Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the third day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas I bought myself a present at Savers.

It is a KitchenAid tea kettle. In lilac! That is it up above. My friend Michelle who likes color sometimes posts pictures of whimsical color stuff she finds and uses the, ahem, hashtag #ColorPop. This tea kettle qualifies.

I am especially happy about this kettle because the one it replaces was one I bought a couple of years ago just because it was cheap. My old kettle had kicked and I needed a new one, fast, and I was reduced to going to Target. And as usual there I was appalled at how expensive everything was and so I got the cheapest I could find. By the way it was not that cheap. It cost me a good $12 or something.

The old tea kettle, it has worked OK, but the one thing that really bugs me is, I cannot clean it. I used to be able to scour it at first but then it got harder and harder and the last time I tried, I got nowhere with it. And it just is not worth it, you know, for this stupid little cheapie kettle.

Out with the old kettle! Why am I even writing about it?

In with the new!

The new KitchenAid, if I were buying it new, it would run me about $70 judging from Amazon. Imagine spending $70 on a tea kettle. I mean, it is not as if it were a rare Leonard Pennario record. But on a tea kettle?

Did I mention it cost me $4?

I was all excited when I got it home and as Jeoffry watched from the sidelines ...

... I immediately put the new tea kettle into service brewing this tasty tea that my new friend Winnie gave me last night on the Second Day of Christmas. It is Ajiri Kenyan Black Tea. I am enjoying it right now out of a bright green garage sale Fiesta cup, pictured above. (Speaking of #ColorPop.)

Happy Third Day of Christmas to me!

And to you.

And your house!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Venite adoremus

The Christmas mass I went to today was the Second Mass of Christmas, the Mass at Dawn. And it sure felt like dawn!

It was at 9 a.m.. and that is awfully early. Plus, before I left I got into a conversation with Howard about liquor. That is a subject I love discussing and I lost track of time. Then I went to pick up Dorothy so that put me back a little more. End result as we say here in Buffalo, the procession got into the church before I did.

I was, however, right on their heels. Observe Dorothy, to the left, in her styling red tam. In case you are new, this was at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Buffalo, where there is a magnificent museum dedicated to Buffalo's Italian heritage, and where the great concert pianist Leonard Pennario was baptized.

Deo gratias, Dorothy and I hustled and got up to the organ loft in time for the start of Mass.

The Mass was beautiful, totally worth it considering the early hour. Christmas morning mass is the greatest. It celebrates the light. And it is so much better than certain evening Vigil masses full of people "getting it out of the way." This Mass was a Mass to enjoy and to savor! And we got to sing a wonderful medieval Christmas hymn.

When it was over Dorothy and I went for a close-up exploration of St. Anthony's beautiful Nativity scene. Dorothy said, "There's a lot of hay."

That cute donkey was carved by our former priest, Father Secondo. I always look for that donkey with his sweet big ears. I should point out that the Mass at Dawn is known also as the Mass of the Shepherds. That is something I have just learned.

This picture gives you a better look of the actual Nativity scene. There is another donkey in the stable with the Holy Family.

Our next stop was across the church to venerate the Baby Jesus. 

Venite adoremus, Dominum!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The dark before the dawn

The darkness is wild.

That picture up above that we took from the terrace of Big Blue ... now it looks like that all the time! The days are getting longer as of the other day but they are not in any hurry.

In the morning when the alarm goes off it is pitch black like the middle of the night.

After work when I come home Jeoffry is in the dark if I have not remembered to turn on lights.

My brother George said, "Is it ever going to be daylight again?"

We listen to the music of the night.

Monday, December 22, 2014

'O my God, I am heartily sorry....'

The priest at Mass on Sunday, a Canadian priest from St. Catharines, explored in his sermon a fascinating topic. He talked about all the different versions of the Act of Contrition!

Remember when I blanked in the middle of the Act of Contrition? I was remembering that.

Anyway. I thought everyone's Act of Contrition was the same but it is not. I now understand they have different ones from place to place. And I loved how the priest described them.

He said that the Irish Act of Contrition is "flowery." It is elaborate and poetic the way the Irish can be, which is why they produced some of the world's greatest writers and poets. They have that musical language. On the other hand the Scottish Act of Contrition is economical the way you expect Scots to be.

I could not wait to get home so I could look up these Acts of Contrition.

Hmmm. I was not very successful at locating the flowery Irish Act of Contrition. And at this one Catholic church in the Scottish Highlands they list the Act of Confession we have here. Oh, but look! There is an alternate:

"O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, and with the help of your grace I will not sin again. Amen."

That pretty much sums it up! I wish my book on Leonard Pennario could be so concise.

Here is an idea.

I think we should just quote Richard Nixon and say: "Mistakes were made."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The cookie monsters

My little niece Barbara was over again today and we baked more Christmas cookies. That is a photograph of us up above that my brother George took with his phone! We made gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies. That link is to the recipe we used. Except we did not do the frosting.

What fun! I am not exactly to baking cookies as Leonard Pennario is to piano but I have a wonderful time at it. There is something about working with butter and sugar and sprinkles, what is not to love. My brother, Barbara's dad, napped on the couch as Barbara and I worked, rolling the cookies in sugar, flattening them with a glass, decorating them with a dozen colors of sprinkles from Albrecht Discount. We wore fancy frilly red hostess aprons. We played records of Nelson Eddy and Eileen Farrell ....


... singing Christmas carols. The hours flew.

My niece Barbara sometimes says the most adorable things and she did that today.

"Oh!" she burst out. "I wish my entire life could be like this!"

I said: "Me too!"

I love to bake!

My sister Margie and I would bake when we were kids. Well, Katie would bake too. We all baked. Margie and I were texting just last week about it and I confided that if heaven were just this big kitchen where we could bake cookies and swill wine, and suffer no ill consequences from either one, that would be fine with me.

One day this week I will detail all the Christmas cookies I have baked so far this season. There are many different kinds! And here it is not even Christmas yet.

Many many more to go!

Many more calories to be consumed!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The great pumpkin

Help, home invasion! My house has been seized by a pumpkin and it has made its barracks here.

This was a jack-o-lantern sized behemoth that my brother passed on to me. That is a picture above that I snapped of it on the cutting board. I tried to place it among various objects so you could marvel at its girth. Observe the apple to the left of it. That will give you an idea.

Big Jack made it through Thanksgiving but I detected a small soft spot, and so into the oven it went.

Now there are big wedges of it everywhere. I have about 50 pounds of pumpkin!

There is a lot you can do with pumpkin besides make pie. I plan to expound on that when, after finishing my book on Leonard Pennario, I write the Pumpkin Cookbook.

I have made gratins and lasagnas that call for you to mash it up with cheese. There is a wonderful recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook for Chilean Squash that is terrific with pumpkin. I made it for Thanksgiving once and everyone loved it. No one guessed it was pumpkin. It was like something you would get in a Mexican restaurant. You can also make pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin cupcakes and other goodies. 

The big jack o'lantern is a marvelous thing.

I'll never be hungry again!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tolkien's take on a cat

Last night when a bunch of us went Christmas caroling, first we gathered in the gracious home of my friends George and Anne Apfel in Williamsville. And we played with the Apfels' tiger kitten and we all talked about our cats, including our Jeoffry, pictured above.

Well, everyone talked about cats except our friend Ryan, who is not a cat owner. Three cheers for Ryan, who puts up with us!

Today I found this poem. Someone had posted it as a comment to a story the Atlantic Monthly ran about why cats will always be a little bit wild.

The poem is by J.R.R. Tolkien. I never really got into "The Lord of the Rings" but I have a deep affinity for Tolkien because he loved the Tridentine Latin Mass the way I do (and the way Leonard Pennario did). When the Mass turned to English, Tolkien would always insist on giving the responses in Latin. Requiescat in pace, dear poet. Next time we sing "Adeste Fideles" it will be for you.

And now the poem:

"Cat" by J. R. R. Tolkien

The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom --
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Take a bough

Shame, shame! I had to bring work home this weekend. I was behind!

But this evening when I felt I had made some progress I let myself put up my tree. It is way early, I know, for traditionally minded folks like me. Some of my close friends will admonish me. I will have to keep my fingers crossed and hope they are pacified with some eggnog. Or perhaps some Bailey's Irish Cream which, who knows, I just might make again this season.

Either that or I could just genuinely apologize and say I could not help it. I am not alone! I know a lot of traddies just like myself and most of them have put their trees up. Especially the ones with kids. It just cannot be helped.

Technically the Christmas season does not begin until Christmas Eve but that horse is out of the barn and it cannot be put back in overnight.

So, my tree. It is the Martha Stewart white fake tree I got from Howard. I realize taking it out of the box that it has become a bit yellowed. It is because I have always put it in the window. Now I see you are not supposed to put it in direct sunlight. Of course I did not bother reading the instructions any of the other years. So that is another horse that is out of the barn.

Who cares, after dark it still looks great. And that is when you enjoy your tree, in the evening. And I do enjoy it. Leonard Pennario loved Christmas and so do I.

And so does Jeoffry! He was into this tree idea from the beginning, as you can see from that picture. I texted that picture to my sister Margie who got a kick out of his orange ears. Margie is so sweet and she recognizes artistic greatness when she sees it.

I can tell you exactly how many lights there are on my tree. There are 600!

My friend Ryan gave me a wonderful present last year, three sets of LED lights made especially for fake white trees. Other years, I used old strings of lights with dark green strings. Ryan got these lights marked down after Christmas at Kmart. There are 200 lights in a pack and he gave me three sets so I used all of them, every last light. You cannot see my tree for the lights!

It is hard to see but the tree is topped with a blue light. I arranged the light string that way in tribute to Kmart, because of Kmart's Blue Light Special.

Right now Jeoffry and the tree are content to co-exist.

I hope they stay that way!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The orphan organist

My life being this chaos, today I was weeding through stuff trying to think what I can throw out to make room, eventually, for the Christmas tree. My Cat Jeoffry was following me around looking alarmed. Nothing ever gets thrown out in this house!

And so far it looks as if not a lot will this time around, either. For instance I found these four albums by, and I quote, "Jesse Crawford Organ and Chimes."

That is Jesse Crawford up above. Is anyone else lucky enough to have these? I have four. I must have inherited them from some friend. And I think I have overlooked them until now. What I have been missing! These are great.

Jesse Crawford was born in 1895 and his mother put him in an orphanage because she was so poor. From those down-home beginnings came greatness. He taught himself music and became the Leonard Pennario of silent movie organists, playing on the Mighty Wurlitzer at New York's Paramount Theater.

What else can I tell you about Jesse Crawford?  He was the most popular organist of the early 20th century and listening to him you can tell why.

He is married four times which sounds about par for a celebrated theater organist.

As usual the most comprehensive biography of Jesse Crawford may be found at Find a Grave. Oh, how sweet... someone left a message on the page saying: "You must be playing on that grand organ in heaven, for all the angels to sing."

He is also playing in my living room, for Jeoffry and me. He is a great organist. So creative. Often he sees a Christmas carol totally different from how you see it.

The chimes are played by someone called Botticelli. That sounds like another story for another day.

Take it, Mr. Crawford!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Adventure with cauliflower wings

This has been one adventurous week in the kitchen and today I scaled new heights of hipness.

I made cauliflower chicken wings!

You know, Buffalo wings that are actually cauliflower. Cauliflower is the hip new vegetable and I have always loved it, and this idea has been going around the Internet. I had this really good blue cheese from Lorigo's and I decided this recipe had to be tried.

There are a bunch of recipes floating around. But I noticed that a lot of them are simply roasted cauliflower that you dip in blue cheese. That is nothing new. I roast cauliflower all the time and sure, you always coat it with a little bit of olive oil and whatever else. I wanted something more radical.

So I found this recipe on Big Oven, this app I have. That is not that recipe pictured up above! Up above is a picture I got off this veggie gal's Web log. Mine did not look that perfect. It also was not her recipe. Here is what I did:

You mix in a big bowl: one cup flour, one tablespoon garlic powder, one teaspoon paprika and one cup water. Like paste, ick, except it's really not that bad, it's more like a loose bread dough.

Then, gotta love this, "Add salt and pepper to taste." Thanks a heap, you know? I hate when recipes do this. How am I supposed to know how much to add? I am not going to be tasting this before I cook it. So I threw in a teaspoon or something of salt.

You separate a cauli into florets and then you roll them in the bowl with this goo. This took some doing. The substance did not want to stick. But I finally got it pretty well distributed.

Then you are supposed to spread the florets on a cooking sheet covered with foil and cooking spray. I do not buy cooking spray. It is unappetizing and the cans gum up and besides I have enough expenses. So I buttered the foil lightly.

Then you roast for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the florets over and roast for another 15.

Meanwhile they say mix a cup of hot sauce with a tablespoon of butter. After that second 15 minutes, you pour the hot sauce mixture over the cauliflower and mix it up again. Yeah right as Leonard Pennario used to say. It is a job. Then you bake it for another 5 or 10 minutes.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo:

I enjoyed them!

I did overcook them. Somehow they wound up in the oven for an hour while I took a shower and improvised on Mozart and worked on the book. But I did not regret the long baking time. It is a funny thing with cauliflower, I know it should be crunchy for this recipes purposes but I do not like it crunchy. I want it cooked. The floury coating added some crunch.

If you deep-fried the cauliflower that would be closer to the real thing. Like Tempura. But we are not going to do that, are we.

One thing makes this recipe a hit.

Who among us Buffalonians would not happily eat cardboard if it were dipped in blue cheese and served up with carrot and celery sticks?

I know I would!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A historic choice for the Buffalo Mass Mob

It is exciting that the Buffalo Mass Mob is going to be mobbing Holy Angels. At 10:30 a.m. Dec. 7. I just marked my calendar.

I assume Holy Angels was chosen because it was Leonard Pennario's parish when he was a boy, up until when his family moved to Los Angeles. Hmmm, that is something. He went from Holy Angels to The Angels! Anyway Holy Angels was where he started to play the piano, because the nun who taught his kindergarten class saw how gifted he was. And when he was 19 and appeared with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, that nun was there!

So there is that. And I have my family connection too. In the 1940s and '50s and '60s, my Great Uncle Andrew was pastor of Holy Angels. There is a portrait of him in the social hall.

Here is a picture of the inside of the church.

I think Holy Angels was part of how Pennario and I became friends. The first time we talked on the phone, we talked about the church and got it sorted out, our family connections with Holy Angels and who was pastor when. When Pennario was there the pastor was Father Stanton.

When Leonard came here to Buffalo he wanted to see Holy Angels again and so we went there

One more thing about Holy Angels, as I just wrote on the Mass Mob Facebook page, it is the only church I have ever encountered that has heated seats. There are radiators under the pews! At least there were last time I checked. I hope they are still there.

We could use them this winter!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Project Fruitcake

It is time to get those fruitcakes going! And so I have gone looking for them on Martha Stewart's web site. This is a job for Martha Stewart. You cannot go looking for fruitcakes in Cooking Light magazine or any other place devoted to healthy eating. Plus Cooking Light gets a little skewed when it comes to desserts. They are obsessed by cutting fat so do that they amp up the sugar. End result, as we say here in Buffalo: You must go to Martha.

I was drawn to "Moist and Boozy Fruitcake With Rum and Port."

Just the ingredient list for any fruitcake makes you dizzy. A pound of raisins, a pound of dried currants, a pound of dried cherries, a pound of butter, a pound of, ahem, dried plums ... and I am not even getting into the nuts or the citrus peel or anything. I must needs by oranges and grapefruit so I can candy my own peel. I did that once before and it is easy and cheap and better than if you bought it prepared.

The above picture comes off the Internet and it underestimates the things you will need. By the way what is with the Welch's grape juice? Who posted this picture, some Southern Baptist? Grape juice is not going to preserve your fruitcake. You need that booze.

When I did fruitcakes before it was really fun. As I wrote before that was pre-Leonard Pennario when I had all the time in the world. Now I have no time. But you do have to spend an hour or so a day cooking and I can wedge my fruitcake project into that.

Homemade fruitcakes are really delicious and lighter than that stuff you buy that it is like a brick. Imagine a wonderful rum cake. That is what they are like.

At least I have the rum.

Stir-Up Sunday is past, but today can be Stir-Up Monday!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stirring it up

As I said, Stir-Up Sunday was fast approaching. It approached today!

You must stir something up on Stir-Up Sunday and so my niece Barbara and my nephew Georgie and I stirred up Oatmeal Cookies.

It was funny because when they came over, I announced I had fresh-baked oatmeal cookies. I had baked them this morning when I rolled out of bed so I could bring them to church coffee hour but I had baked extra. And they say, "Oh, we don't like oatmeal cookies."

And I think, OK, great.

So when we began talking about baking more cookies, this being Stir-Up Sunday, I asked them what kind we should make.

And they said, "Oatmeal cookies!"

It took me a couple of minutes to see what had happened. They had sampled the cookies I had made and immediately rethought their position. They had a new obsession: oatmeal cookies. They wanted to make a fresh batch! So I said yes.

My brother George, their dad, was sharing their appreciation. He said, "I don't know when the last time was I had an oatmeal cookie."

Even when I was a kid, I remember thinking that chocolate chip cookies had wrongly eclipsed every other kind of cookie. I mean, make no mistake, chocolate chip cookies are great. But other kinds of cookies are great too. Oatmeal cookies are one. Comparing them to chocolate chip cookies is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. They are separate but equal.

And oatmeal cookies with vanilla and brown sugar, and cloves and cinnamon and allspice and nutmeg... they are like Leonard Pennario's piano playing, one taste and you are overwhelmed. I always loved all those spices as a little girl. Of course I am German. Speaking of which these cookies also have black pepper in them. I gave Barbara the choice of adding it or not and she added it. I am so proud of our Barbara. She is such a sophisticated eater!

Above is a portrait of Barbara with a tray of our masterpieces. We frosted the oatmeal cookies!

She is such a ham.

They do look kind of professional, you know? Well, they did once we arranged them in a tin.

If you have not yet baked anything for Stir-Up Sunday you still have time. And you do not have to complete the project! The real meaning of Stir-Up Sunday is, it is your signal to start those fruitcakes and rum balls and other boozy desserts you plan on serving up at Christmas.

Start now!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cookies for a crowd

I love an excuse to bake, as seen in the picture above, and that is why God created the church coffee hour.

Today I made Cranberry Oatmeal Bars. Hahahaha... the cookbook opens right to the page because I spilled so much on it. I was half asleep this morning making these cookies! I was drinking my coffee and throwing them together. And could I have found a more complicated recipe? It had a million ingredients. Well, it would not be too bad under normal circumstances. But when you just wake up...

As is usual with me I gamely made substitutions. It called for sour cream and I used vanilla yogurt. It wanted orange rind and I used lemon rind. And who has dried cranberries? I used raisins.

Why do recipes always call for things you do not have? This is Cooking Light from 2008.

Then there was the matter of the lightly beaten egg white. I studied the recipe, wondering about that. Cooking Light does funny things just to shave off something like one calorie off every cookie. Was that egg white in there because it needed that specific texture, or did they just want to omit the yolk to save a couple of calories?

I was doubling the recipe so after adding the white I beat the yolk and added it, too.

Which leads me to one gripe. Does anyone notice how recent cookie recipes only make something like two dozen? A couple of weeks ago I was making cookies for church coffee hour under the same circumstances, i.e., early in the morning when I am still asleep. I go through all this trouble and I noticed only at the last minute that it made two dozen.

I said out loud: "Two dozen??"

Why is this? In the old Joy of Cooking all the recipes make at least 100 cookies. Don't people these days think you take cookies to parties and luncheons? Don't they think you take them to work? Don't they think you have any friends? And even if I am baking just for me I want quantity.

If I had just noticed that paltry yield I could have tripled the recipe or something but I was too trusting. Anyway, so that was where I was today, multiplying and dividing and doing fractions in my head. You have to have the mind of Leonard Pennario just to make a batch of cookies.

End result, though, the cookies came out great. The kids were trying to get at them before I could even serve them. Then they vanished so fast I never got to try them.

At least I can assume they were good!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Cat Jeoffry

We have named our cat My Cat Jeoffry because of this British poem. That is Jeoffry pictured above in a portrait by Howard.

My father read me this poem when I was little. And recently when I was at church my friend Alenka, who is from London and is the authoress ...

... of the witty Web log Turkeys on the Sunlounger, mentioned it. That was when I remembered the poem.

"I will consider my cat Jeoffry." That is how it starts.

Then this poet, his name is Christopher Smart, he continues in the style of a liturgy. Every line begins with "For." Off the top of my head I can quote a few.

"For he is of the Tribe of Tiger."
"For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance."
"For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying."

Something like that. And a line I love runs something like: "For God spoke to Moses concerning the cats on the occasion of the Exodus from Egypt."

I actually looked in the Bible to see if I could find God saying something concerning the cats! I could not. But I love the idea. And surely He did.

When we first got our cat he would get nutzed and start trying to scratch my ankles or something and I would scoop him up and say to him: 

"For he is of the Tribe of Tiger!"

And another line from the poem:

"For every house is incomplete without him!"

And it would calm him immediately because he would just be so startled. Who is this nut who adopted me? First she sits around for hours every night working on this book on this concert pianist Leonard Pennario and now what in the world is she talking about?

The poem was written in the 18th century so it is quaint. It is also religious. But it is such a tender portrait of a cat. And cats have not changed one bit over hundreds and hundreds of years. He even talks about the cat playing with a cork. Our cat plays with corks. Luckily a wine drinker lives in this house and so those are those timeless cat toys lying around.

I sort of wanted to call the cat Jeoffry but Howard had naming rights because it is his birthday cat. Last week we were talking about it was time to give the cat a name. I mentioned Jeoffry.

Howard said: "I call it Cat. Or My Cat. It seems to recognize that."

Then it clicked. 

I said, "Howard, that's the name of the poem, My Cat Jeoffry!"

And immediately it was clear that is his name. He can be Jeoffry or My Cat Jeoffry or Cat or My Cat.

Here is the poem "My Cat Jeoffry." By Christopher Smart (1722 - 1771). 

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary. 
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel 
            from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest. 
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion. 
For he is of the Lord’s poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry!
            poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better. 
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection. 
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the 
            bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

It is unfinished. 

I think those of us lucky enough to have cats may feel free to add to it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gotta dance

Yesterday I had a very long day at work so I chilled out afterward by going to Zumba. Our cat Jeoffry had been under the weather so I found myself apologizing to him as I backed out the door in my pink Zumba pants.

"Jeoffry, I'm sorry, I'm just going to Zumba," I told him. "I'll be back. I'll leave class 15 minutes early."

I actually said that!

The good news is that Jeoffry got over what he had which, that is a story for another day. Also I liked Zumba class a lot more than I thought I would. I had kind of fallen off the Zumba wagon because it had become too much a hip-hop, shake-your-booty, backwards-baseball-cap thing. I mean, I can take a song or two of that, but I do not want it to be the whole class.

It seemed it had become all this monotonous stuff with someone yelling something over a beat. Once I kept track and there were something like 10 songs in a row with absolutely no tune. Some of the words were too trashy. The "songs" were too dumb. I picked up that snotty habit from Leonard Pennario of the sarcastic use of quote marks.

Also, as you can see in this picture ...

... nobody wears those cute neon-colored Zumba clothes I used to like. It says you do not take yourself too seriously and now I think Zumba takes itself more seriously.

Anyway I had not been to Zumba in a while.

But you have to do something, you know? I missed the exercise. So yesterday there I was. And it was better. Not as bad as I had been remembering. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging, pendulously, back the other way.

Plus we had a great teacher who never stopped the class. I hate lazy teachers who stop the class. It ended up this teacher was imported from Clarence for the evening, my luck. But anyway, good class, and it made me feel good. I will try Zumba again.

I will report!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rhapsody at Amvets

I went to Amvets over the weekend. It could not be helped! I walked in looking for something sensible but I wound up heading inexorably toward the records.

Amvets has something like 100 boxes of records, lying around on the floor and on tables. Looking through all of them is a task of Biblical proportions, like looking through all the grains of sand by the sea. The impossibility of the task makes it relaxing to flip through one box, then another box. There is always the hope you will find something great.

I did find great things this time around. One of which was Pennario's "Gershwin By Starlight" ...

... in its later re-release on Angel.

It is rare to find any Pennario at thrift shops and this is an especially great find because No. 1 I did not have it and also because in my obsessive reworking of this biography I was at exactly the point where this record appeared. Also this weekend brought this Gershwin concert at the Buffalo Philharmonic.

When I got home, I wanted to put the record right on the hi-fi, but I hesitated, this will sound dumb but it was because the cat was sick. He is fine now -- but he was not then, and he was asleep and I did not want this big brash Gershwin to come pouring out and wake him up.

Meanwhile, because I had a yen to hear this, I got on YouTube out of curiosity to see if any of these performances had been posted. It was silly because I had checked very recently.

And lo! A couple of them had! One was this tremendous take on the Second Rhapsody.

 These clips had been posted just this weekend!

It is funny when things line up like this. I said to myself: "I think he wants me to listen to his Gershwin."

Ya think?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yo ho ho!

Yesterday I went from my yo-yo-ing to yo-ho-ing.  I went to Premier Liquor and bought rum!

I have in mind Christmas baking. Christmas starts early at our house, I have to admit it. We have already had our first Christmas caroling rehearsal. That is a story for another day.

Meanwhile Stir-Up Sunday ...

... will be here before we know it. I want to be able to get started with fruitcakes and rum confections. And what do you know, Premier has these amazing rum specials going. We are talking rebates of $10 and $15.

You know me and rebates. But I make an exception when the sums are this high.

I know nothing about rum but I made two selections. There was a third special going too, on yet another kind of rum. Mayhap I will return. See, when you are talking about rum you wind up talking like a pirate and not the biographer of Leonard Pennario. Arrrr.

One rum that I purchased was Blackheart.

It has the requisite embarrassing trashy picture on the label like the one at the top of this post.

That is a signal that it will be good. We must buy the rum that the pirates buy!

Howard and I sampled it last night. Howard had it with frozen bananas and I had a sip straight up.
Seemed OK to me!

Now I have actually to send in the rebate. Those Blackheart manufacturers with their black hearts are doubtless hoping I will not. But I will foil them.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The yoga yo-yo

That is me! I am the yo-yo.

I have always been kind of conflicted about yoga but I find myself going because there are more yoga classes than Pilates classes. But here is what is funny: Whenever I find myself going something happens to make me wonder.

Remember the time my mother seemed to know, magically, that I was planning on buying yoga clothes and going to yoga? Today was like that.

I got into the car to go to yoga and the radio goes on and there was Mother Angelica...

... and she was talking about Eastern religions. She was joking around about how everyone is suggesting you do Buddhist this and Hindu that but oh, the Rosary, that is so old-fashioned. I started laughing because I got what she was saying. Then I caught my breath.

Oh, no! What about my yoga class??

It is uncanny, how this happens to me.

Obstinately I went to my class. And for a while everything is fine. Half way through the class, I am thinking, this is cool. The teacher is just droning on with her loud instructions, and there is no mention of this New Age gobbledygook. This is great! I can go with this.

And then, just as we are all balancing on one toe, or whatever,  the woman goes: "Set an intention for this practice."

Set an intention? I am in the gym, not in church!

My only intention is to look like a supermodel!

And it just went from there. Now I am thinking again that I have to stay away. I just cannot stand for this kind of thing. Once again, I am tied up in knots.

It is tough because I sort of enjoy yoga. That is not I in the picture above but take my word for it. I like to stretch myself this way and that. I think it dates to my love of playing Twister when I was a kid, plus working on my Pennario project I am used to stretching myself.

But you just cannot ignore these signs, you know?

All I can think is that my mother, being no longer around to supervise me in person, has somehow got Mother Angelica on my case.

How do they always know what is going on?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The teas of Christmas

We are into the time of year I love, when every day is plunged into darkness early. Today at church it was pointed out that we are nearing the end of the liturgical calendar and so we are getting signs in the readings about the end of time.

I had never known that! I had never realized that at this point in the season that these signs are appearing, that we are hearing about the things that are coming, God knows when.

Remember the moon sign? That was around this time of year.

Also as we approach the end of the liturgical year, tea is appearing in the supermarkets. Remember the Celestial Seasonings Christmas teas? There are now more.

There is Caramel Apple Dream.

And there is Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland.

Me being this tea-aholic when it comes to these things, I have purchased both. They must needs be tried. Checking facts on Leonard Pennario I have been enjoying both flavors, as shown in the picture at the top of this post. I will have to mention Celestial Seasonings in the acknowledgments, you know? Along with Robert Mondavi and Crystal Light and Shur-Fine Diet White Birch Beer.

Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland is better than you think it will be. It has many, shall we say, notes. There is Rooibos and Chamomile and Juniper Berries and Hibiscus. Haha, Hibiscus makes me think of the Hibiscus Room at Buff State where they give poetry readings and stuff. Our friend Ari from New York would just say, "The Hibiscus Room," and we would all start laughing.

Caramel Apple Dream also has Hibiscus. Along with Cinnamon, Orange Peel, Roasted Chicory, Ginger and Sea Salt, and I am rather partial to it.

The cranberry tea gets points for admitting to stevia. Other tea flavors have not!

Anyway this is how work gets done.

One sip at a time!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paging the patron saint of the Internet

It is the first day of November, All Saints Day, anciently known as the Feast of All Hallows. Which makes me wonder:

Who is the patron saint of Web logs?

Who is the patron saint of the Internet?

It is St. Isidore of Seville!

I am reading St. Isidore's bio which says that he was born in Cartegena and his siblings were all saints too. They are Leander, Fulgentius and Florentina and he is often known as the Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages.

Here is a story I like.

Once, when Isidore was a boy, he ran away from home and from school. His brother Leander, some twenty years older than he, was his teacher, and a very demanding one. While Isidore sat by himself out in the woods, loafing, he watched some drops of water falling on a rock. Then he noticed that the dripping water had worn a hold in the hard rock! The thought came to him that he could do what the little drops of water did. Little by little, by sticking to it, he could learn all his brother demanded, and maybe even more.

That is what my Pennario book work is like. Little by little, one drop after another, and we wear down the rock.

It is the reason I have not been Web logging, getting my act together with the writing I have to do. I have been up early and up late and in between the time flies. But now in the spirit of St. Isidore I am picking the Web log back up, and I will be posting every day, God willing, and St. Isidore interceding.

That is St. Isidore of Seville at the top of this post! Hahaha... I did a Google search on St. Isidore and this gentleman kept appearing:

And I was thinking: He, while doubtless very pious, does not look like the Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages!

Then I learned that this was St. Isidore the Farmer. I did a search for St. Isidore of Seville.

Ah. This was more like it!

That looks more like him! That statue presides over Spain's National Library, in Madrid.

St. Isidore of Seville, pray for us.

And for our books and our Web logs!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Columbus picture opens a new world

Since I mentioned my print of Christopher Columbus finding the New World, people who know about art have told me that it was painted by N.C. Wyeth. That is Mr. Wyeth pictured above!

One Facebook friend, the esteemed artist Michael Gelen, told me that. And another Facebook friend chimed in and said that N.C. Wyeth was the father of Andrew Wyeth.

Do I know quality when I see it or what? Just like I know quality when I hear it, as in the case of Leonard Pennario.

The picture of N.C. Wyeth does seem to suggest he had something of a fevered imagination. Wikipedia says that he illustrated books including "Treasure Island." You know what, I think that was the book my father read to us from when I was little. It had fevered illustrations that now that I think of it, remind me of the picture of Columbus on the high seas.

The best artists are the ones described as illustrators, you know?

A neat observation from Wikipedia: "Wyeth's exuberant personality and talent made him a standout student. A robust, powerfully built young man with strangely delicate hands, he ate a lot less than his size implied. He admired great literature, music, and drama, and he enjoyed spirited conversation."

"He ate a lot less than his size implied." That is priceless and cannot be said of me.

I eat a lot more than my size implies!

Here is something terrible and tragic. In 1945, "Wyeth and his grandson (Nathaniel C. Wyeth's son) were killed when the automobile they were riding in was struck by a freight train at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home."

All these things we are learning. Some of them funny and some of them sad. Like Columbus we are discovering an uncharted world. Uncharted to us anyway.

Oh, man. This is something that hits home for me. Wikipedia also says that N.C. Wyeth painted the pictures of Wagner, Beethoven and Liszt for Steinway and Sons. I have been to Steinway Hall in New York and seen those paintings. Even if I had not visited Steinway Hall, I would know them from books. That is amazing! I had no idea. I will have to explore that on my Music Critic Web log.

Anyway we can all see now where Andrew Wyeth got his talent. Why is he so much better known than the old man, is what I would like to know.

No justice in the world!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beyond uncharted seas...

In honor of Columbus Day I found myself contemplating a picture on the wall of my breakfast room. Well, the breakfast room that has turned into the cat room. The cat likes it back there with his toys and his food and his scratching post.

But once upon a time it was my breakfast room and after I went to Monet's house in France, I did what Monet did and painted it yellow and covered the walls in pictures. They were pictures people gave me, or the work of local artists that I bought, or things I bought at sales.

And at one sale on Symphony Circle, or thereabouts, I bought this print that was titled:

"Beyond Uncharted Seas Columbus Finds a New World."

Beneath that caption is written:

"Into the Setting Sun, Conquering Tempest, Mutiny and Terrors of the Unknown, the Great Admiral Steers his Tiny Caravels to Give Civilization a New Hemisphere - and Gain Fame Everlasting."

Who could resist such a print? Not I! That is a picture of it up above although I got it off the Internet because it is easier than taking a picture of the one on my wall.  My print is framed I will have you know.

Now I am glad I have that picture because I am writing about another famous Italian, Leonard Pennario. Pennario was a Columbus fan and so am I. And one house where Pennario's family lived in Buffalo is on Columbus Parkway, bringing this conversation full circle.

Let my Columbus print be a lesson to all of us.

When you see something you like at an estate sale, for whatever reason, do not question your judgment.

Plant that flag.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Me and my bad taste

There is bad news about the Paul Hume book on Catholic church music, the book that arrived with the mysterious holy card.

It appears that Paul Hume, former Washington Post music critic, fan of Leonard Pennario and all around brilliant person, and the man in the above photo, used to be Presbyterian before he became Catholic. He has stringent views on Catholic church music and in this book, he makes the case that Catholic church music was in crisis. He appears to be trying to purge the Catholic church of bad music and hymns of bad taste.

Imagine, in the 1950s!!

Little did he know that he was in the kiddie pool!

I would love to know what he thought of some of the songs I grew up with. I am just saying. Mr. Hume, sir, what do you think of "500 Miles," the Peter, Paul and Mary number, sung at Mass? How about "Blowin' in the Wind"?

I hate to think. Meanwhile, it is distressing that in this book, Paul Hume, and I have to be honest, totally blasts some hymns that I hold very dear.

Like "Bring Flowers of the Fairest," the May Crowning hymn.

I figured out that that was Irish, remember? And there it is sung by this wonderful Irish tenor. A recent comment reads: "Frank was from Clonmel, in County Tipperary, and had an amazing voice. He was called Ireland's Golden Tenor."

God rest his soul. As another commenter writes, I hope that in heaven he is singing to Our Lady right now.

Anyway. So that is one song Paul Hume, music critic and Leonard Pennario fan, derides. He also sniffs at "O Lord I Am Not Worthy."

OK, I guess that is corny. But I have memories of my grandfather playing it on his harmonica. My grandfather! When did I even ever mention him on this Web log? I do not think I ever did on account of he died when I was 9.

Sure, in the May Crowning hymn, you get lines like "As long as the azure will keep its bright hue." and I will admit that the words to "O Lord I Am Not Worthy" do run off the rails in the second and third verses. "And humbly I'll receive Thee/The bridegroom of my soul/No more by sin to grieve Thee/Or fly Thy sweet control."

But I am not the only one who loves that hymn, you know? Once my friend Peggy Farrell, the jazz singer, and I were in Toronto and we went to mass and they did "O Lord I Am Not Worthy." Proving, by the way, that Torontonians love that hymn. When they started it we kind of gave each other thumbs up and went, "Yes!!" because both of us love that hymn. I always remember Peggy in the Communion line, singing along with "Or fly Thy sweet control."

You can listen to this controversial hymn here. The video title is wrong. It is not Gregorian Chant. It is however mighty pretty, in my not so humble opinion.

 What else did Paul Hume disdain? There was another one that I really liked. I kept going, "Oh, no, Mr. Hume. Oh, no!"

All of a sudden I am a Catholic of bad taste!

I do wonder though whether being a convert, Paul Hume might not have "gotten" the appeal of some of these melodies we grow up with. Oh, I remember the other one. "'Tis the Month of Our Mother." That is an amazing Mary hymn. Sure, the words can get weird, but they are beautiful songs. To his credit, he does give the thumbs-up to "Daily, Daily Sing to Mary," "Immaculate Mary" and "Hail, Holy Queen." But he misses the appeal of the cornier songs.

Oh well. He and I certainly agree on Leonard Pennario's greatness.

That is what matters!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A river runs through it

Today, a mildly sticky river on the kitchen floor, from the fridge to the stove.

It can mean only two things, both good:

One, good thing I didn't wash the kitchen floor last week as I had hoped! Procrastination pays off.

Two, the river can mean only one thing:

The cider in the fridge is ready!

I bought this gallon of cider at the Clinton-Bailey Market a few weeks ago. You can get the unpasteurized kind there, the kind that ferments. The cider was leaking through the bottom of the plastic jug, hence the river. But the cider that remained in the jug is perfect, like champagne.

The peppy cider will sustain me as I work to tie up my project. I took a sip at 7 a.m. just to taste it and it felt delicious and illicit, like listening to Leonard Pennario playing a Nocturne first thing in the morning.

No Pennario nocturne on YouTube, alas. But there is this touching performance of a haunting Chopin waltz. I love how simply and perfectly Pennario plays it.

 Goes perfect with buzzy cider.

Taste and see!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Amazon mystery

Last week, music nerd that I am, I put in an order on Amazon for a book by Paul Hume, who was the former music critic of the Washington Post. I am a fan of Paul Hume because he was a fan of Leonard Pennario. He wrote the liner notes to a Schumann album that Leonard recorded in the 1950s.

Paul Hume is also legendary for giving a bad review to Margaret Truman, the daughter of then-President Harry S Truman. President Truman wrote him a letter to the effect of he was going to punch Hume out. That was back when people could write things like that. Hume later sold the letter for a whole pile of money. And as I understand it, he and Truman smoothed things over.

But anyway.

This book by Paul Hume that I ordered was entitled, "Catholic Church Music." It is out of print and looking at used copies on Amazon, I sprang an extra buck for one that had a stamp of a convent on the inside. Sure enough, it says: "St. Joseph Convent Music Dept."

But here is something else.

The book arrived with a holy card mysteriously packed with it!

The card is to "Our Lady Of Good Remedy."

Who has ever heard of that? Not I. The back of the card explained it, that 800 years ago, Christians were being enslaved, and in 1198, St. John of Matha founded the Trinitarians to go to the slave markets, buy the Christian slaves and set them free.

The card continues: "To carry out that plan, the Trinitarians needed large amounts of money. So they held 1,000 bake sales..." Oh wait. I love bake sales and always consider them the answer to everything so I was imagining that last part. What the card actually said was, they placed their fund-raising efforts under the patronage of Mary.

They succeeded! Hence St. John of Matha honored Mary with the title of "Our Lady of Good Remedy." It goes on: "Devotion to Mary under this ancient title is widely known in Europe and Latin America, and the Church celebrates her feast day on Oct. 8."

October 8.

That is today!

Did the sender place the holy card with the book banking that it would arrive just in time? Or is this just coincidence?

Why did the sender place a holy card with this book to begin with? I did not order one.

Did the book come from the convent itself?

Whatever, it is perfectly timed for October, the month of the supernatural.

The card says: "Our Lady of Good Remedy is often depicted as the Virgin Mary handing a bag of money to St. John of Matha."

The image up above is what was on the card. It did not show any bag of money. I found this ...

... but it looks disappointingly modern.

Oh well.

Our Lady of Good Remedy ... Pray for us! Pray for me, anyway.

I need a good remedy, now and then!