Monday, August 21, 2017

The solar eclipse: Party like it's 1919

As I just put on Twitter, we watched the eclipse old school at The Buffalo News. Scott Scanlon, my neighboring colleague in the newsroom, remembered the old Boy Scout trick where you poke a hole in the cardboard.

That is the eclipse pictured at left!

We were all excited bounding down the stairs to give it a try. Scott is the editor of Refresh, the health section, which explains why he takes the stairs and also why he views the eclipse safely with a piece of cardboard.

Outside we found almost everyone else in the office already out there. Of course the really cool people were the people who stayed inside at their desks and didn't care at all. However I have never attempted to be cool and that has served me well in life.

A few eclipse statistics I loved...

One was that in Buffalo, it began at 1:11 and hit its peak at 2:34. You went from 1-1-1 to 2-3-4. It was easy to remember and that is how Scott and I knew enough to go downstairs at about 2:30.

Another is that when was the last eclipse like this, 1919? Somewhere around then.

Leonard Pennario went through his whole life without seeing such a thing!

It got Howard and me thinking about other eclipses in history and one thing we pondered was whether there was an eclipse mentioned in the Bible anywhere. I thought of the Crucifixion when darkness descended over the land. And the curtain in the Tabernacle was torn from top to bottom, and the dead came out of their graves and walked around and were seen by many. I am sorry, once I start with this, I cannot stop!

That could have been an eclipse, however, if it were, it would be a lunar eclipse, not a solar. There are scholars who have figured that out. And apparently there was a lunar eclipse in 33 A.D. I will have to look into this further.

Meanwhile, the big question is:

When eclipses occurred in Biblical times, would someone have been there with a piece of papyrus with a hole poked in it?

It is undoubtedly so!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cakes... winners and losers

This is the coffee wreath I brought to the St. Anthony's coffee hour this morning.

Despite the fact that I made it kind of on the fly, in between going to a wedding, going to the reception, and taking care of other business. .. it came out well!

The same cannot be said of this week's Bundt cake.

This was a lemon Bundt. Everything was perfect except for it did not come out of the pan. Half of it was in crumbles.

And may I point out this is the second time this Bundt pan has stuck it to me. Third time. This was the pan that soured me on Bundt cakes to begin with, now that I think about it. The cake stuck. Then it stuck again a couple of weeks ago, though not so badly. 

Strike three, you're out! I personally took that pan out to the garbage.

A sorry end to a pan I had greeted with such joy. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe when I made my first cake I scratched it too much or something. Well, whatever.

I panned that pan!

So for now I will stick with the Kugelhopf pan that worked well for me.

As far as the lemon cake, half of it was served at the St. Anthony's coffee hour. It was gone in 60 seconds, rivaled only by these gooey brownies someone brought and the Monsignor's manicotti.

I brought the other half of the cake home and am going to do something with it. Cake pops, perhaps? Bread pudding? I am leaning toward cake pops because I have never made them. Lemon flavored cake pops, yummy!

As a result of the lemon of a cake pan.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Color and light

For some reason I like doing art.

I use the term loosely. I do not have any pretentions as an artist. But late at night, or of an afternoon when I have been busy with work most of the day, it is fun to sit down with watercolors and relax. What is it about watercolors? They are just so cheap and easy.

Especially cheap. I have this $5 watercolor set I have been working off of forever. That is it in the picture above! I also have a sneaking affection for oil pastels because they, too, are cheap. That masterpiece in the sketchbook visible in thePain back on the right was done with oil pastels.

Not only that but they were oil pastels I purchased in Tupperware at a garage sale! I think I paid a quarter. The brand is Loew-Cornell, which despite the patrician name is made in China, let's not kid ourselves.

I remember my mom telling me at that garage sale that buying the pastels was worth it just to get the Tupperware! LOL! Anyway, those are the pastels that painted that picture in the picture.

HOWEVER. Once at another garage sale I bought a little wooden box of oil pastels of the Van Gogh brand. Van Gogh is not an exalted brand. Looking it up, I see it is a "student brand." However. sets of 10 or something (mine has 15) go for a cool $30 or something. So when I get better at oil pastel I will let myself use the Van Gogh pastels instead of the Loew-Cornells.

I will be the Leonard Pennario of pastels!

Jeoffry also enjoys art.

Good boy! Good boy!!

We are artists!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Bundt baker

Last week I made my second Bundt cake for church. The first, a week before that, was a big breakthrough.

I know, Bundt cakes are not supposed to be a huge challenge. However, years ago, I had attempted a Bundt cake, and it had stuck to the pan. I did something with the cake, I made a bread pudding. But I never forgot the outrage.

And I never attempted another Bundt cake. Until just recently. This is the beauty of participating in our church coffee hour, at St. Anthony of Padua Church. I like to make a game out of it and try to do new things.

I made a Whiskey Squash Cake out of a Reader's Digest cookbook I have. It was a recipe I had had my eye on for some time. Whiskey, got to love it. I almost subbed rum because Rum Squash Cake sounds good too, and I am sure it would work. But I had to go with Whiskey.

I baked the cake in my Kugelhopf pan which previously I had used only for yeast breads. Hmmm. Consulting Wikipedia just now I see that Kugelhopf -- well, they say Gugelhopf -- is the original Bundt pan. Nordicware copyrighted the name Bundt in the 1950s and '60s.

Whatever my pan is called, let me tell you, I oiled and floured that pan half to death.

That cake came out with its hands up!

I sugared it up and took this picture.

So, success!!! Drunk on my success I made the cake pictured at the top of this post. It is a Banana Cream Cake. Oh, excuse me, Banana Creme. It has sour cream in it, is the reason for the name.

I used my other Bundt pan for that. Remember that pan? You can make cakes in it from all over the world.

I took the cake to coffee hour. Gone in 60 seconds!!

I never had a bite!

But I can assume it was good. And so forward I will go as the Leonard Pennario of Bundt cake bakers.

Fire up that oven!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The rebate from the black lagoon

Hahaha... a long time ago, I wrote out one of those satisfaction equations.

Finish story for work: 10 satisfaction points.
Finish book on Leonard Pennario: 50 satisfaction points.
Send away for liquor rebate: 10,000 satisfaction points.

Still true, that!

Today I came home from work and I was going to get a jump on tomorrow's work. But the computer had other ideas. It kept bouncing me in and out of WiFi and I could not get anything done. And so ...

I did my rebates!

They had been collecting and one had actually expired. But watch it, if you see that a rebate has expired! Odds are you can still send it in. The receipt has to be before the expiration date. But the postmark does not.

Read the fine print! And it is fine.

And so I sent away for that rebate and for five others. Here is the winner in the sharply contested field of Rebate Addresses.

BBX Rebate Offer
NTH-BBX 18005
PO Box 752885
El Paso, TX 88575-2885


What computer barfed that up?

Another funny thing was, one of the bottles purchased today was the same one that I was talking about that other time. It is the Evan Williams Honey Reserve!

The Cherry kind is no good. It tastes like cough syrup. But that Honey Reserve! Mmmmm.

That is it pictured above. That is it!!

A deliciousness topped only by when you send away for the rebate. I mean actually get it stamped and into the mailbox.

How sweet it is!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A lotta ricotta

You know me, I cannot resist a bargain, which is how I wound up with a gigantic tub of ricotta cheese. We are talking five pounds! That is it up above. That is it! And it was just as large as it looks.

The five pounds were $5.99 which is pretty good, I think. Plus, it is fun to do something like this. You have a huge amount of something and then you get the adventure and challenge of using it up.

One morning this week I made a ricotta omelet. You mix eggs and ricotta and cook it on the stove in a skillet until it is set and then broil it until it is brown.

Yum! That came from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone" and it was so good I made it another morning, too.

I also did a pasta with broccoli and ricotta. That was good, too!

Then it was time for church coffee hour.

I made a ricotta zucchini tart I found on Pinterest.

That is it to the left, pictured on one of the prized funky vintage tablecloths our church coffee hour boasts. It was supposed to be a galette but I fit it into a pie tin and called it a tart. That was a hit at coffee hour! Gone in 60 seconds. Next time I will make two because it really is easy to make.

May I interest you in my fine Church Coffee Hour Pinterest board? The recipe is there in case you want it.

Finally I made Lemon Ricotta Muffins, from a recipe I found I forget where. They were a success! And they have olive oil in them and not a ton of sugar so they are healthy.

Oh wait! That was not finally. I still had some ricotta left. I made Ricotta Bread. It is a yeast bread with ricotta in it. It is good!

And may I say that Msgr. Sicari at St. Anthony's ...

... complimented me most kindly on my ricotta dishes. That made my day! Coming from an Italian that meant something.

This is Leonard Pennario's birthday. If he were alive he would be 93. He also would not mind me writing about ricotta cheese on his birthday, I will tell you that. Pennario loved his food and he loved his Italian food in particular, God love him.

I will be the Leonard Pennario of ricotta.

Where can I find another tub?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paris Can Wait ... 'It's just my ears, you know?'

 There is this new movie "Paris Can Wait" that my colleague Jeff Simon reviewed. 

Jeff and I were discussing it in the office the other day and he told me the gist of it, this woman risking this kind of illicit affair, gadding around France with a seductive French friend of her husband's. And there are all these mouthwatering scenes of food.

I said, "Oh, no. I can't see it."

I said, "I can see a movie about an illicit affair without wanting to have one of my own. But when I see a movie about food..."

... It is not pretty!

But now I am changing my mind.

Because I have learned that the movie's leading lady, to use Leonard Pennario's term, has a problem with her ears and that is what sets the plot in motion.

"It's just my ears, you know?" she says in the trailer.

I just had a problem with my ears! I had to go to Immediate Care yesterday and get it taken care of.

Rashly I jumped into the pool at L.A. Fitness and I got water in my ear. It is something I am prone to. I was deaf!

Oddly enough Paris comes into the story at this point. One time I was afflicted with this was right before I was going to go to Paris. I had to go to Urgent Care and get my ear taken care of.  Otherwise Paris would have had to wait!

Anyway, yesterday morning, I went into Immediate Care. There is something almost nice about this ear thing. You are blissful in the waiting room! There was this gal right next to me yakking on her cell phone and I could hear her only in a faint blur. Instead of being annoyed I was happily practicing my brush lettering. It is a new hobby I have, and very portable. I took this picture. That is the instruction book at left and my attempts on the right.

It is thrilling, how the ear situation works out. A couple of nurses position themselves around your ear and point this kind of water gun into it. And one of them goes, "OK, ready?"

And then they blast you!

I started laughing and couldn't stop. It just felt so weird! Then it got uncomfortable but it was too funny really to feel pain.

Then they went, "We got it!"

They tried to get me to look at something but I waved them away.

"Gross!" I said.

I felt like a new person, though, I will tell you that. My ear had been getting stuffier and stuffier. I am prone to this condition in only one ear, I must point out. The other is fine.

Now I could hear again!

And so "Paris Can Wait" must not wait. I have to see it, on account of my ears.

"It's just my ears, you know?"

I know!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The surprise birthday present

Today is my birthday! I have been having a great day. I had off from work and this morning I made great progress on the book I keep writing and writing about. It is in the home stretch but there were several things that had to be tied up and today I tied up a couple of those things.

Then I worked in the garden. Miraculously I have succeeded in weeding my garden and actually turning a corner on it. There is a story as to how I was able to do that, but that will have to wait for another day. But today my neighbor told me the garden looked great! I am so proud of myself!

My friend Lizzie treated me to a pedicure. I have never had a pedicure! That is another story for another day. I felt like such a princess, getting that pedicure!

And then my mom gave me these two Japanese teacups. These are beautiful delicate teacups and saucers from Occupied Japan.

I know, my mom passed away a couple of years ago. But that does not mean she cannot give me a birthday present!

What happened was, there was this grungy box in my garage. I found it a few days ago when I began my gardening and was looking for weed clippers.

I was not thrilled to find this box. I figured out pretty quick what it was. It was stuff from my mom's house, a box my brother George had brought over and stashed there when he thought I was not looking. Either that or probably he told me, who knows. I am the keeper of the family junk so what nobody else wanted ended up with me.

There were things in the box wrapped in newspaper from the time my mom died, which is how I was able to put two and two together. Plus, I recognized these mushroom salt and pepper shakers. There was this one garage sale where someone was selling off a Smithsonian-sized collection of salt and pepper shakers. My mom and I decided we would both select one pair. We had fun choosing. I chose these cute light bulb shaped shakers. Howard has them now downtown at Big Blue. My mom had chosen the mushrooms and now here they were, in my garage.

That kind of made me sad. So did the other stuff. There were some OK things but nothing great that I saw, and all I could think was, now I am stuck with this stuff, I an sentimental about it and so I will have to make room for it somehow.


Today I felt obliged to go back to the box, clean it out. And I found a Japanese teacup. So beautiful, this delicate blue and white and gold. I washed it up and then I found a saucer that went with it.

This is pretty cool, I thought. I love Japanese things. It comes from my liking for bento boxes. Then... it was funny but something told me there was another teacup in that box. I went out and gingerly, because you had better believe this box was grungy, I began digging around.

What did I find but another teacup, in another pattern!

And, after a little more digging, a matching saucer!

I washed these treasures carefully and then started gloating over them, admiring them from one angle and then another, the way you do when you get a present you love. I thought of how I would use them, how I would show them off to my friends.

Then I remembered it was my birthday. I had found this on exactly my birthday.

I got a birthday present from my mom!

I have this tradition with myself that goes way back. I get birthday presents out of nowhere. Once I found a black dress, in my size, on the sidewalk on my birthday. I had just said I wanted a dress like that and there it was. This morning when I woke up I was wondering if I would get something out of nowhere, this being my birthday.

I did!!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sugar and jazz

We had Office Cooking Club downtown at Big Blue. It was the first barbecue of the season! Above is my friend Melinda's husband, Mike, tending the grill on the front lawn.

This is a club we have had going in various permutations over the years. In its current incarnation we have a handful of people from work, people interested in cooking, and we might have a celebrity guest, a person who has distinguished himself or herself in the culinary field.

Last night the theme was Mexican. I made caramel ice cream!

Here is the caramel under way.

Isn't that wild? You had to heat up sugar and water and then let it boil.

"I'll believe this when I see it," I said, out loud.

But it worked! First you had to boil it unattended. That is something I have a problem doing. I always want to attend to things. You wait until it turns brown around the edges and then you stir it until it is a deep amber.

All went according to plan!

Then, zut alors, I realized the heavy cream in the fridge had gone south, despite the expiration date being still two weeks away. Forbid it, Almighty God! I had to run to the store and get more heavy cream. By the time I came back my caramel had hardened into this disc. That was all right! The Joy of Cooking said just to heat it gently and soften it.

The Joy of Cooking's directions were not perfect and kept me guessing. But you know the slogan, stand facing the stove! That is what I did and the ice cream was a hit.

It is fun to have cooking adventures! Which is what I did over the weekend. Friday it was our friend Dan's birthday, hence this cake. Which, I was proud of it! Thank you again, '80s Betty Crocker! Plus, I love birthday sprinkles.

And then came church coffee hour Sunday morning, and cooking club was Sunday night.

Speaking of caramel and the Catholic Church, one thing that cracks me up is when people write "Carmel" instead of "caramel." It happens all the time!

Hence, Carmel Ice Cream.

If you love it you are a Carmelite!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pie Academy

So... today, over a week after Easter, I finally find this cookbook "Pie."

I had been looking and looking for it!

Today I was not looking for it. Easter being behind me I was doing my other work. But while I was looking for certain documents I saw this big book. Even before I could see what it was, I thought: That is it!

That is "Pie"!

After I got through Easter without it!

"Pie" is by Ken Haedrich whom I have never heard of although I admire that German name. He has an, ahem, online community called The Pie Academy. It is dedicated to the idea that anyone can make a pie from scratch.

I like that!

As it is, it is just as well that this book stayed lost in my chaotic house until now. Who knows, had I had it, I might not have made Divine Lime Pie.

Cookbooks stay lost until you need them!

Now, let's see what's in this.

I want to make Fresh Plum and Port Pie. And Calvados-Apple Custard Pie. Yikes, Sweet Summer Corn Pie! Could that be in the offing this summer?

Golden Delicious Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crumb Topping. Honey Apple Currant Pie in a Whole Wheat Crust. Very Cranberry-Pear Pie. I will have to remember these come fall.

Perhaps by then I will be a student of the Pie Academy. Oh, wait! It is free! Where do I sign? I just signed up using that link up above.

I am still waiting for my email confirmation. Oh look! It is here! It begins, "Hello, fellow pie lover!"

It promises me recipes and insider information regarding the pie community.

I will report!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter feaster

This year at Easter things went well!

It is a funny thing when family occasions approach. There is the battle between cooking and cleaning. This year I learned a lesson. Cleaning takes a back seat. You need your house to be not disgusting, but beyond that, don't sweat the cleaning. Cook.

With which, here is what I did this year.

In our family we cannot decide between ham and lamb and so it is fun to have both. That is what I did. The lamb came from Tops. Yay, Tops! Best price in town, $5.99 a pound. The ham came from Aldi. This was a spiral ham. I am never not doing a spiral ham ever again. So much easier, and I doused it liberally with Spirit Glaze For Ham out of my ancient Joy of Cooking. It gave it a taste of bourbon and of orange.

I thought about scalloped potatoes but you know what? Baked potatoes. With sour cream and butter. The potatoes slid into the oven beneath the meat.

My sister brought a beautiful salad incorporating cucumbers and beets and Herb Gerard.

And for dessert.... here is where my 1980s Betty Crocker cookbook, the classic edition pictured at left, came into play.

I had in mind chocolate cream pie and some kind of lemon pie. Haha... opening up this old Pie cookbook I have, I saw that was my plan last year, too! There was a chocolate pie I had made and a lemon pie I had made. I had written notes. The chocolate pie had turned out to be more like a big cookie -- good, and Howard had liked it, but it was not exactly a pie. The lemon pie had been a nice twist. Not a lemon meringue pie, but very good.

This is why you write notes! Thank you, last year's self!

So I did the Chocolate Cream Pie out of Betty Crocker. The Lemon Meringue Pie was on the next page and so, no muss no fuss, I did that.

I love Betty Crocker and here is one reason why. Both pies asked for pre-baked crusts. Normally I try to avoid those because you need pie weights, or dried beans, to fill up the crust when you bake it. I don't have pie weights. I did have dried beans dedicated to this purpose but at some point, disgusted with my overflowing kitchen, I tossed them.

Betty Crocker just had you pop the crusts in the oven!! No pie weights! No hill of beans!

Is that the greatest or what??

Both the pies were a great success. I learned a new art, of making custard. And with a few leftover egg whites I made something else new, a meringue crust. Betty Crocker made it sound easy and, sure enough, it was.

Betty Crocker suggested two uses for the meringue crust -- Divine Lime Pie or Chocolate Angel Pie. I went with the Divine Lime, in honor of Christ's divinity.

The Divine Lime Pie was the hit of the dessert table along with Apple and Elderberry Pie, made by my brother-in-law David. Even now I remember my slice of that pie with pleasure. It had just a haunting taste, perfect fruit, beautiful spice.

It was fun, at work I got to talk to our food critic, Andrew Galarneau, about our Easter table. When I mentioned the Apple and Elderberry Pie, he went, "Whoa. Whoa!"

He has as great sense for food. Because that was my thought exactly. Whoa!!

You know me, always obsessing over what I eat. But there comes a time to indulge.

This was it!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Herb Gerard and me

The crop of bishop's weed is coming in. I think it is going to be a good year!

One goal of mine, among many, is to become a good bishop's weed cook. Looking back on my efforts a couple of years ago I am impressed by the idea of red lentil soup with bishop's weed. See, this is why I keep a Web log. Otherwise such details might be forgotten.

This evening bishop's weed stands in for spinach in Deborah Madison's mushroom and spinach stew. This is just a simple dish you throw together with a lot of butter, which of course is the secret to its deliciousness. Piously, this being Holy Week, I cut back on the butter somewhat. But it is still yummy.

To my shock, the latest issue of Eating Well sings the praises of the bishop's weed. It says to discard stems. When they are this small though it does not seem to matter. The tiny stems add a kind of texture. Harvesting the bishop's weed is very easy otherwise. You just wade into the field and grab huge handfuls! Then next day you have a fresh crop of young tender bishop's weed leaves. And the problem with this is what?

I am sort of collecting different names for bishop's weed such as Giersch (the German name), snow on the mountain, ground elder, and goutweed (because it is good for many ailments including gout). Today I found one I do not recall seeing before, Herb Gerard.

That is like a name! "Hi, I'm Herb Gerard, and you're sure looking good this evening."

Merriam-Webster offers the loveliest explanation.

translation of Medieval Latin or New Latin herba (Sancti) Gerardi, after Gerardus (St. Gerard) †1120 founder of the Knights of St. John

I was married at beautiful St. Gerard's Church.

I should start calling this beautiful plant Herb Gerard.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

94 Candles

It was Dorothy's birthday recently at St. Anthony's. She is 94.

Remember Dorothy? As in Driving Miss Dorothy? I am not driving Miss Dorothy at the moment. My friend Lizzie is driving Miss Dorothy because I am doing the baking for the coffee hour and because Lizzie is just a cool person.

As it happened Dorothy had two (2) birthday cakes. One for each of her 47 years which together makes 94. I made one covered in birthday sprinkles. I love making birthday cakes and the icing on the cake is when you get to use those rainbow sprinkles! Remember, I did that last year for Dorothy's birthday. This year Lizzie  stepped in and in addition to my cake made something fancier.  She made her famous carrot cake! To cakes are better than one! I am not complaining, I will tell you that right now.

Dorothy cannot claim, as Leonard Pennario could, to have been baptized at St. Anthony's. She is an immigrant! She remembers being a tiny girl and seeing the Statue of Liberty. That was literally 90 years ago.

Dorothy blew out the candles which means she will get her wish. I know that her wish must be wonderful.

I am getting back on my feet after not keeping up with this Web log so I will be sharing some memories going forward. Recent memories, not distant ones.

A closeup of my cake. Hey, with candles it looked really cool!

The Work in Progress.

What fun it is, baking a cake, you know?

Whose birthday is it next?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Concerto at Amvets

One of the many highlights of my week was finding Leonard Pennario's Grieg and Rachmaninoff record. He plays Grieg's Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Erich Leinsdorf and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

I found the record at Amvets!

That is it pictured at the top. Study the picture so you will know this record if you see it. But you will not! It is a rare score.

You never find Pennario records at thrift shops, not even his best-selling "Concerto Under the Stars." People hold on to these records. As Howard said they are heirlooms.

And the beautiful thing was, I had stopped into Amvets after work, to chill before I got home. That is a strategy I have had for years. Other people have it too by the way. I always see people in office clothes, walking around looking at stuff, just unwinding.

One woman in office clothes, we got talking a few weeks ago by the cake pans. She was trying to decide between one Bundt pan and another. One was a style I had had my eye on, and I explained to her why it was superior.

Then she bought it! And she went away all happy and beaming. And I was thinking, Why did I talk her into buying that pan??

I wanted that pan!

Oh well, I do not need another cake pan.

But I always need another Pennario record! And it was funny, before finding the record the other day, I had been stressed out, antisocial. I had even been on the fence about staying in Amvets another five minutes. And suddenly everything changed.

In the checkout line I realized: It changes you to be holding a Leonard Pennario record. You become graceful and smart and inspired and you smile.

That is a wonderful thing to happen to you.

And for just 99 cents!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Spring surprise

As soon as my Christmas tree is down I declare it spring. And from then on, I cheer spring on.

The tree came down around Candlemas. Me being a schlep, my wreath is still up. But other people's wreaths are up too. I am not alone.

Still it feels great to feel spring in the air, or imagine I do. That picture up above that I took the other day does not exactly scream spring. And yet... and yet ...

The daffodils have been inching up for a few weeks. Today I spotted the sorrel plant! And I bit into one of the leaves. That sour-lemon taste! That is spring!

And now for the big surprise. Remember those pathetic containers I put into the bishop's weed? They are covered in dead leaves.

Idly I brushed the leaves off this one tub. And lo and behold ...

It was brimming with oregano!

It is not as if I can get everything right. A stick stuck in the pot read "Apple Mint." Perhaps I might see some apple mint later. But for now, oregano! A lot of it! I think the leaves were making the planter into some kind of a greenhouse.

Because I did not have this oregano last summer. But I sure have it now!

Now I can see hope inching up with me like those daffodil shoots. Every year I have garden ambitions. Every year, because I have too many irons in the fire, the grand plans end in chaos.

Oh well.

It makes for good entertainment!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Blaise of glory

After Mass on Sunday we got our throats blessed in accordance with the Feast of St. Blaise. Technically the feast of St. Blaise was Friday, Feb. 3, but you do the best you can, you know?

I was one of the stragglers because I was up in the organ loft. I snapped that picture of a few of the other last folks in line. The line was long! Many many throats were blessed by both Father Justus and our new pastor, Msgr. Joe. That is Father Justus doing the honors in this picture.

One reason I was late to the throat blessing was that after Mass I got gabbing with Josephine, the organist.

"St. Blaise is one of the 14 Holy Helpers," I told her. And I explained how the 14 Holy Helpers are saints turned to since medieval times for specific purposes. There is St. Blaise for the throat. St. Christopher for travel. St. Vitus for, I don't know, St. Vitus Dance. St. Barbara for fever. St. Elmo for, I don't know, St. Elmo's Fire. And I forget the rest, but with a little thought they will come to me.

Josephine said, "Mary, I never would have known that."

I said, "Nobody in the world knows that but me."

Which is true! With the exception of anyone who shared any of our previous 14 Holy Helpers adventures. Those folks would know that St. Blaise is a 14 Holy Helper.

And then. To top things off ....

Today I had to go to the endodontist. And I passed Fourteen Holy Helpers!

It was just like that other time a million years ago when I went to the same endo.

Holy West Seneca, Batman!

The 14 Holy Help is where you find it!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The new January

February is the new January!

It is the fresh fresh start to the New Year. That is how I see it anyway.

January is not all it is cracked up to be, in my experience. You go into it with resolutions and good intentions. You wind up just sitting around, eating chocolate. It is comfy but sleepy.

But then ... February!

You awaken. The year is a twelfth gone! What have you been doing? But now there is this bright new month. Literally bright. Feb. 1 has brought sun. With Valentine's Day. Hot chocolate. (OK, so you do not get away from chocolate.) Ice skating, now that I have learned to love it. New energy. New promise.

Not only that but February happens to be the shortest month. Tight deadlines are great when it comes to getting anything done. The less time the better. Take it from me. I have been to the mountain and back.

It is not too late to make something out of your year!

You can go back to your resolutions starting Feb. 1!

A fresh page in your bullet journal.

A new page in the calendar.

A new start!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In the bleak midwinter

Technically the Christmas season lasts until Candlemas which is still a few days from now. That means you can still listen to Christmas music.

And it is apt!

I was looking over the photos I've taken over the last few weeks. Bleak, bleak, bleak!

But beautiful, you know?

I took the space age picture up above just today. That was this morning when I pulled into the parking lot at work! And here are a few others.

That was when I was in the car with my friend Sharon. We were working on a story for the Western New York 100 Things series in The Buffalo News.

I took this one in Delaware Park.

It is as if I have a black-and-white camera!

That was when I went ice skating, an event that proved newsworthy. It was part of our 100 Things series. I have been having the greatest time with that.

Back to black and white.

Oops, a little green got in there. How did that happen?

It never ends.

In the bleak midwinter!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I've been having fun these days shopping at Dollar Tree as part of my everyday errands. One thing I have done is explored Dollar Tree's freezer case.

And behold, good news! You can get great frozen vegetables at Dollar Tree. A whole pound of mixed veg, California Blend or Stir Fry, for $1. That beats what you spend other places. So I picked up a few. I bought the blends, plus a pound of broccoli. You are lucky, you know, to find broccoli for $1 a pound, and here it is for that price all neatly cut up for you.

And speaking of good news ... When I got home something made me look at the bags closely.

These are holy bags!

One of them said, beneath the cooking directions:

"God is strong and can keep you from falling. He can bring you before His glory without any wrong in you and give you great joy." -- Jude 1:24.

That was California Blend speaking. Broccoli Cuts had their own quote.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." -- Isaiah 41:10.

It is like the Aldi eggs, where you open the carton and read a psalm! I am telling you, it is the little things like this that can make your day. The Lord speaks to you from unexpected places!

These veggies are from TJ Farms. Let us look them up. I get the idea it is just this generic brand under the umbrella of Flagship Food Group. There is no mention of Scripture.  And yet still, there it is.  Someone is having a little fun, somewhere.

These are the frozen vegetables the Lord has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Journal angst

Zounds, I am getting a late start to the New Year!

Yesterday, and only yesterday, I got around to starting my 2017 Bullet Journal. BuJo, to use the hip abbreviation. I did a story last summer on bullet journals  -- actually the bigger story was this one -- and I actually have kept up the habit, since June. Right on schedule, my old journal ran out, and so it is time for the new.

And so I broke open a sketchbook I bought at Vidler's. I opened it up.

But darn, it is difficult to start a new journal!

Above is a painting of me holding pen in hand and wondering how I should start.

The old journal, it was a book I had bought at a garage sale. Faintly ruled, hard cover, I think I bought it thinking I would give it as a gift, but in the end I used it myself. No one else would have loved this book as much as I have over the last six months, I will tell you that.

But we were casual with each other, this notebook and I. I thought nothing of flipping a page and starting some new list or goal. "Ways in Which I Will Lose 10 Pounds In the Next Two Months." "Books I Need To Read Before the End of the Year." Yeah right as Leonard Pennario would say.

There was a lot in the old journal pertaining to Pennario. And a lot pertaining to church coffee hour. You would think I did nothing but write and bake. Oh wait, I do in fact do nothing but write and bake.

Anyway, the new journal. The paper is heavier. There are no rules. It seems to cry out for something more momentous.

Oh well. That will change. It will get used to tripe and drivel. That is what a journal is for! I will post some pages from it now and then, I was thinking. Other people post their journal pages and I love ogling them so it is time I contributed.

It is kind of exciting now that I think about it.

Welcome, 2017!