Sunday, April 28, 2019
Yesterday I made my first Chiffon Cake, for church coffee hour. It was the Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake out of the classic Betty Crocker Guide to Easy Entertaining!
It is a rule I have for coffee hour: Every week I make at least one thing that is new. It keeps things exciting.
Above is a picture of the Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake going into the oven. And here it is coming out:
Beautiful as the cake is, I could not help laughing about the chapter the recipe came from. It was going piously to church, yet it came from the chapter titled Stag Parties.
How many cookbooks these days will you find with a chapter called Stag Parties?
It is funny because sex is everywhere, much more than it was several decades ago, but oh, you cannot mention stag parties. But anyway.
"Most men have a weakness for chocolate cake," Betty Crocker writes in this cookbook.
And sure enough!
The guys at St. Anthony's, they loved this cake! Well, the ladies did, too. And the children. But I am not about to contradict Betty Crocker. She was right!
You know me, I am always behind, and I was making the frosting at literally the last minute -- i.e., this morning before church. So I made a frosting that Betty recommended called Chocolate Fluff. You took two cups of heavy cream and whipped it up with a cup of powdered sugar and a half cup of cocoa. The result was amazing. Like ice cream. Addictive. Amazing.
You had to sit the cake in the fridge until it was time to serve it. And so during Mass the cake sat in the fridge in the St. Anthony's social hall. It tastes good cold, I discovered. There is something very satisfying about this sweet, chilled cake.
But next time I will make the other icing Betty recommended.
It is White Mountain Icing!
My Facebook friend Janice is a professional pastry chef and she was urging me to try it. She said it was old school but it will be so worth it! Plus, what I love about it is you get to use -- shhhhh -- corn syrup.
It is just a little more complicated than I had time for this morning. In addition I should get a candy thermometer. Why does someone like me not have a candy thermometer? Yet I do not.
The cake shared the buffet with another St. Anthony's novelty -- ham.
We got a couple of hams at Albrecht Discount and heated them up in the oven! This was another first for me. We were doing this because it was the Octave of Easter. Lou, one of the gentlemen of St. Anthony's, had to help me.
We hit a snag when I realized there were no roasting pans in the kitchen. What to do? What to do??? But miraculously in a cupboard we found a beat-up cookie sheet. Wait, it was my cookie sheet! I had been wondering what had happened to it. Here it was. And right when and where I needed it!
And so we roasted the hams -- in foil pans, set on the cookie sheet. Lou said they would be done by the time we got out of Mass and sure enough.
Lou being a prince among men also made the glaze in a saucepan he found God knows where.
I slipped out during the sermon to apply the glaze to the ham.
End result, as we say here in Buffalo, there was much rejoicing.
Ham. Is there anything better?
And 99 cents a pound at Aldi.
We will be doing this again!
Saturday, April 27, 2019
Today in between baking for church and working on other things that needed working on, I managed to get in a walk around Hoyt Lake.
It is always a great victory to get in a walk on a cold and dreary day! You feel like Beethoven, triumphing over the elements. And as I walked in the park the sky brightened and the sun peeked out here and there.
Not only that but there were these blue birds that fascinated me.
They were zipping around over the water and around me, twisting and turning, so fast it was hard to get a good look at them. I did see that they were a kind of iridescent blue.
Zip, dive, twist, turn.
I made this valiant attempt to take their picture.
Ha, ha! This is one instance when a sketchbook would serve better. Let us admit it, there are many such instances.
When I got home I looked them up and I do believe they are tree swallows.
Above is a tree swallow from the august Audubon Society. I would not have recognized it because it never saw one sitting still as that one is.
How did they get that bird to sit still?
This was more like what I saw.
But still, I never got that clear of a look. I was just trying to get in my head what I could. Blue back, white underbelly -- yep, that's him.
These birds felt magical. They were swooping and dipping everywhere, just zipping around. Nobody else seemed to notice. Everyone else was looking at screens and listening to headphones.
Those poor folks.
They just could not swallow the Tree Swallow!
Monday, April 22, 2019
Mass on Easter Sunday is always one of the highlights of the year. And this year ... this year ....
I never remember the altar looking more beautiful!
What is it about the flowers? Studying them from the choir loft I wondered if it was the orange flowers in among the yellow.
Here was our opening procession. We got to sing the Vidi Aquam which is something I always look forward to. "I saw water flowing out of the temple, from the right side ..." God knows what that all means, you know? But I do not need to know exactly. It is about water and baptism and new life, is all you can think. It is from Ezekiel.
These are not my pictures. They are from Facebook. I was in such an Easter daze I forgot my camera. It is strange to forget your camera! It is like being back in Biblical times.
Not only that but I cried so much in the Gloria that I could hardly sing. I was not the only one. Half the choir was in tears. And all the bells were ringing.
It had been just such an intense Holy Week. I did the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday. I did have my camera then and I did take a few pictures. I will have to post them.
Then on Good Friday I went to Stations of the Cross and the first Good Friday service I can remember going to. For all these years I was working on Good Friday. I could not get my act together to have the day off. There was always something. This year I went. The service, or the Good Friday Office as it was called in the missal, began with the priest lying face down on the floor and it went from there. It was unbelievably stark.
Ergo, on Easter, it was like coming out of a tunnel. Into the light! That is why you have to max yourself out in the days beforehand. You feel it!
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
It is funny reading back on it. There are all these little things I would have completely forgotten had not I written them down. I would recommend this to anyone. Particularly I love it when it comes to my mother, gone now for about six years. I would never have remembered half the situations we were in together or half the things we talked about. Half? More like 90 percent, I think, I would have forgotten.
My mom was with me twice when I saw Notre Dame Cathedral, my preoccupation for the last few days.
I think of her in Holy Week because I remember how we would not only go to sales together, as shown in the picture above, we would go to church together. I would often go, I must confess, a little unwillingly. But I did go with my mother and I am happy for that now. And I would rise to the occasion.
There is something strange about Holy Week. You feel a little hushed, a little off. This year it coincides with Passover which I imagine has a similar effect on our Jewish brothers and sisters, to use a phrase Catholics use a lot.
Plus there was the whole Notre Dame Cathedral business. It totally threw me off kilter. Over the past 24 hours though it has been not so bad. Here are a few more things that have struck me...
1. When they went into the church to see what was what, the votive candles were still burning! One friend wrote last night on Facebook, "I am going to sleep with the lights on."
2. Someone thought she saw Jesus in the flames. The picture she cited went around social media and was studied by many. It was discussed on the radio.
3. In the trad Catholic community it has been noted that the high altar survived unscathed while the post-Vatican II so-called altar was buried under rubble. That "so-called" is my terminology. Do not blame the others!
Poor Notre Dame. But perhaps its story is not over.
I have my favorite conspiracy theories which perhaps I will air at a later date. Do not blame me! I ask questions. I am a newspaper girl and as we say in our business, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."
Did my mother love me? I have to ask that question to bring the post full circle.
I better read back on this blog to make sure.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
I am feeling a lot better about Notre Dame with the news that the relics have been saved and the ancient walls are standing and money is coming in to rebuild it.
Still probably not as much money as we here in Buffalo were given to put an addition on our Albright-Knox Art Gallery. As Howard would put it about the gallery, "What are they making it into, Dallas?" But still, impressive.
I am not going to be one of those Polyannas who go, "Oh, what the heck, all these churches all go through a lot, they're always burning," etc. This is the 21st century when we have a lot more firefighting resources than we had 500 years ago. The cathedral is in ruins. I still cannot help crying seeing video of Parisians on their knees in the streets, Rosaries in their hands, singing songs to Our Lady, or should I say Notre Dame, as they watched the cathedral burn and feared this was the end.
But at the same time that makes me think that good things can come out of bad and one thing we might see in Paris is increased faith. It is unfortunately human nature to take a church like this for granted until all of a sudden you think it will be taken away from you.
Notre Dame heard their prayers and interceded and God spared the cathedral, is all I can think.
A few other good things ...
1. You have to love that amazing daredevil priest who ran into the burning cathedral, damn the torpedoes, to save the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns. Father Fournier. I am a fan.
2. Who knew that Notre Dame was in possession of the Crown of Thorns? I did not, I will tell you that, and it blows my mind. We have all learned things out of this. Apparently King Louis IX bought it in Byzantium back in the day for some gigantic sum of money.
3. And you have to love the priest for dashing to get the Blessed Sacrament as well, for having his priorities more straight than I would probably have them under such pressure.
4. It is great to hear news readers on TV talking of the tunic of St. Louis and other obscure medieval matters of faith.
5. The organ seems to have made it.
6. Can I add something Buffalo? Reading back on what I wrote yesterday when I was in pieces, something else cool strikes me. I was irritated, as I wrote, at the long lines for confession, because I realized early in the day I would not get my chance, and I had to come back later. But upon reflection, reading back, it hit me ...
... There were lines for confession! How cool is that?
Maybe it will be that way in Paris. Maybe they are already lining up.
I would, if I were they.
Monday, April 15, 2019
The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral -- as I said to a friend, there are no words.
The news came to me, as news like this does, in the middle of a hurried and mundane day. I was just coming from the dentist -- which, incidentally, was supposed to be today's story, and a great story it is, but it will have to wait. I had just gone to Albrecht Discount -- another story that will have to wait for another day -- and I got back in the car to head downtown to St. Michael's to go to confession because I had tried to go before the dentist but the lines were too long. As I turned onto Main Street from the Aldi parking lot I turned on the car radio and that was when I heard.
I could not, cannot believe it.
I have been to Notre Dame, thank God, but you just cannot imagine a world with it gone. As I put on Facebook it makes you wonder if the wheels really have come off in Europe.
As I wrote to someone on Facebook, what in the world kind of carelessness could have caused this?
This is Notre Dame! As in the old painting up above. As in a thousand old paintings. People over almost a thousand years have looked up at it, have walked in its shadow, have admired its beauty.
How could this have happened?
I guess it is best if it were an accident because then there is nobody to blame directly. But an accident is ominous in its own way. Perhaps as a friend said it was miraculous that Notre Dame never burned before. But the fact remained, it never did.
I have always thought of Notre Dame as a kind of cousin of Germany's Cologne Cathedral. As I told a friend, you can picture the two of them going through the centuries together. They were reminders of how although their respective nations were often warring, there was this faith in common.
It is hard not to see it as a metaphor, as some kind of warning. I am feeling this especially acutely because yesterday for the first time I saw "The Passion of the Christ," the Mel Gibson movie. That was one reason I was on my way to confession, that I was making it such a priority. I had these images in my head. I was thinking of times when I had laughed when I should not have laughed and mocked things I should not have mocked and in general behaved with stupidity and disrespect and that is why I was heading to confession. It is like what I have heard happened when people saw "The Exorcist" -- they went to confession. "The Passion of the Christ" had some stuff in it that can make you think of "The Exorcist." That is something too for another day. The point is, I had been upset this morning when the confession lines were too long and were moving too slowly and I had to get to the dentist. I had made up my mind to go back later.
Then I hear this.
Let me tell you, I not only went to confession, I stayed for the entire Mass!
Where, I should mention, they prayed for the burning cathedral. The priest mentioned it during the Prayer of the Faithful, and I was so grateful he included it.
It is just unbelievable, in this day and age. I know, churches have always burned through history, but we have better equipment now, and better fire detection, and better everything.
Well, not better everything. Sometimes you have to wonder.
Today I wonder. It is just so ominous, so unthinkable, that cathedral in ashes.
Well, I am talked out. I was writing things on Facebook about it and Facebook friends, so many of them are such beautiful people, and they were chiming in with thoughts and sympathy and their own grief -- not just Christians, either, but other people, too, who sent their love. They made me feel good that I was not alone and we went back and forth and back and forth and on and on, as you can tell from me writing here repeatedly, "As I said to a friend...." Now I have a kind of emotional hangover from it all. I guess I should let it go. I guess I have to let it go.
But tough day, you know? That was how my sportswriter friend Budd Bailey put it. Sportswriters have a way of distilling things to their essence.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
So, yesterday, my baking marathon, it was worth it!
Good thing I did it! Because we had over 50 people at coffee hour.
We needed that food!
It is funny because it is hard to predict what kind of crowd we will have. I brought two Crock Pots and I felt stupid, doing that. I thought: It is Palm Sunday, the Mass will be long considering the procession and the Passion and everything, no one will come.
As if in a dream I saw everyone heading for the hall. Which makes me very happy. If there is one thing I hate it is seeing people getting into their cars and heading for home instead of to coffee hour.
Here is another thing that made me happy. Everything went smoothly with my friend Margaret doing a lot of the set-up ...
... and I was able to make the tail end of the Palm Sunday procession. Here I had been thinking I would miss all of it. I kind of gave up on it and perhaps that calmed me down because I was resigned to that. I worked calmly getting things together, no hurry, and lo and behold, there I was, in the procession. Not for all of it, but for some of it. That was neat.
There was one other year when I was late and experienced the procession from the inside out. Now THAT was really cool.
I stood there in the church with my usher friend Mike and we waited in silence. It was Mike's job to open the door when he heard the knock.
The priest raps on the door. That is how it has gone for centuries and so we were upholding this ancient tradition. We waited, not knowing when the procession would arrive.
And all of a sudden, the knock!!
And we opened the door. And Father Justus was standing there, surrounded by pomp and circumstance and all the parishioners behind him in this great procession.
I was telling my usher friend Joe today, I cannot believe traditions like that have been lost in the modern Catholic Church. I cannot believe I did not grow up with them. I was deprived.
I should sue!! Because there is nothing like this. It is beautiful and magical. Better late than never, you know, that I have come to experience it.
That and, I got to hear the lines about the horns of the unicorns.
A perfect Palm Sunday!
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Yikes, almost all I did all day was cook and bake!
My friend Lizzie posted something about baking on Facebook that has stuck with me. It was some joke going around and the punch line was "Procrasti-baking." That is baking when you are supposed to be doing something else. We have all been known to do that!
Everyone except my sister Katie who for some reason -- get this! -- does not like baking. Imagine that! I cannot. She must be the only person in the world who does not like baking. It is unimaginable.
But whether or not I like baking I have to do it on Saturday because Sunday is the church coffee hour. And that is my ministry. It is my donation. I bake.
The Prince of Wales' motto is "Ich dien." I serve.
I want a German motto too! Mine could be "Ich backe." I bake.
Hmmm. The pianist Wilhelm Backhaus, whose Beethoven I love, his name must mean bakery. Bill Bakery.
Bakery should be my last name!
Today I made blueberry muffins, utilizing my historic Buffalo George Urban muffin tins. And spice muffins, a bigger size because I do not like everything on the buffet looking alike.
I also made banana bread from bananas that my friend Lizzie left with me when she had to fly down to Florida a few days ago. Haha, that was funny. Because Lizzie had had these bananas for weeks and kept talking about them. She was going to make chocolate chip banana bread because our friend Oscar likes that, and she was going to make normal banana bread, and then there was a loaf that she made that did not turn out to meet her extremely high standards, and --
And then, you guessed it. I was taking Lizzie to the airport and what did she toss into my trunk? The bananas. I just burst out laughing. After all that!
So, banana bread. What else? I also made a pumpkin cranberry bread with pumpkin I had frozen a couple of months ago. It is autumn's last gasp before we head into the -- hurrah! -- Easter season. And I made Whiskey Squash Cake in my Bundt pan. That sounds rather decadent for Lent but though it is delicious -- I have made it many times, with different twists -- it is really not that boozy.
I also made soup. The kitchen was alive with both Crock Pots and the bread machine all in play. And in between I took care of some Leonard Pennario correspondence with Capitol Records. But that also is a story for another day.
So I guess the entire day was not baking after all. I did get some other stuff done.
It was not all Procrast-Baking!
Monday, April 8, 2019
Today, with the robins singing, was the day of an important pre-summer ritual.
It is the day of the Weeding of the Shoes!
There are shoes strewn around all over the house and today is the day when I promised myself I would go through them and de-accession that which is battered or pinchy or hopelessly salt-stained.
I sound joyous reporting about this but it is something I dread. I am just not a shoe person. There are shoes I love but in general shoe shopping stresses me out. Something can feel good in the store but when you go to wear them, they do not! That and, you can get a great pair of shoes, but after months of not wearing them you realize they go with nothing.
There is nothing for it however but to get to work. I went through boxes of dozens and dozens of shoes. I had to set aside a Shoe Morgue for shoes without mates. It is still there now that the monumental task is completed. There are seven shoes in the Shoe Morgue. I will give them a month or two and if they mates have not turned up they will have to go.
There is always a pair of shoes bound for Amvets that gets a last minute reprieve. It is like the president pardoning a turkey. Today that honor went to a pair of boots that was ancient, that I had found heaven knows where, and the boots made it outside -- but then back inside. They read "Made in USA" and "Waterproof" and I seemed to remember they were indeed waterproof. You never know when you will need something like that. I get pretty desperate in the winter sometimes.
A few other shoes, I have to be honest, hung on for sentimental reasons. Well, one pair. I bought them at Spiegel when I went to compete in the Van Cliburn Amateur Competition. They are three colors, bright colors. I was on the copy desk when I did that competition and I wore the shoes to work and my late boss Stan Lipsey, the publisher, was passing by and called out to me, "Now that's what I call shoes!!"
How can I toss them? They are a classic design and they are in great condition, is another thing -- aside from the tip of the toe, which is slightly scuffed on both shoes. I wonder if someone can fix that. Hmmm.
A cobbler might also come in handy to fix the heels of the sandals I bought in California that I used to wear when I was there with Leonard Pennario. They are quality and they have held up all these years.
Well, all these repairs will have to wait till another day.
Today I cannot bear to see another shoe!