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!