Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Green Day

This weekend, going garage sale-ing, I garage saled down to my very last dime! It was literally true. By the end of the day I was borrowing from my friend Lizzie.

Lizzie and I are a garage-sale team and every week one of us goes broke and ends up borrowing from the other. Last time she borrowed from me and this weekend I borrowed from her.

One prize purchase was a set of 1970s curtains which I talked down from $3 to $1. I drive a hard bargain! I haggle like a Moroccan in the square. They are, or were, bathroom curtains. We know that because they came with a shower curtain in the same pattern, green and yellow and white.

But now they are office curtains! There they are up above, in their glory, next to the Leonard Pennario desk.

They will stop prying eyes from intruding on my work!

I like hanging curtains like that, one panel a window, bohemian style. And the curtains feel like summer. They are very clean and they smell good and waft around in the breeze.

I think I will use the shower curtain as a tablecloth.

We also went to a Plant Sale and the proprietor took us into his backyard to show us his koi pond.

It is amazing, this koi pond in this little Kenmore back yard! Here is a closeup.

Such a wonderful day of going through people's stuff and admiring things and just going where the day leads you. All these shades of green and yellow.

And the blossoms were out.

Here are my saints in the morning sunlight.

It is spring at last!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


My friend Michelle went to the Beethoven Haus in Bonn, Germany, and came home with gifts for me.

Above is a blurry picture of a Beethoven eraser!

And here is a musical note cookie cutter with a Beethoven Gummi Bear in the background. Well, I guess it would be a Gummi Beethoven. Michelle says that everywhere in Germany they are crazy about things Gummi. I have not inherited that mania but I love it.

Here is the Beethoven eraser with a Beethoven violin pencil.

It is a most pleasant collection of Beethoven souvenirs! The eraser is especially appropriate. Beethoven loved to use the eraser as opposed to Mozart who did not. They had different ways of operating. Mozart would just write out of his head. He had everything pre-written in his mind. Beethoven would work things out on paper and that involved a lot of erasing.

My piano teacher, Stephen Manes, he once showed me a copy of a Beethoven manuscript that showed how Beethoven had erased right through the paper! I never forgot that.

Here is Pennario who dared to play the slow movement of Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata as a piano concerto. Perhaps Beethoven would have written it that way ...

... had it not involved a lot of erasing.

It is beautiful, however you play it.

Like my souvenirs from the Beethoven Haus!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rome weighs in on my statue

Remember St. Luke? That is he up above.

I have just received confirmation from Rome that the statue in question is, indeed, St. Luke.  My friend Brendan who is in Rome sent me a note and he said that is who the statue is, without a doubt.

Which thrilled me! I mean, I knew that already, thanks to my friend Missy.

But to hear it from Rome! It makes me feel I should get a plaque or something and affix it to St. Luke, saying that this authentication from Rome was received. It would be just what he needs. I like that statue, you know? I like its simple, almost primitive nature.

Elsewhere on the St. Luke front, I glued on his head. So now he is headless no more.

I cannot believe that what with Leonard Pennario and everything I got around to gluing on St. Luke's head. I mean, it was not a difficult job. But I never get to anything like that. Finally I have!

That is why these days St. Luke and St. Joseph are not the only ones around the house with a halo.

I have one, too!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oooh, that's good eatin'!

Son of a yam-eating sea cook, the temperature plunged today!

When I went out at lunch time with my friend Melinda to take the air, it was lovely and fragrant. There was the Cheerios aroma.

Early this morning I heard the symphony of the birds. I believe the robins are first. Then you hear a chickadee kick in. Then the mourning dove. While I reviewed some Pennario papers the window was open and the bird calls drifted in.

After all those summer pleasures I could not believe when I came out of work and it felt like 40 degrees. Perhaps it was not in fact 40 degrees but it felt like it. And it was raining.

There is only one thing to do in a situation like that and that is to go home and roast sweet potatoes.

Haha, they look plain, like piglets! I do not get fancy with them. ...

... at least not tonight I did not. I just stuck them in the oven. Perhaps when I am through with my Pennario project I will make sweet potato dishes like the one up above.

Meanwhile if you just stick a sweet potato in the oven it will reward you so richly. After an hour at 400 degrees, these sweet potatoes had caramelized and were just waiting for you to dig into them with butter.

A few years ago I had a discussion about sweet potatoes with the gentleman who was then in charge of the nearby group home. I always remember that was how he said to eat them. He said, as I listened rapt, simply to roast them and then break open the skin and put in a pat of butter.

Then he said: "Oooh, that's good eatin'."

Indeed it is! Howard, when he came home ...

... thought so too.

Good eatin'!

Especially on such a cold, rainy night as this.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mystery animal

Yesterday, such a fright. I got home from work and there was this animal hanging out of the garage!

It was my fault! I had been negotiating to get the garage fixed but the wheels turned slowly and between us Howard and I have taken too long to figure things out. Meanwhile there is this space under the eaves. These were the wages of that.

I called Howard. He said, "What? I'm on the Thruway."

I said, "Howard, there's a dead animal hanging out of our garage."

He said something to the effect of what was he supposed to do about that.

"It's so embarrassing," I said.

And it was! This long tail and these feet, hanging out of the garage. You could not miss it. What was I going to do?

"Are you sure it's dead?" Howard said. "Are you sure it's not just hanging out?"

"It's dead," I said. Those limbs looked totally lifeless. It was ridiculous to think this creature, whatever it was, could be alive.

And then ... one of the feet moved.

"It's not dead," I said.

But where would the animal go? How would it get out of there?

What kind of an animal was it, anyway?

What if it was a ...

... raccoon?

Suddenly the animal, whatever it was, heaved itself up into the garage and lay there. All I could think was that it was stuck. Clearly it was crawling in there to die and then we could deal with it. Howard agreed with that strategy and I let him go back to his afternoon. I did not know what else to do.

A while later I was out on the porch, working on my Pennario project. I kept glancing up at the garage, though. I could not help it. And eventually the animal moved again and came into better focus.

It was a cat.

Just a cat. And it did not look stuck. It looked relaxed. It was napping.

Once it awoke and groomed itself for a while, in this little space in the garage. Then it slept, facing me with its little cat ears. I saw what the situation was: It just liked it up there. Probably it was cool under the eaves, and no one could get at it or disturb it.

After that panic, the evening took on a new peace. It was quiet. A few birds circled overhead. There was the call of the mourning dove, the squeak of a swing set. The cat slept.

A bee drifted over to me and buzzed lazily around the porch chairs. The cat turned over and slept some more.

It felt like the Deep South!

One minute I turned my back and when I looked again the cat was gone. It must have jumped down and gone on its way. But it was fun while it lasted, watching it nap.

I am still going to get the porch fixed. But I feel I will have to apologize to the cat.

I regret depriving it of its haven!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My salad days

At Goodwill you have to turn over every rock. You never know what you will find!

Not Leonard Pennario records, as a rule. Howard says that is because they are heirlooms. But there is always that chance, of course, that you will find some kind of treasure. And a lot depends on your willingness to look.

The other day, making a quick stop at the Delaware Avenue Goodwill, I was checking out cookbooks. They have a nice book department at that Goodwill and books are sorted out by subject. Most of the cookbooks to be honest are not anything you want. There are a lot of 1970s and '80s cookbooks, microwave cookbooks, old fattening casserole cookbooks, and Crock Pot cookbooks full of recipes employing nothing but cans of stuff and whole cartons of sour cream.

However, the other day.

There was a pile of cookbooks on the bottom shelf. All cruddy looking, and one whose spine you could not see. I actually went through the trouble to lift all the lackluster cookbooks off the hidden book so I could see what the hidden book was.

And I could not believe it.

It was "Twelve Months of Monastery Salads"!

It is by this Benedictine monk. Men can make salads too as evidenced in the picture up above! I love this monk's other cookbooks. Remember the impossible Epiphany Bread? My sister has recommended this salad book and I had always had it in the back of my mind I would shell out for it. Well, now I have shelled out for it.

I shelled out $1!

And now I am off to make Sicilian Potato Salad. Another cook already put this on her Web log and so I will cut and paste.

Sicilian Potato Salad (Insalata di Patate) 

2 pounds small red potatoes, peeled, cooked in boiling salted water just until tender, drained and quartered
1 celery heart, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup black Sicilian olives, drained, pitted and chopped (I use less)
1/4 cup capers (optional)
1 gherkin (optional), finely chopped
a few sprigs fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup Sicilian or other olive oil
2 Tbsp. dry Marsala wine
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a deep salad bowl, put cook potatoes and add celery, onions, olive, capers, pickle, and parsley. Toss lightly to combine.

2. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss lightly, making sure evenly distributed and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday in the park with George

It is our first trip this year to Fantasy Island.

Here is my nephew George, 6, hoping that he was not too tall to ride the Red Baron.  That is George up above on Fantasy Island's classic slide, dating to the 1950s when parks were parks and rides were rides and Leonard Pennario was America's best-selling pianist. After riding the slide -- I went down right behind him -- Georgie wanted to ride the Red Baron.

He was not too tall. But we think this will be the last summer when he is not too big to ride these quaint little Herschell World War I airplanes.

Georgie made a friend riding the huge, wonderful Silver Comet. They sat in the front car and I sat behind them. Here we are waiting for the train. That is our George on the left.

Once we get settled on the train, while the attendants are putting the lap bars down, George asks the kid in the orange, "How old are you?"

The other boy says, "Seven. How old are you?"

George is 6 and does not want to admit it. So he says, "I forgot how old I am."

"Are you 6?" the other boy asks.

George stuck to his guns. "I forgot. I don't remember how old I am."

Stuff like that happened all afternoon. It was a beautiful day. I think heaven must be something like Fantasy Island, the sun shining, the roller coasters running, all the little kids getting along with each other, all the grown-ups getting along with each other, nailing each other on the bumper cars.

The bumper cars. I am laughing and laughing.What happened was, the gal running the cars did this long, long, spiel about the rules and regulations. We're all sitting there, waiting for the ride to start. When she's finally done, my brother George speaks up from his car.

"Excuse me," he says.

The girl looks over. "Yes?"

"I have a question. Are we allowed to drive as fast as we want?"

All of us are dying laughing.

So much fun!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I have this plan to get curtains in the kitchen, such as the ones picture up above, instead of the blinds that are there.

The blinds have been there as long as I have had the house and they are really dirty from having been in the kitchen so long, with the kind of cooking I do. They cannot be cleaned. I have tried.

So I thought, curtains. I really do not need blinds, you know? I would rather have half-curtains that would block out the sight of me from outside but still let in the light from the higher panes. They would brighten up the kitchen.

Howard said: "But the neighbors would still be able to see you."

I said: "How?"

He said, "Well, from the upper floors." Meaning, if they went upstairs and looked down, maybe they could see me.

I said, "Well, they can knock themselves out."

If it is worth running upstairs to get a glimpse of me listening to Leonard Pennario and stirring things with wooden spoons and swearing at my back issues of Cooking Blight, so be it. I still want curtains.

With that in mind I went to Kmart after work. I got those springy curtain rods that fit the windows without you having to screw them in. I am not a hardware store person. Kmart is a whole other story I will have to get into another time.

After Kmart I went to Amvets all bright and hopeful that I would find cute vintage curtains.

Alas, no luck. They had tons of bath stuff, such as those furry covers that fit over your toilet, haha. But no kitchen curtains that I could find. Darn, and I had such an image of cute curtains with geese and strawberries and rolling pins and whatever. Oh well. Perhaps I will learn to make my own curtains. Meanwhile I did get a great deal on a Food and Wine cookbook that I love. It is Food and Wine Herbs and Spices!

Already I have made a recipe out of that book. I made Cod and Potatoes With Thyme.

Still with dirty blinds.

Great things take time!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Birthday Guy

The lounge sensation Guy Boleri celebrated his birthday and Howard and I crashed the party. We saw it on Facebook and so we went! Above is a picture of Guy that our friend Connie took.

Guy is a superb pianist and he has told me how inspired he was by Pennario's recording of Gershwin's Concerto in F. Guy told me it changed his life. That is the way to my heart!

After dinner Guy played the piano for us and we requested all kinds of things. He played "The Nearness of You" and "Spring, Spring, Spring," from a movie Pennario loved, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Son of a sea cook, I am kind of jealous of that movie because it is so cold here! But in tribute to spring I gave Guy a candle. It had Wild Bamboo and Lotus Blossom and Asian Pear.

I said, "Guy, it's a meditation candle." Guy is a Buddhist yogi only once in a while he has Catholic attacks when he goes to Mass with me.

Guy immediately lit the meditation candle and set it on the piano.

After that we went on a Bacharach kick and he played "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and "What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love" and the great "What Do You Get When You Fall In Love?" and the even greater "Alfie."

That is what happens when you light a candle with Lotus Blossom and Wild Bamboo. You go on a '60s kick.

That hippie candle puts everything in a new light!

Monday, May 5, 2014

A robin moves in

Our house is now home to a robin. It has built a nest on a window ledge right near Howard's desk!

For a few days there was all these industrious noises coming from that desk, which was rare and warranted investigation. And there was this bird, working away! I would see its tail feathers going this way and that as it wedged its twigs into place. It is fascinating how birds know how to do that. Unfortunately it was very aware of me and did not like when I got near the window to see what was going on. It would glare at me with its beady little eyes and then fly away. So I let it be. I worked on polishing up my Leonard Pennario book and the bird polished up its nest.

It had that nest done in a couple of days. Now it is sitting there complete, capped by a few twigs just laid across the top. And Howard admired a decorative touch: The robin had scavenged a length of white ribbon and festooned the sill with that. Maybe that is so the robin can tell if anyone disturbs it.

I envy that bird. Its neat and manageable project done, just like that!

Why can't I be so lucky?