Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On the third day of Christmas...


Once again we return to our annual crusade. As my friend Ryan put it on Facebook today: It is not two days after Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas!

With which, I baked rum raisin cake.

It is from Cooking Light but it won my approval anyway. There were no errant egg whites. Plus I got to use up the end of a bottle of rum that had just been kicking around. It was not bad rum. There is no such thing as bad rum! It is just that I do not normally drink rum. I cook with it.

While I worked I listened to my Carmen Dragon Christmas LP. La la la la la la la.

Fa la la la la la la.

I have sung the praises before of this Carmen Dragon record. You can tell from listening to it that Maestro Dragon -- his real name was Carmen Dragon -- loved Christmas very much. I bet he would not be satisfied with anyone trying to cut Christmas off on the First Day. Forget that!

Leonard Pennario liked Carmen Dragon and they had Christmas in common, I can see that.

Anyway. This is the third day of Christmas and there are many more to go. From now on, it is the gym every day, because I have to continue my Christmas treats.

It is ridiculous that we have let go of most of Christmas, you know? The Jewish people have Hanukkah and they have held tightly on to their eight days. Christmas folks must do likewise. So there's three months of commercialism beforehand, so what. All the more reason to stretch out the actual holiday and revel in the fruits of your labors.

Speaking of which, back to the Rum Raisin Cake. Zounds, I looked back on my Web log and I mentioned it before! Back in March. 

I wrote that I wanted to make it for church coffee hour and I was planning on making it in loaf pans, not in a Bundt pan as the recipe asked. That picture above, that is from the magazine. It is not from me.

Sure enough, today I made it in two loaf pans. And one loaf will go to church.

And another funny thing, back in March I mentioned eyeing up the Eggnog Coffee Cake recipe, in the same magazine as the Rum Raisin Cake. Sure enough, today too I eyed up that recipe.

I guess I know my own mind.

Merry Third Day of Christmas!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

The cat and the tree


I put up my tree on Sunday. It was Gaudete Sunday! That is THE day to put up your tree.

All kinds of people put up their trees. I saw it on Facebook. Jeoffry assisted me in putting up my tree as you can see in the photo above.

After it was up I sent this photo to Howard who put it up on Facebook.


OK, well, things are not perfect. But we are moving into the season!

The day you put up the tree is always one of the happiest days of the year. The day you take it down is, I am sorry, one of the saddest. I hate to take down the Christmas tree! One of these years I will just not do it. It will stay up until next year. Some of my Facebook friends have already taken that route.

I should just leave it up all year! I am a grown-up and this is America.

And Jeoffry would love it!



Monday, December 5, 2016

The clouds roll in


I took these pictures a few days ago when we were on the cusp of winter. Well, we are still on the cusp of winter. We are not quite there yet.

That picture up above was taken in Delaware Park.

We live in the golden era of photography, you know? Anyone can be Ansel Adams. Imagine a world in which anyone who sat down at the piano could be Leonard Pennario!

Here is another picture taken the same day. For some reason I like this. Even though I know there are these two red trees in the middle of the picture, it's not great for the composition, it would have been better if there were two trees on one side and one tree on the other, still, still, still ....


I like this picture.

And this is the one I put on, ahem, Instagram.


I wanted to put the picture up at the top on Instagram but the square format did not work with it. Then I started to like this last picture. I liked the lamppost.

That is one of the things good about our ubiquitous phones. It is fun to go through life with a camera.

It brightens your day!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Freezer queen


Yesterday talking about the first Sunday of Advent, I mentioned briefly that I was in the meal train for the priests at our church.

The meal train! That is a term I just picked up today. Someone was setting up a meal train for someone on Facebook. You bring meals to that person. I signed right up, I will tell you that. Because now that I am in the, ahem, meal train for St. Anthony's, I am realizing I need more practice.

I have been learning how to freeze things with the help of this 1960s booklet I picked up at Amvets, "Facts About Food Freezing." That is it pictured below! Still it is strange how your cooking mojo can desert you.


Normally I cook pretty well -- that is, when I am under no pressure. The minute I am under pressure things change.

Remember the time I keep alluding to when I did pot roast for Leonard Pennario? It was good. But not as good as it would have been had I been making it just for myself.

Thanksgiving also does not bring out the best in me. A recipe I've done a million times will take a different direction.

And so this meal train.

Piously I froze one soup. The lid of the container, which was new may I add, somehow got loose in the freezer.

"No!" I said. "No!" But it was so. Then there was the matter of this other soup. I put in some lemon pepper and it became too lemony. This never happens to me! I was so mad I threw out the lemon pepper. I froze the soup and hoped it wasn't too bad. With Thanksgiving I was running out of time.

Later I got on Google and looked up: "Too much lemon." Someone suggested baking soda. "Not too much or it will taste soapy." I tried a little bit, a half teaspoon or so, on my remaining soup and... it worked! So there, I have learned a kitchen hack. I got the other container of soup out of the freezer and poured it out and heated it up and added baking soda and as I stirred it I thought:

What in the world???

Son of a sea cook, all these extra steps!

Bad things come in threes and the third was the chocolate chip cookies. This was a Marc Bittman recipe, the same recipe that is everywhere, but somehow I managed to goof it. Five-year-olds can make chocolate chip cookies. Mine spread too much and stuck to the pan.

Zut, zut, zut alors!

It all ended pretty well, considering.

But again, what in the world?? I cook all the time and suddenly this.

The meal train ran me over!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sweet Sunday


It is suddenly Advent! The season sneaks up on you.

And this year it was even more so with the election and everything. I was so out of it that I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see those purple vestments this morning at church, and the Advent wreath.

And the Advent readings!

Some of the best lines in all of Scripture are read on the first Sunday of Advent.

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam ... That means "Stir up thy power, O Lord." That is why this Sunday is Stir Up Sunday, the day when you are supposed to stir up your fruitcakes and puddings so they will be ready in time for Christmas.

Ad te levavi animam meam,.. "To Thee have I lifted up my soul." This is all so great.The Gospel is Jesus saying, "There will be signs in the sun and the moon, and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea, and of the waves..." And you are standing there thinking, as every generation since then has thought: This is it. We are in this time.

At the end of Mass we got to sing "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel." The greatest hymn.



 And in the Epistle, from St. Paul: "The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light." That is thrilling and really does make me want to be less of a schlep.

And later St. Paul includes a word that I love.

It is chambering!

As in: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkkenness, not in chambering and impurities..."

A great word, chambering. One that we should bring back if you ask me. And the Latin is even better.

It is cubilibus!

St. Paul said nothing specifically about overeating and so after Mass I unveiled with pride this gigantic rich coffee cake I had made. I have a picture but it will have to wait because I cannot get it out of my phone. This is one I made a few weeks ago and it was bigger than this one, just to give you an idea.


St. Paul said nothing about pride either so I am in the clear.

The morning was not perfect. For one thing it was my turn to bring food to the priests we are lucky enough to have in residence at St. Anthony's. That resulted in several "I Love Lucy" situations. And there was yet another when I spilled my coffee -- What was with me? I never spill my coffee! Well, that will have to be a separate story for another day.

For now I am off to cast off the works of darkness. And put on the armor of light.

And, oh yes, stir up those fruitcakes.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Amvets By Starlight


It is funny, the last time I wrote was about Amvets, and this weekend I was at Amvets again.

It was a lucky trip! The line was long and so I went to kill time looking through the records. And what jumped out at me but ...

Gershwin By Starlight!

That is this Leonard Pennario record I do not have. Pennario gave me these records and Gershwin By Starlight was supposedly among them, but inside was some loser's record, I can't remember who, but it was not Pennario. That was the one situation where the record inside did not match the jacket.

So I wanted this record, and I knew Pennario had liked it, but I had not gotten around to ordering one special as I have on many other occasions. Now, today, here it was!

It is extremely rare to find Pennario in a thrift shop so I was laughing later to myself about how casual I was.

"Oh, goodie, Gershwin By Starlight," I said to myself, and put it in my basket along with a Nancy Wilson album that was already there, and a Better Homes and Gardens Fix and Freeze Cookbook that I had selected because it had an AM&A's price tag..

Then I kind of did a double take.

Gershwin By Starlight!!

What a lucky day!!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Five People You Meet at Amvets


I went to Amvets the other day to decompress and I ran into my friend Lauren from church and my friend Ryan. Not necessarily in that order! In fact not in that order. The other way around.

But it was so funny, all of us meeting at Amvets, all by accident. We wandered around together from Books to Records. Picking up this, picking up that, discussing this, discussing that.

So much fun!

Lauren and I became friends because we met in Amvets after church once. She and her boyfriend were at Mass and then we were all at the coffee hour and then an hour later we run into each other at Amvets. They were instrumental in convincing me to purchase the iconic Betty Crocker Hostess Cookbook.

"Should I really get this?" I said. "I have so many cookbooks."

"Definitely get it!" they said.

And so I did!

Anyway. Eventually my friends left and I continued my Amvets shopping. I found a few albums I liked. Nothing by Leonard Pennario -- his albums are rare finds at thrift shops -- but still. I got in line.

And then, just when I thought things couldn't get better, they did!

The woman behind me in line noticed a Dinah Washington album I was buying and she complimented me on my good taste. Her friend chimed in. And I got to pontificate on my knowledge of Dinah Washington and of vinyl.

Now all eyes were on me. And they continued on me! Because here is what happened next.

This gentleman walked in. Good-looking guy, too. He sees me and he stops and he says:

"You're a singer."

Uh, no, I demurred, prettily.  I --

"You're a piano player," he said.

"Yes, I am," I said. Then I added: "But that was a long time ago."

"You played at Nietzsche's," he said.

To tell you the truth I do not remember exactly if I played Nietzsche's. But I was with this cool girl group Ladies First and we played all over the place.

I was smiling as I left Amvets. A minute or so later I thought: He must have me confused with someone else. No one would remember me from way back when. But I quit Amvets while I was ahead.

I left in a blaze of glory!



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Let's do lunch


Yesterday my sister Katie and I did lunch.

It was in the middle of a hectic day and we made the plans that morning. She shows up at the office. Here is where you know you are dealing with family. Katie and I disagree on many, many things. But on the other hand our brains think alike.

I said, "We don't need to go out to lunch. I brought food."

She said, "So did I."

So we walk to this park by the Buffalo River. We start unpacking what we've brought. Stuff thrown together at the last second, and yet... and yet ....

She had this sandwich of Brie on whole wheat bread. Really good! We split it. I never get to eat Brie. It was a real treat.

I had a cauliflower salad from Eating Well magazine, a salad I love, plus a white bean salad with pork loin. And she brought out an orange for dessert.

And so we dined. And Katie brought out an orange and we split that for dessert. We had bowls and forks and cloth napkins.

My niece Rosie and I sometimes meet for lunch and it works the same way. My friend Lynn used to meet me downtown when she worked downtown and we did this sort of thing too. With Lynn it was really funny because we made a point to pack wine. Not a lot, just an airline bottle for the two of us, enough to fill two little plastic glasses. We would throw a tablecloth over a picnic table on Canalside and sit there dining and sipping our wine and people would stop and admire us, because nobody does this kind of thing. Once, someone took our picture.



The art of the picnic! I am afraid sometimes it is being lost. That would be a pity.

No annoying bill to pay, you know? Plus, you eat what you like.And you get to play the game of packing a picnic which is a game I love. I feel bad because some of the stuff I packed yesterday, we never got to eat. We never got to the grapes and the crackers. I am the Leonard Pennario of picnic packers. As a matter of fact I sometimes packed food for Pennario back in the day.

The art of the picnic.

Keep it alive!



Sunday, October 2, 2016

The sandwich generation


Today for our after-Mass church coffee hour I made Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. They are from Allrecipes.com and they were something of an adventure.

The recipes at AllRecipes.com are not always extremely professionally written. In this instance they listed a certain amount of peanut butter and brown sugar and forgot to say that you would not pour all of it into the batter, some of it would go into the filling. Usually you see the word "divided" in such a situation.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I had to double the recipe to cover for my mistakes.

End result, we had 50 cookies instead of 25. That was a good thing anyway. We had a big group and we needed them! We are trending up at church. Instead of our usual 100 or so people at mass we had 130.

All is well that ends well. However I must say, the recipe said, "Very easy!" and I rudely marked up the magazine and wrote: "No! Lots of work!" The dough has to be mixed and then chilled. The cookies must be dropped by rounded teaspoons and then flattened. They bake for 10 minutes and the trays are switched half way through. They cannot be over-baked! And when they are done you have to cool them on racks and then make them into sandwiches. It is a project that keeps you constantly in motion and occupied.

Very very good though. And they looked just like in the picture up above which came from Allrecipes.com.

What is it that makes baking so therapeutic? My sister Margie and I were discussing this on the 'phone just now. It has something to do with following a recipe and also I think with working with sugar and butter and cinnamon and chocolate and all that good stuff.

It makes me excited for all the baking I will be doing this season.

We are heading into a wonderful time of year.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tea of mystery


No matter how busy you are, no matter how many deadlines you face, your life could be coming apart at the seams, and still .... and still ...

You can always find the time to go to Dollar Tree!

I went today and came back with two boxes of tea called Tevive. I bought Tevive Chai Tea and Tevive Blueberry Tea. For a buck each, 20 sachets each.

When I get back and am supposed to be working, naturally I can't help Googling Tevive tea because the packaging is kind of slick and I wanted to see what kind of bargain I got. Respected brand names can be found at Dollar Tree at deep discount. For instance I also bought Contac cold medicine.

And guess what? There is no Tevive Tea!

I can find no evidence of it! Aside from this one YouTube review. This one Southern gal apparently does Dollar Tree reviews. And why am I not doing Dollar Tree reviews? Where did I make my wrong turn in life?



Haha... I love how she can't pronounce "Ceylon" or "sachets" and is unapologetic about it.

The Tevive box directs you to tevive.com but there is no such Web site.

However. There is a TeaVivre that seems to have a good reputation in the tea community. Maybe the idea was that you would Google it and wind up at TeaVivre.

While I worked on things Pennario I had a cup of the blueberry tea and then a cup of the Chai tea. I will have to thank Tevive in the acknowledgements if I go on the way I am going. The blueberry tea, not too bad. The Chai tea was good! I would buy another box of that.

I am a coffee person first and foremost but tea is great when you are at your desk and you just need something. But anyway. Back to our question.

Tevive!

What is it?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Jeoffry in the jungle



It is hard not to laugh when you come home and your cat is lounging on your shoes.

Jeoffry had found my sandals under the dining room table and was stretched out on them.


It is funny to try to think how a cat thinks, not that you will ever understand it.

One morning last week I got up early, before it was light, because I had work to do. I made my way downstairs to make coffee. Then I went looking for the cat.

He was in the front room, staring out at the dark garden. God knows what he saw there. But he must have seen something. Because when I reached out to pet him he jumped out of his skin. Then he leapt off his perch and backed up, staring at me.

He did not hiss. Sweet Jeoffry, he never hisses or growls. But he looked at me as if I were some kind of threat. He did not seem to understand who I was. It took him a good 10 seconds.

I was thinking: That is a clue to how he thinks.

He thinks he is in the jungle!

It was almost like getting a clue as to how Leonard Pennario's mind worked. A foreign being. I would look for clues.

Wild!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

All-you-can-eat crab... apples


It is "What Possessed Me" Part Two.

I was stressed on account of a lot of work to do and so I went out an picked 50 pounds of crab apples.

Well, maybe not 50 pounds, but you get the idea. It is funny, growing up we had a crab apple tree in the back yard but we never ate any crab apples, not one. I think we thought you could not eat them. Now I know better.

There is this crab apple jam I wanted to make. I was shooting for six cups and it ends up I have 10 cups.

Those crab apples collect!

I was picking up crab apples lying on the ground but Howard was looking on and said to stop doing that. He said they might have worms in them or something. In every family you need someone who cautions you.



Otherwise who knows what might happen.

Anyway, I must needs make this jam but the nice thing is, the crab apples will keep till the weekend, when I do my Coffee Hour baking anyway. Perhaps I will be inspired. Imagine a Crab Apple Danish. A Crab Apple Pandowdy! It would be fun to make something very elegant with them. I will have to think.

Meanwhile, there are these 10,000 crab apples that need dealing with. Once again...

What possessed me?


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What possessed me?


That is the question I wailed to myself the other day as I was making chili sauce.

I had all these plum tomatoes from Bailey Clinton and they needed to be used up. So I had scalded all these tomatoes and skinned them. Then I chopped up about six huge bell peppers and six small ones. Now it was 90 degrees and I was stirring this brimful, boiling pot to which I had added three chopped up onions. There were three onions still to be chopped, and ...

What possessed me?

That is a good question.

I like that quaint phrasing. It is fun to take a phrase you hear kicked around a lot, and really think about it. In this case all you can picture is the devil.

Remember how the devil made that phone call?

That picture up above is of the devil making chili sauce!

This particular story ends happily. I did get the onions chopped. The sauce exactly filled nine pints and all the lids went "pop." I then went off to work on my book.

Which, that is a whole other story. On the one hand, I am seeing the end of the tunnel. On the other, I often still think...

What possessed me?



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hold on to summer


I did a story for The Buffalo News on stretching the summer. Like Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, it came from the heart, I will say that.

For the life of me I cannot see why people are in such a hurry for fall.

I love fall. Sometimes I think it is the time of year I love best. I always loved summer, but summer has gotten really noisy in the city. It feels good for everything to calm down, to cool down. Before you know it, it is time to bake fruitcakes, and you are heading toward Christmas, which as everyone knows is the most wonderful time of the year.

Thanksgiving to Christmas, is there anything better?

However.

You miss some of the magic if you start it too early. You must needs hold off. And as long as the temps are in the 80s and 90s, that is God telling you not to crack out those black tights.

Instead ride the Viper at Darien Lake, as I did on Saturday with our photographer Sharon Cantillon. I took the photo up above. Sharon filmed this video which is on YouTube and sure to go viral. Taat is me you hear laughing. Hahahahaha!



Continue to wear white. Heck, it's hot.

Continue to complain about the heat.

Fall will be here soon enough and that is when we crack out the pumpkin lattes. I am of a mind to do some Christmas caroling this year too. Who is in?

We will find out before you know it!




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Duck soup


My brother George called today from vacation. They are headed home momentarily and he wanted to know how are things in Buffalo.

"I heard there was this rubber duck," he said.

In San Francisco! He heard about our rubber duck in San Francisco!

It is true, of course. There is this big traveling rubber duck and it was bobbing around for a while in our waters. And every single person in the greater Buffalo area turned out to see it. Everyone!

I took the picture up above and it was not easy. The people were five deep by the railings. And that was on Friday! Here is something that happened. There was this woman grousing to her husband that her phone was dead.

"I come all the way here and find that my camera doesn't work," she kvetched.

I said sympathetically, "Oh, I've had that experience."

And she turned to me and said mockingly: "Oh, you've had that experience."

What a meanie! Don't you hate when that happens? She must have been from out of town. Buffalonians do not act like that. Here I was going to offer to take her picture and email it to her or something. Forget that!

Over the weekend the duck drew even bigger crowds. There were traffic tie-ups. People got angry. It was the biggest event at Canalside, I heard, counting anything. Everyone in the city came to see this duck. There was nobody who did not.

You would think Leonard Pennario were playing! Excuse me, I have Pennario on the brain, I have been working very hard.

It was not easy to take an impressive picture of the duck from your phone because it was rather far away. Here is another attempt I made.



We had a video at The Buffalo News where you can watch it inflate. 

There is another video where you can watch it deflate but I found that upsetting. It was as if the duck was having some kind of seizure.

Well, it was fun while it lasted, that was for sure. And the joke was on my brother George. You cannot leave this town for a second.

If you do, you miss everything!



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The strong will survive


We have a once-a-week Cardio Dance class in the office after work, once a week. I went to it today.

Fourteen Holy cannoli, is this class tough! You work and work. They bring in this teacher who, I am a veteran of many a Zumba class, and she is tougher. They blast this unrelenting hip-hop at you. Honest, I think I caught this "lyric" -- I use the quote marks there as Pennario would have --

Baby meet me in the bathroom stall
Show me why you should have it all

Yikes!

We were all dancing and sweating and ready to pass out on this 90 degree day but still I made it over to my friend Karen and I said, "Karen, was that lyric, and I use the term loosely, what I thought it was?"

Well, the important thing is, we are looking better and better every week! You do not take a class like this and walk away from it unchanged.

The class is not exactly pleasant. They have one oscillating fan ...


... and it is hot and because you are in the, ahem, office, there are all these security guards and co-workers and editors and whatnot observing you and laughing.

It is no wonder that today we had three no-shows.

"The weak are leaving," I said to Karen. "The strong will survive."

That which does not kill us makes us stronger!

And we will get stronger still seeing that now we are lobbying to make the class twice a week. Today I was thinking, it is a little easier than it was last week.  If we amped it up to twice a week, that improvement would come twice as fast.

Beach body, here I come.

Better late than never!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Fun at a discount


It is Hallowe'en at Big Lots. I just went today looking for canning stuff because after making all that jam I am running low on Wide Mouthed Lids. There is something about Wide Mouthed Lids that makes you want to capitalize it, you know? Anyway that is why I stopped there after work.

Do not discount the pleasure a stop at a discount store adds to your day. There is something in wandering the aisles, with your pedometer counting every step as you enjoy yourself, looking at this and that.

They have candles marked down. I almost bought one called Croissant but at the last minute, tight-fisted German that I am, I cheaped out. I also ogled the school supplies but cheaped out on them, too. I am a fiend for markers and index cards and other stuff and I rationalize them by saying they help me with my book. However I stood firm.

I did buy Jeoffry a couple of catnip toys. He will be a happy boy later on tonight.

I also bought some lemon hand soap because they have some at St. Anthony's and I have admired its aroma. And some gym socks because mysteriously I am down to something like two pairs. Where do gym socks go? It is a mystery for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to answer in the next life.

You can get, ahem, organic green tea with mint and with jasmine and so I took advantage. The tea is $1.80 for 20 sachets.

Fun at Big Lots! Culminating in when I saw the aisle full of skeletons. And pumpkin candles and pumpkin tea. I do not get upset the way other people do at such a sight. I just figure Big Lots is a little ahead of us in life.

That wild and unruly time of year will be here before we know it!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A plum job

My kitchen is chaos because of a decision I rashly made. I am entering a jar of jam in the Erie County Fair!

As is typical with me I waited until the absolute last minute to make this decision. I did not realize I would have to put down what kind of jam I would make. So I put down plum jam.

With which, I went to the Broadway Market and got a hold of some plums. I bought something like eight pounds because I want to get this jam right.

Last night, 80 degrees and it was 100 degrees in my kitchen. And my kitchen smelled like Christmas because of the spices I am putting in this jam. I do not want to give away all my secrets because I am gunning for a blue ribbon, but one spice is the star anise I prudently picked up at A Dollar back in March. 

That made my day, being able to use that star anise! Plus, I had really forgotten how I loved to make jam. It is usually not something you prioritize especially when you have other projects going.

I think the last time I made jam was last summer when I did the story on picking strawberries. Back then I delighted in my garage sale canning equipment and I do so again today. Probably I am using the same jars I used then because we burned through that strawberry jam.

There used to be a crayon called Plum. I wonder if they still have it or if it has been eliminated along with the Mulberry. I think the Plum is still there.

As is my jam, now. I made 15 jars.

Blue ribbon, here I come!

A plum job

My kitchen is chaos because of a decision I rashly made. I am entering a jar of jam in the Erie County Fair!

As is typical with me I waited until the absolute last minute to make this decision. I did not realize I would have to put down what kind of jam I would make. So I put down plum jam.

With which, I went to the Broadway Market and got a hold of some plums. I bought something like eight pounds because I want to get this jam right.

Last night, 80 degrees and it was 00 degrees in my kitchen. And my kitchen smelled like Christmas because of the spices I am putting in this jam. I do not want to give away all my secrets because I am gunning for a blue ribbon, but one spice is the star anise I prudently picked up at A Dollar back in March. 

That made my day, being able to use that star anise! Plus, I had really forgotten how I loved to make jam. It is usually not something you prioritize especially when you have other projects going.

I think the last time I made jam was last summer when I did the story on picking strawberries. Back then I delighted in my garage sale canning equipment and I do so again today. Probably I am using the same jars I used then because we burned through that strawberry jam.

There used to be a crayon called Plum. I wonder if they still have it or if it has been eliminated along with the Mulberry. I think the Plum is still there.

As is my jam, now. I made 15 jars.

Blue ribbon, here I come!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday kitchen


It would not be the weekend without me banging my head against a wall over some complicated pastry I am trying to make for church! Today I wanted to make a cinnamon swirl yeast coffee cake. Sort of like a big cinnamon roll.

I found a sweet dough recipe and mixed it and it rose -- and then it was time for the fun part, to roll it out like a pizza crust, top it with the filling, roll it back up and curl it into a ring.  I had made this yummy filling out of this old hippie cookbook. It was melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

La la la la la la.

It felt great, rolling out the dough on the cool, clean marble. Then it was fun to spoon the rich filling over it and spreading it to the four corners.

But then ...

Tuscany, we have a problem!

This always happens to me! The filling starts to ooze to the edges as I am rolling this thing up. There is too much! It pools up. I got to the end and ... zut alors! Zut, zut alors! I had to think fast. I took the upper edge and folded it over the lower so the goo was trapped in the middle, and then I scooped the thick rope into a ring and dumped it into the waiting cake pan.

Sugar and butter and cinnamon was already leaking out the sides. and underneath. Plus the ring was lopsided. It is always lopsided! 

Oh well. It really does not matter. The cake gets sliced up before anyone sees it because that is the way you want it after Mass. So the cake could look like this big toad ...


.. and no one would know the difference. It is just something I want to do for myself, do up a cake fat and round and perfect like a big doughnut. Why can't I do that?

I will be brooding about this Sunday morning when I should be listening to the sermon.

I will be looking for answers in Scripture. Especially to that overriding question:

Will somebody please tell me what makes this so much fun?



Saturday kitchen


It would not be the weekend without me banging my head against a wall over some complicated pastry I am trying to make for church! Today I wanted to make a cinnamon swirl yeast coffee cake. Sort of like a big cinnamon roll.

I found a sweet dough recipe and mixed it and it rose -- and then it was time for the fun part, to roll it out like a pizza crust, top it with the filling, roll it back up and curl it into a ring.  I had made this yummy filling out of this old hippie cookbook. It was melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

La la la la la la.

It felt great, rolling out the dough on the cool, clean marble. Then it was fun to spoon the rich filling over it and spreading it to the four corners.

But then ...

Tuscany, we have a problem!

This always happens to me! The filling starts to ooze to the edges as I am rolling this thing up. There is too much! It pools up. I got to the end and ... zut alors! Zut, zut alors! I had to think fast. I took the upper edge and folded it over the lower so the goo was trapped in the middle, and then I scooped the thick rope into a ring and dumped it into the waiting cake pan.

Sugar and butter and cinnamon was already leaking out the sides. and underneath. Plus the ring was lopsided. It is always lopsided! 

Oh well. It really does not matter. The cake gets sliced up before anyone sees it because that is the way you want it after Mass. So the cake could look like this big toad ...


.. and no one would know the difference. It is just something I want to do for myself, do up a cake fat and round and perfect like a big doughnut. Why can't I do that?

I will be brooding about this Sunday morning when I should be listening to the sermon.

I will be looking for answers in Scripture!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

When life gives you lemon balm


I had this kind of bug that took me out of circulation for a couple of days. And my new knowledge of weeds came back to me. And I started thinking about the lemon balm in my garden.

The ladies who had helped me with my weed story had told me how good it can be! Particularly it is good as a tea. And it is supposed to be healthful in many, many ways.

With which, I ventured outside to the garden ...


... to get some.

I crunched up a bunch of leaves and chopped them up and stuffed them into a cup and then I poured boiling water over it and let it steep for a few minutes. Then I took a sip.

That is some good tea!

It is just this pure light lemon taste. You do not have to put anything in it.

Plus, free tea, you know? I can't believe I never tried it before.

And a day later, after drinking a whole lot of it, I do have to say I feel much better!

There is a romantic line of thinking I ran across in the weed community -- ahem, I mean, the people online I referred to while working on my weed story -- that holds that the plants you need find you. These generous and giving plants go where they are needed.

I like that line of thinking. The bishop's weed, I have to say, has proven itself useful. And now I learn that the lemon balm, which I used to curse as it took over my back yard, is here for a reason too.

When it gets warm one of these days perhaps I will make sun tea, as pictured at the top of this post. That is something I have not done since I was 17.

To my health!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Father's day


A friend from church pointed out to me a few days ago that our priest, Father Justus, would be celebrating his year's anniversary with us.

Yikes!

It felt like just yesterday he got here.  I wonder what it feels like to him. Probably 10 years HAHAHAHAHAA.

Anyway we swung into action and today we had a special party for him at the breakfast after Mass. One of our number brought in this loud purple cake. I have never seen frosting that purple. Another friend brought a beautiful festive cake piled high with snow-white frosting.

And this is the greatest: Our friend Joan put together a bag of goodies for Father Justus. He lives at St. Rose of Lima with a few other great priests we know and Joan had put together this man-cave assortment of treats. There was a six-pack, this being Buffalo, and Father Justus liking beer. And Doritos and other chips and nacho cheese dip and pretzels, all this stuff that guys eat. Joan is a genius! Above is a picture of the party at St. Rose of Lima they will have with the gift pack.

But back to time flying. Here it was today 90 degrees. The church had that deep summer feel, the fans oscillating, the doors open. The men sweltering in their suit jackets. Hats off to them for keeping their jackets on, you know? I do not know how they do it to be honest.

And it was just a few months ago that it was 5 below zero! I remember that distinctly because by that time I was helping with the coffee hour, and I got there early along with a few other people, and we were all laughing and waving at each other because of the triumph we felt, getting there on this morning when it was 5 below zero. I think that was in March. It was not long ago.

Buffalo, you cannot say we do not get our seasons.

I hope Father Justus is enjoying it!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday, unlimited


This morning I went downtown to my Pilates class. And at the end of class, as we were doing our final stretches and clearing our minds, the teacher said something I loved.

She said to be open to all the endless possibilities that the day had to offer!

Isn't that a wonderful thing to be told on a Saturday?

And so I went forward ready to be open to these possibilities. I went to Tops and the possibilities were endless because, I don't know what it was about today, Buffalo was like Paris in August, when everyone leaves. No one was around! King Arthur flour was on sale for $3.99 and so I bought White Whole Wheat and regular bread Whole Wheat. I had a leisurely conversation with the checkout gal about our various baking projects. She was afraid of baking with yeast and I was telling her how easy it was.

My day continued. I got home and my friend Michelle -- Brunette Michelle this is -- texted me asking if I wanted to go to Ashker's in Delaware Park for a smoothie or lemonade. I said OK! I had book work and church baking to do, but it is good to take exercise. And so I walked to Ashker's.

And lo, it turned out Michelle had just come from getting her hair cut. She has told me about this great guy who cuts her hair, which always looks great, and I have been wanting to go to him.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, a half an hour later there I am getting my hair cut! This wonderful hair cutter whose name is Todd operates out of his apartment and he could fit me in. He cuts hair for fun on the weekends. It is not his actual job. But it used to be and he was trained in Milan. Is this a wonderful world or what?

Todd fussed over me and I love this, at one point he asked me to stand up, and he walked around me making adjustments to my hair, clipping this and that. No one has ever done that before in my memory. The windows were open and you could see this long string of beautiful North Buffalo yards. Birds were singing. There was no mirror so I did not have to worry about how the haircut was coming along.

Then we walked together to the bathroom and he showed me.

Holy cow.

I looked great!!

Walking home I passed a garage sale. I bought a pitcher and an ice cream scoop.

La la la la la la la la.

I love doing this of a Saturday, just bombing around. I took the picture up above. What a beautiful day.

Full of endless possibilities!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Mad about Howard Cosell


On Facebook my friend Daryle started a discussion of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell which led me to remember Mad magazine and Howard Cosell.

All I know about Cosell is what was in my older brother Tony's Mad magazines!

With which, I went looking on Google for Mad magazine stuff on Howard Cosell, so I could splash it up on Daryle's Facebook wall and annoy him, as he was in the middle of a serious discussion. I found examples of what I was looking for. Memory served me, as it always does when it comes to trivia and useless stuff. But alas and son of a sea cook, I could not find any imagery big enough to blow up and show off.

However. I found all other kinds of classic stuff. Such as the corny cover up above. I was describing this cover to Howard the other day because he eats corn really neatly, every single kernel just so. This is my Howard, Howard Goldman, we are talking about here. Not Howard Cosell! I do not know how he ate corn.

Continuing down our Mad memory lane... I found stuff I had never seen before. Like this:



Mad always loved hippie stuff. Such rich material.



Where else would you be seeing this stuff? Nowhere, that's where.

You forget that before Kennedy was assassinated he was the target of humor.



Can we hang this sign up now?


This is amazing. Perhaps my favorite of the lot.


Ha, ha! This is the great thing about writing on a Web log every day. You do not need anything earth shattering to warrant writing about. You can just put what is in your head. And today Mad magazine was in my head, thanks to my friend Daryle and his mention of Howard Cosell.

Click on any of these to study them in detail.

You know you want to!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Close encounter with Muhammad Ali


What with everything being written about the death of Muhammad Ali I have to chime in with my brother George's story.

He was in Atlantic City some years ago, bombing around. I used to bomb around with him sometimes too and so did my sister Katie. We would just drive around here and there. Ah, freedom, you know? Before you were working all the time.

Anyway, George was at a boxing match, or something, and all of a sudden there was this bustle and commotion.

"Make way! Make way!" men were calling out.

By the way that is a phrase I love, "Make way."

They were bringing Ali through. It was like royalty passing by. And as Muhammad Ali passed him, George reached out and patted his back.

Reach out and touch someone, as the old telephone ad went! That is what George did. He seized the moment!

He said he can still remember how it felt. As anyone would who had patted the back of Muhammad Ali, is all I can figure.

George and I were talking yesterday about how Muhammad Ali in our memories had always been elderly. We could not believe he was only 74, or 75, I have seen it reported both ways. We thought he would be about 100. It is a tragedy he got Parkinson's, and so young. Because of Leonard Pennario, speaking of the greatest, I know a thing or two about Parkinson's.

So there it is, a genuine close encounter with Muhammad Ali. Few people can boast of having had one. But my brother George can!

And so can my friend Jerry Sullivan at The Buffalo News. That is a strange little story he has to tell, in a way not unlike my brother George's.

Me, I have none. But weep not for me, I have seen my share of greatness.

And will continue to do so!




Saturday, June 4, 2016

Loyalist bread


Just because it is 80 degrees and sunny out does not mean that the oven is not on.

I found the greatest recipe last week and earmarked it for Sunday's church coffee hour. It is historic and it sounds delicious.

It is Loyalist Bread!

Usually I look for cookbooks that are sexy, as we say in the newspaper business. I like glossy pictures, vintage graphics. However. Once in a while I go for an oldie without any of these amenities, some hoary old 1970s or '80s cookbook you would not look at twice, a cookbook neither old nor new enough to be sexy.

Such a find was Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, Revised and Expanded.


I am going to be revised and expanded by the time I am through with this book! At the top of this post is a painting of me, revised and expanded, baking Loyalist Bread.

Anyway, I found this book some damn where, as Billie Holiday would say, and it turns out it came out in 1973 and is pretty much the Bible of bread. Looking around the 'Net now I find discussions of the book, such as here.

There is all this stuff in there plus interesting descriptions and explanations. Pain Au Cumin, or Cumin Bread. Kaiser rolls. Cinnamon Oatmeal bread, Egg Harbor Bread. Big breads, small breads, yeast breads, quick breads, vegetable breads, pastries, Challah, Kolach and Pain de Campagne Madame Doz, which is Madame Doz's Peasant Loaf. I am just flipping through the book at random.

Ah, look! Barm Brack. It is an Irish tea bread traditional on All Hallows' Eve. That must be tried.

But back to Loyalist Bread. It does indeed refer to the folks loyal to George III during the American Revolution. They scattered to Canada and brought with them their recipes and this was one. It is a blueberry bread. It makes an enormous amount of batter which you then spoon into two loaf pans. I took great pleasure in using two loaf pans that look as if they date to Revolutionary times.

The loaves have to sit in the oven for an hour and a half during which time you go off and get your scholarly work done.

At press time, Loyalist Bread is sitting in the Bosch in its Fort Niagara pans. If the bread turns out well -- which, at the moment it smells great -- I will post the recipe.

I am looking forward to loafing my way through this book.

I expect to be a  loyalist!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Cheers, big ears



How coincidental is this, yesterday I wrote about the Birthday Bunny and today I was in Allentown and met him in person. That is he pictured above!

It was in Black Cat Vintage on Allen Street. We like to walk there on the first Friday of the month when the stores and galleries are open and they give you beer and stuff. Click on the picture and you will see what an adorable store it is.

And what an adorable stuffed animal. So serious looking. So big.

Another shot showing its adorable outfit. Love the Elizabethan ruff!


It had a price tag that read $357. And just in case that was not out of your budget, another tag said, "NFS." Not for sale.

That is lucky. The house is already too crowded! Though it would be fun to have this thing greet me along with Jeoffry when I come home from work.

I could say to it, "Cheers, Big Ears!"





Thursday, June 2, 2016

The birthday bunny


My birthday was yesterday and it was good.

Howard gave me 96 Crayola Crayons and a bottle of ...



... and a WBIG TV T-shirt. That is all you need in life if you ask me. Aside from some Leonard Pennario records of course. I tried out the crayons and I sipped some Jagermeister and today I wore the WBIG T-shirt to the gym.

Other things happened too. My family was so nice to me. The people at work were so nice to me. My Facebook friends were so nice to me. People are so sweet, you know?

And another thing about my birthday, I got to go swimming! At a real beach. The water was cold and I was the only one bold enough to go and dive right in. But I did.

That is the greatest, to go swimming on your birthday. I make birthday resolutions the way people sometimes make New Year's resolutions. And one resolution is to go swimming more often, inside or out. Even if it is just at LA Fitness. Swimming does not do me personally much good. I could swim every day and not feel a thing. But it is relaxing.

So beautiful to float in the water and look up in the sky. To do somersaults and flips in the water. I got water up my nose once and it reminded me of when I was a kid.

Nice time all around. Nice day. Nice start to the next year of my life.

Here is another resolution I am making and I do not want anyone to get irritated,  but I would like to try to write something every day. I did that for a while and looking back I am happy I did. If you write something down every day, no matter how dumb, it does something for you. You have to look at your day and say, something happened to me today. I had some thought about something. And you search your memory of the day, and you write something down.



It does not take long. Once you have your thought it takes five minutes. Above is a painting of me by Finnish artist Albert Edelfeldt of me writing down my thoughts. He had trouble doing the painting because I was through with my task so fast. As Merlin tells Arthur in "Camelot": "Do not worry too much about what women are thinking. They don't do it very often."

Ha, ha! That was when you could be politically incorrect. Long story short, I liked all the trivial things I wrote down. In the past when I was writing every day, or most days at least, I would write down so many conversations with my mother. I would never remember them now if I had not written them down. And all these things I bought at garage sales, I would never remember where I got them, had I not written it down. How prudent of me!

Anyway, I am going to be writing more often. If you are a Facebook friend and it comes up too often and vexes you, block me or something, I won't be offended.

This is going to be a good year.

I just have a feeling.