found Pennario on this one birthday site.

He is No. 9, worldwide, on the list of famous Leonards!

It is fun trying to guess the other ones. You probably can. 

When my book is out I will give the signal and we must blitz the site and bump Pennario up to the No. 1 slot. In Buffalo we are good at this kind of thing. It would help mightily to get a picture of him up there too. I will have to see what can be done about that. That picture up above should at least move him up a couple of slots, you know?

Then he will shoot like a comet past Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Nimoy and Leonard Cohen. He must be the top Leonard, there shall be no other Leonards beside him.

Justice will prevail!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Return to Fantasy Island

We had another trip to Fantasy Island yesterday! It is still open for a few more weekends before the end of summer.

It was a lot of fun. I was the last one to get to the park and the kids came running up. "We've lost our parents!" they reported delightedly.

So we all troop into the park. And it is funny, with kids, how crises hit really suddenly. It is like Liszt played by Leonard Pennario. There are surprises at every turn.

We have hardly taken a few steps when Barbara, who is 7, falls down and skins her shin somehow, gives herself this abrasion. That is Barbara up above, drinking out of one of Fantasy Island's classic water fountains as George Andrew looks on. Her injury was not much but it was one of those things that really hurts when it happens to you at first. So she is crying her head off and I am holding her and telling her yes, it hurts, you just have to wait it out, it'll stop, and --

Suddenly, salvation!

The stocks!

Fantasy Island has this Wild West theme and if there is one thing kids cannot resist it is the stocks.

First George Andrew took his place in the stocks. Ha, ha! He still has his map of the park in his hand. That is our George Henry on the right looking on enviously.

Then it was George Henry's turn.

It is a miracle I could take this pictures because I still had my arms around this crying kid. But then Barbara snapped out of it, as I knew she would. The temptation of the stocks were just too much.

Barbara is a born actress.

Notice the canoes behind her. Also note the Buffalo News box behind her in the picture at the top, with the water fountain.

We have had such fun this summer at Fantasy Island. My visits there were partly on account of, ahem, work, because I wrote this story on the Silver Comet, the roller coaster they have there. Anyway, I wish I could have gone there even more.

Summer is so short!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Suspense in the back yard

There is suspense because our apple tree is growing apples for the first time in forever.

There was one year it had apples and that was years ago! This year the apples are there and they are getting bigger and we are holding our breaths.

It is like a difficult birth. You do not want to smoke or drink or do anything that could possibly jeopardize these apples. The garage is falling down but the work is being put off so the apple tree will not be disturbed. I am thinking I should go outside with a boom box and play the apples Leonard Pennario playing Mozart. I want to give them the best of everything.

These are Goldman Delicious apples. Did I say Goldman Delicious? I meant Golden Delicious. Those are not the apples up above! That is a picture I took off the Internet. I do not want to take pictures of our baby apples. What if it was bad for them?

A prayer for our apple tree.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The birthday cake baker

This is me presenting Howard with his birthday cake at his birthday party.

It got me thinking about other birthday cakes I have made that I love. There is something special about making a birthday cake. I am not an expert at it! I am no good at cake decorating and never will be. Fussy things and I never agree. For instance I have never worked well outlining my projects which is one reason my Leonard Pennario book still has a little ways to go. Not much but a little.

What I am good at though, is that when I make a birthday cake I really love it.

The cake in the picture above, it is a sheet cake off of Whenever you want to make something fattening AllRecipes is your friend!

A few other birthday cakes stand out in my mind. Once back when I was holding Monday night jam sessions at my house, my friend Peggy Farrell the jazz singer was celebrating her birthday. I made the Oatmeal Cake out of one of the Moosewood Cookbooks, I think "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest."

It baked in an 8 1/2 by 11 pan, definitely nothing fancy. But that was the whole charm. I still love remembering this cake. You made it with yogurt and oatmeal and it was dense and country-ish. I frosted it with a caramel frosting I got out of "The Joy of Cooking." Then I just stuck a bunch of candles in it and I loved carrying it out. It went, too. Everyone ate it.

Here it is! Oatmeal Yogurt Cake from "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest." I found it! If you have never made this cake before, try it. Make it for someone's birthday. Trust me.

More recently, a couple of years ago, my friend Michelle from work was celebrating a birthday and we did a little dinner at my house for a bunch of people from the office. I asked Michelle what kind of cake she wanted. That is a wonderful question to ask. I love asking it.

She asked for Red Velvet Cake!

Which I had never made. But that never stops me. I researched recipes and made Red Velvet Cake. It was in style during the 1920s. I learned that while I was reading up on it.

You had to use red food coloring which disappointed me a little. I had thought it had beets in it or something. Plus, I am warning you if you try this at home, a little red food coloring goes a long way. I saw recipes that called for a whole bottle! Luckily I chose one that needed just a teaspoon or something. Even with that, the kitchen looked like a car wreck. There was red everywhere.

But the cake turned out glorious. I mean, I loved it. It was a layer cake which I am not used to making so that gave me a thrill, trying to make one. I have a picture somewhere of me serving it to Michelle.

Oh, look, I wrote about it! Just now I started getting the sneaking suspicion that I had. Here is the picture.

Oops! That is not the picture! I do not think I ever made that cake. I am not talented enough. I do not know how it ended up in my files. Here is the picture.

So, enough about the red velvet cake, seeing that we have explored that before. There is one more cake.

That is the cake I made for Howard last night. It was his actual birthday so, another cake opportunity, not to be wasted. I had already made the cake pictured at the top of the post, which was a chocolate cake as he had requested. So now I made Blueberry Pudding Cake out of the Mark Bittman cookbook, "How To Cook Everything," that I scored for a buck at a garage sale I went to with my friend Lynn earlier this summer.

Howard loves blueberries, ergo this cake. It baked in a water bath -- weird, because I had made Mollie Katzen's Peach Pudding Cake and I do not remember it needing that. You also had to separate a bunch of eggs and beat up the egg whites, another thing I do not remember from that peach pudding cake.

The Blueberry Pudding Cake turned out great. There really was pudding in it! I had no birthday candles on hand so I used tea lights. Howard took pictures. I am going to have to wring them out of him and post them.

The moral of the story is, you do not have to be a professional cake decorator to turn out a birthday cake.

It is the thought that counts!

Hmmmm... I was just going to end with that, but all of a sudden I realized: Isn't it funny, I just noticed that the post I linked to was exactly a year ago today. That is a coincidence. I was writing about a garage sale where I bought a cake carrier. And my mother was there with me, giving advice on the cake carrier I was buying.

That was just a year ago! It makes me happy that my mom was out with me at garage sales that recently.

Celebrate the time you have with people. Celebrate with cakes.

They do not have to be perfect!