Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tales from the Toll House

Last weekend we had a situation warranting me babysitting my little niece and nephew which is, I have to say, a pleasure. We baked cookies for Barbara's class because this week is her birthday. But we thought we should have extras for around-the-house consumption.

Ergo, something like 2,000 cookies. We made batch after batch. Luckily I had gone to Wegmans beforehand and shopped the way I usually shop, in large quantities. My brother finally walked in the door and said it smelled like a commercial bakery. Ha, ha!

By that time all three of us were settled in watching "Robin Hood." Feet up, unable to move.

Barbara has picked up an expression from me. It is "Oink!"

Because I kept eating chocolate chips and M&Ms and saying "Oink."

It is fun to bake cookies! The recipe we used is from "The Joy of Cooking." I do not have to look it up. I have it memorized. I do not have a photographic memory like Pennario, it's just that when you make 100 batches of cookies ...

... you do get the recipe in your head.

Take one stick butter, cream it with a half cup white sugar and a half cup brown sugar. Add one egg and one teaspoon vanilla.

In another bowl, mix up one cup plus two tablespoons flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. We found amazing baking soda deep in the lazy Susan. Barbara was the heroine who found it. It was in a baking powder container with a rubber band around it and a tag my mother had rubber-banded onto it reading "Baking Soda." It made me laugh, it was evocatively Mom.

You pour the dry goods into the wet goods and then you liberally add chocolate chips. I think the recipe called for a half cup chocolate chips and a half cup walnuts. Walnuts, schmalnuts. We threw in a half cup of M&Ms. And then some.

And then some.

The cookies bake at 375 degrees.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo ...


Monday, September 29, 2014

Record haul

At Amvets the other day I bought so many records that they had to bend their No Carts in the Parking Lots rule for me. They let me bring a cart to my car. They had pity on me!

The reason being, I fell victim to Great Men of Music.

That is this Time/Life series put out in the 1970s. That is a picture of them up above! They are big colorful box sets, each devoted to a different composer. And at Amvets, there was a big bunch of a dozen in a box, and I was drawn to them because they looked in such pristine condition. Then I kept finding more Great Men of Music nearby. Also the record prices at Amvets are the best of any thrift store, in my not so humble opinion.

The recordings are good, although on the Internet you find nerds arguing over the sound quality and such. This particular series uses EMI recordings so you would think they would include a Pennario recording or two but I will not hold my breath, I will tell you that right now. Pennario is always forgotten and shoved aside, fie on people's ignorance.

But here is the thing. My friend Gary hipped me to the idea that you buy box sets like these for their booklets.

The booklets are generous and well written and they include pictures you rarely find anywhere else. For instance one of these booklets is where Gary found his picture of Debussy fallen asleep after dinner with an empty bottle of wine in front of him and a woman in a turban next to him. I have the Debussy set of Great Men of Music....

... and  I will have to check to see if that picture is in there.

It is kind of a Collect Them All situation. There are something like 30 Great Men Of Music and I have something like 18.

The search is on!

Monday, September 22, 2014

He's my handyman

One of the many benefits of having a cat (pictured above, in a portrait by Howard) around:

Remember the fridge that I bought a couple of years ago? I was always hearing a kind of scratching sound behind it. A rustling and a scratching.

Could it be mice? I hated the thought. I have always dealt badly with mice.

So I decided it was not mice. It was this fridge, something with the mechanism. I tuned it out the way I would tune out an inferior pianist, a pianist who was not Pennario. It was just my lot in life, I decided. Out of all the new refrigerators in the world I happened to get the one that made funny noises.


These funny noises? I just realized today that they have stopped.

I have not heard them in I do not know how long!

As Howard said we do not know what the cat is up to when we are not around. It could have chalked up a kill, who knows.

Either that or the mice have simply packed up and gone somewhere else.

"Holy #$*&. You would not believe what has moved into this house."

Either that or that cat is a handyman.

He has fixed the fridge!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another Sunday in the park with George

Today I took a few hours away from the Pennario project and went to the beach with my brother George and my little niece and nephew, George and Barbara. The beach is a Pennario activity. He would have approved it.

George, George Andrew, Barbara and I were remembering last year when we did this, had a late-late-summer swim. Because today, just like last year, we went in the water.

Not only that, we went in twice!

Barbara wanted to go in three times but the second time, I am sorry, it just felt too good to be dry afterwards. There were these gale winds and they dried you in a few minutes. It was like being in one of those XCelerator hand dryers! We all stood there on the blanket and in no time we were dry.

Sept. 21 is not too bad to be doing that. Hmm, look at that date. Isn't it the last day of summer, or the first day of autumn, or something? It is time for the September Ember Days. Except for a fluke of the calendar this year they would be this week, is what I understand. Because of that fluke they are next week.

Anyway I got thinking of last year when we did our late beach run. George and I were thinking it was a little later. I found it! It was October 7.

Just like last year we built a sand castle. It is funny, this year the kids are a year older. And I find myself being a bit like my dad, thinking, stop right here! Don't get older.

Sunrise, sunset!

It makes me glad we went to the beach today. I am working like heck to get my massive project done but you need to enjoy these beautiful days, here and there at least.

Plus, one benefit of today, with the wind and the water.

I will sleep well tonight!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A bag of bargains

Son of a sea cook, I fell behind posting! We just had Talk Like a Pirate Day, hence the expression.

The cat was the problem. I could not get to the computer where I usually checked in because it is in a room where the cat is not allowed. There is too much trouble for the cat to get into including scratching my Pennario records and eating my tapes.

Ergo, no Weblog. We remedy that today with a trip to the Clinton-Bailey Market.

I went with my friend Jacquetta. As I told her myself, she kind of cramped my style but that is a good thing. Un-cramped, I buy way too much stuff. As it was, I did manage to fill the larder to overflowing. I bought ...

$5 worth of tomatoes, actually a generous basket.

$3 for beets with greens attached. That is a treat I love.

$3 for cauliflower.

$2 for a big Savoy cabbage.

$2 for a green cabbage. I am always eating cabbage for I am a kraut.

$2.50 worth of apples. Meaning, I split a half bushel ($5) with Jacquetta. They are an apple I do not know if I have mentioned yet. They are Honeycrisp!

And they are delicious. I picked one out of the sack and then Jacquetta did and we were munching these Honeycrisps for the next hour or something. One apple is a meal!

I packed a lot of this haul into a red Savers bag and brought it home and as soon as I unpacked, the cat crawled in. He is our bargain cat and so he crawled into the bargain bag! That is our orange Tom at the top of the post. I caught him yawning.

The cat then lay down in the depths of the Savers bag and let it close over his head. And he went to sleep. And I worked on my book. Peace!

And catch-up time.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Harping on 'The Flying Deuces'

So we beat on, boats against the current. borne back ceaselessly to Laurel and Hardy in the French Foreign Legion.

A comment from a Facebook friend today made me look up the movie and read up a little more about it. Everyone should be as blessed as I am, to have friends who care about Laurel and Hardy! And I was reading about the scene in "The Flying Deuces" when Stan and Ollie are in jail, waiting to be shot by a firing squad at dawn. Stan dismantles the cot and plays the bed frame like a harp.

It was really virtuosic in the movie, which made it all the funnier when the jailer sticks his head in and puts a stop to it by barking, "Shut up!"

It ends up that you had really been listening to Harpo Marx.

Harpo Marx did the music in that scene! And not only that, but the song was, "The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise." Funny in view of what is about to occur. I have heard that song before but I do not have it in my head. In 1939, when this movie was made, everyone would probably have recognized it. Now we miss out on the joke.

Apparently Harpo Marx coached Stan Laurel to look as if he were really playing the harp. It is like Leonard Pennario coaching Joan Fontaine to make it look in "September Affair" as if she were really playing the piano.

How very cool all of this is, you know? Great personalities cooperating with each other, helping each other do the best work they can do. Stan Laurel collaborating with Harpo Marx.

That and, we love the airplane scene. When Laurel and Hardy don't know how to fly the plane and they are being chased by the Foreign Legion. The plane turns and chases the soldiers (at about 4:35) -- and then it turns the other way again, and you realize it is all by accident. Honest, I was laughing so hard last night I was crying.

I love the clever use in the orchestral score of the Laurel and Hardy theme.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The babysitter

Tonight I babysat my little niece and nephew, Barbara and Georgie. And we had Movie Night kind of the way we used to when my mom was still around.

We watched the Laurel and Hardy movie about when Laurel and Hardy joined the Foreign Legion!

I have to look up the name. It is called The Flying Deuces.  I do believe it is all on YouTube.

Go ahead, cancel your plans for your day or your night, as the case may be, and watch it. It is a great movie. It has Jimmy Finleyson whom my dad always loved, as the jailer when Laurel and Hardy are in jail and are supposed to be shot at dawn. And there is this other guy we love, Charles Middleton, who plays the Commandant and, voice quivering, delivers the immortal line, "I've never been so grossly insulted in my life!"

And there is the scene where Laurel and Hardy dance to "Shine On, Harvest Moon." Laurel and Hardy, my favorite comedy team. That is what Pennario said and what I say too.

I found myself telling our little George and Barbara, "My dad used to love this scene." I remembered watching it with him! Heck, right in the very room where I was watching it now.

He was probably watching it with us tonight only we could not see him. We used to watch all this stuff, Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. My father would laugh so hard at the Marx Brothers that once he actually fell off the couch.

It felt good to be back in the old homestead. Georgie and Barbara were great and actually were attentive through the whole movie even though occasionally it is hard for a kid to follow. Who even knows what the French Foreign Legion is? So much fun, you know, to see this movie again, with kids.

So much great silliness!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adventure at the vet

Today Howard took me to the vet! Well, me and the cat. Which, by the way, I was able to mention the cat in the paper. It is news!

In the waiting room it was like "All Creatures Great and Small." The small was our sweet tabby and the great was a gigantic Labrador. He was named Diesel and he was like a zoo animal. Howard snapped the above picture of me and my new friend Diesel.

Here is a selfie Howard took of himself and the cat.

What a joyous day this was. Our orange tabby was pronounced very healthy! And he has a microchip proclaiming that he is ours.

At first he did not want to come out of the carrier. He got all stiff and they had to drag him out. But they weighed him and listened to his heart and admired his teeth and, most importantly, gave him treats. They said he is really a big kitten. He is about 9 months old.

We were guessing he was young by the way he chases his tail and pounces on things and whips around the house and sticks his paws under doors and down drains. And sure enough.

Now all he needs is a name and surely that will come to us.

My friend Susan at work suggested Cheezit. I was kind of pushing Frampton because at first, when he got to our house, he was kind of exhausted for a day or two. But then, like Frampton, he came alive.

Of course the biographer of Leonard Pennario should not have a cat named Frampton because of how Pennario hated rock music. Prudently Howard said no to that name.

There is also Tigger which is what the cat was called at its foster home before he joined us. And Tiger, suggested by my little nephew Georgie, which was funny because I had been thinking that name, too.

Long story short, right now the cat is documented at the vet as Orangey because that was the orange tabby cat who acted in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" ...

 ... and "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

The good news is, Orangey, or whoever he is, is ours.

And he is fine!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The pick of the litter

My friend Michelle got to meet our cat. Above is a picture I took of them together.

It is a most relaxing sight for a Monday! Would that we could live like this every day, playing with cats and constructing toys with yarn and feathers.

The cat and I are getting into a schedule during the times when I am home with him. There are times when he is following you everywhere and you are tripping over him. But there are other times when he naps or plays on his own for hours and that is when I can do the Pennario thing.

Still a few thing are not worked out such as how to pay less for kitty litter.

I already have a coupon envelope for cat stuff and it has some pretty good discounts on food and stuff. But this kitty litter is like toilet paper. The price is frustrating. It should not be $6 for 21 pounds which was about what I have been paying at Wegmans. I stopped at Big Lots over the weekend and I may have beaten that price. But not by much. We are talking about $7 for 28 pounds. Still nothing to gloat over.

I want to pay, oh, $1 or $2, for that 28 pounds of cat litter. Any ideas? 

Anyone know how you can get dirt dirt cheap?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Driving Miss Dorothy

Today, driving to church with Dorothy, I was thinking what an experience it is.

Dorothy has this quiet voice and the car motor drowns it out. But she just keeps talking. Every once in a while I have to respond and I say, "Yes," or I laugh. Hahahaha ... I just thought of one morning last winter when I picked up not only Dorothy but also Josephine, our organist. Dorothy was in the back seat talking and Josephine, from the passenger seat, spoke up.

"Dorothy, your voice is too quiet," she announced. "I can't hear what you're saying."

Josephine is a plain-spoken Southern Italian while Dorothy ...

... as we reflected once before, is a Northern Italian.

"Oh," Dorothy said to Josephine. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Then she went on talking. I remember that morning because I was hungry because I had forgotten to eat my before-Mass snack. In the Catholic Church there are those who would impose a long pre-Communion fast but I oppose that idea because it is so individual, you know? If I am hungry and my blood sugar plunges and I run off the road in a car carrying our organist and a 90-year-old woman, I would like to know how that profits my soul. Anyway, the reason I remember all this is that Dorothy, after apologizing for her quiet voice, broken open this zippie bag of biscotti she had made for our after-Mass coffee hour. And the three of us are driving along crunching these biscotti. And Dorothy kept talking.

Unfortunately Dorothy had never heard of Leonard Pennario. Of course she has heard of him now. Meanwhile she has a million stories. One is about how when she was a landlady a tenant got knifed in one of her apartments. The tenant died and Dorothy found the body. Another story is about how Padre Pio appeared in her room one night. He did not say anything but he was standing by the window with his robe and his beard. She saw him clearly.

But in the car the conversation usually sounds something like this:

"Padre Pio .......... the Dominicans ...... my garden ....... the Alps ......our village ....  and the man was from Milan .... her aunt's sister. .... their 75th wedding anniversary . .... Our Lady ..... your husband ..... the weeds in your garden. .... my niece's dog ..... the concert you missed last week, I asked you if you went and you said no .... my sister Clara. ... Pope Francis. ... Why didn't you go to that concert? You are too busy. Always too busy."

That is how it goes, downtown and back.

I should write a book!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The hep cat

Howard and I cannot get over the new tabby. We do not forget the old one but the orange one is unique and beautiful. And so entertaining! We have had it almost a week.

We love taking pictures of it like the one up above. That is the cat on top of the Steinway!

Here are the funniest things it has done so far. I will chronicle them the way I chronicle Pennario.

1. The cat jumped up on the bathroom sink while I was washing my face, and stuck its paw down the drain, like a plumber.

2.Whenever there is a door closed to it, the cat sticks a paw under the door. Then maybe he sticks two paws under. At the same time he has his head down to the floor so he can squint under the door with one eye.

This is unbelievable for people who are not prepared for it. They see this orange paw under the door and they say, "What is that??"

3. There are toys the cat likes. One of them is this bouncy little spring. The cat bats it and chases it up and down the stairs, doing somersaults and flipping around from its back to its belly. Once when it had the spring on level ground he suddenly abandoned it and went into his cat carrier. And he sat there.

And sat there.

He yawned.

Then in a split second he shot out of the cat carrier and pounced on the spring.

That is smart reasoning! The cat was thinking: The prey will think I have lost interest in it. It will think I am resting. It will let down its guard. But then I will pounce!

Which it did!

This is one smart creature.

Something tells me that this winter, I will not have to worry about mice.

It will look like this!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The magic camera

Last Sunday when I dropped off Dorothy after church she invited me to stop and look at her garden. She offered me this huge flower! Above is a picture of her holding it.

I have a new 'phone and it takes it into its head sometimes to adjust my pictures. The camera imbues the pictures occasionally with extra atmosphere.

With which, Dorothy's garden. It looks like a picture out of Architectural Digest!

And here was a picture I snapped of a streetcar downtown. It looks like a vintage postcard. There must have been some button I pushed to give these pictures these frames.

Perhaps I should take some pictures of my house and hope I mistakenly push that same button. Perhaps I should do the same thing with all the pictures of Leonard Pennario I am using for my book. Well, I do not have to do that. He always looks pretty good in the pictures. As does our new cat.

But he is another story.

For another day!