Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Slightly Guilty Day

I’ve become such a non-blogger lately.  I don’t quite understand it.  Why, when still a working girl, should I have so much more time for that sort of thing?  I look at old posts for inspiration, and occasionally, I think, “Could I actually have written something so clever?”  But more often, I think, “Could I actually have written something so dumb?”  Now I am thinking, “Can I actually write anything at all?”  Where have my time and my blog mojo slipped off to?  What have I been doing anyway!!

  Becca and I have been trying to jog faithfully, and to find various scenic jog routes. 

Our most recent jog was not the usual slog, and in fact, not a jog at all, but a lovely woodland walk, since she had a sore achy ankle.  I felt very sorry for her ankle, of course, but my sorrow was tinged with a goodly amount of relief.  We were able to admire the trees, marvel at their sticky sap, commune with some squirrels and woodpeckers, and

photograph some of the wildlife.  

Becca's bug photo

Here I am having a beatific vision in nature’s cathedral. 

Later, as we drank tea at a favorite restaurant, we had scintillating conversation about our adventures in the woods.  Sometimes this is difficult with the youth of the day. 

To be continued soon, I hope!!!

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Celestial Day

My idea of the world's most wonderful music is pretty mutable. Generally my favorites are something by Bach or Mozart.  But at other times it is whatever I am currently listening to, or what we are working on at choir. Today it is Duruflé’s Requiem. Every year we sing a Requiem Mass on November 2, All Souls’ Day, and most often it has been Mozart. However, some years, we sing another Requiem, and this year it is Duruflé's exquisite composition

Mozart’s Requiem is all about the our ultimate victory over the terrors of death, and our eventual triumphal march across the Great Divide into Heaven. Duruflé, on the other hand, seems to have accepted death, and realizes that it can be peaceful and even lovely. His Mass setting is more about Heaven itself. Dies Irae, the most terrifying part of the Mozart’s Requiem is not even there. Duruflé is all about eternal bliss.  The musical themes are based on the Gregorian chants for the Requiem Mass, but the chants are imbued with a new life and quiet magnificence unimaginable until you hear it. Listening to it is like being in a cloud of celestial sound.

All are invited to participate in the Mass for All Soul's Day and to hear this wonderful music at St. James Cathedral on the Feast of All Souls, November 2 at 7:30.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Non-Birthday Day

Rebecca insists that birthday presents may not ever be given in advance of actual birthdays – or at least, not opened – nor may any celebrations be held.  She is quite firm about this, and while I don’t totally buy into it, her opinions usually wear off onto me to some extent.  So, when Samos wanted to have a celebratory lunch and  bring me my birthday present a week prior to my actual birthday, I said that he must wait.  But, alas, there was no other convenient day, so I said we could have a non-celebratory lunch,  and he could bring it, but I would not open it yet.  This too wouldn’t do, because he needed to see my delighted expression when I opened it.  In this, he was not disappointed.  I was thrilled.  Really, really thrilled.  A few weeks previously, for some reason, we had been talking about Pinetop Smith’s Boogie Woogie. 

I mentioned that I had played it in high school, and was supposed to play it for a piano recital.  At nearly the last minute, I told my teacher that I refused to play it, because it was beyond my capabilities, and I knew that, under the stupendous pressure of these nerve wracking ordeals, I would fail, humiliating myself and my family.  It was a truly horrifying thought, as anyone who has been forced to endure the agony of piano recitals can testify.  The same thing had happened the previous year when I was supposed to play The Doll Dance by Nacio Herb Brown.  In both instances, the teachers gave me an easy no-fail piece to learn quickly, thus sparing both me and my family a major trauma.  I also told Samos that my mother, who was the absolute antithesis of a hoarder, especially with her family’s possessions, had, when I went off to college, gotten rid of all my piano music,  even the ones she liked to hear me play.

Why you might ask, did I select such odd choices for my music lessons?  Well, as those who know me now might expect, I was an odd girl. My father’s secretary had given me a box of old 78’s, with some classical fare, but mostly music from the 20’s and 30’s – lots of fox trots, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Gershwin. I loved them!  And Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra playing Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie was one of my favorites.   Now, after a huge piano playing hiatus, I wanted to revisit the fun music of my youth.  But, thanks to my mother’s neatnik clutterless propensities, I couldn’t.  So what a delightful surprise it was to find this fabuloso gift!!!!

It was not a tremendous surprise to find that the piece was still beyond me – and by a long shot – but I plan to struggle through.  When I showed it to my friend Carolyn, she sat down and played it right off.  Sigh! Why was I born so ungifted?????

The Party Kitty pin - a little gift from Michelle

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Cooking (and other fun things) Day

Periodically, Ana and I have a day of almost total laziness, watching mystery shows and knitting along to them.  Our current fave is Phryne Fisher, but, sad to say, we had exhausted her and watched all the episodes.  The same with Lewis, whom we also enjoy immensely. We have had to watch thousand year old Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse – not that I object in the least to that.  But good news!  There is a new season of Phryne, just ready for us, and we are full of plans to have a fun day of indolence with our flapper heroine. 
We do rouse ourselves a bit, in order to fix a fun meal, usually one that our families would not appreciate as much as we will.  Just prior to Ana’s last visit, the New York Times cooking section was all on about eggplant and tomato dishes.  “Does Ana like eggplant?” I asked Becca. “She sure does!” Becca said.  Eggplant is something that many folks have opinions about. So I consulted Ana, and she sent several recipes for us to consider.  We decided to use them as a starting point, and then let our culinary imaginations take over.  But best of all, Ana brought some beautiful tomatoes, largesse from her bountiful garden. 
We watched an episode of something, and the, took a break to cook.  While Ana was fiddling with the garlic, I was measuring and preparing the tomatoes.  The recipe called for a pound.  “That’s sixteen ounces,” Ana told me.  “Of course I know that!” I huffily responded.  When I had the tomatoes measured out, I said, “This really doesn’t look like enough tomatoes.  What do you think?”  Well, Ana thought, correctly, that I had only gotten out eight ounces, so of course it wasn’t enough.  Embarrassed, I wondered what I could have been thinking.  I guess I wasn’t thinking at all. 

The resultant risotto was exquisite!  Maybe the best I have ever eaten.  Here is our recipe so you can try it too!

Tomato Eggplant Risotto

1 largish eggplant
Olive oil
One large onion
One head garlic (that’s right – one head. Ana and I feel that there can never be too much garlic!)
One pound small tomatoes – cherry or similar
1 ½ cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable broth
½ cup suitable wine
Salt, pepper
½ cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup freshly ground Parmesan
Shaved Parmesan  or Asiago cheese

Heat the oven to 450°  Cut the eggplant in half, and make slits in the cut side, being careful not to cut through to the skin.  Coat the eggplant halves in olive oil, and place face down on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until it starts to look wrinkled and slightly collapsing.  Remove it from the oven and chop it up. 

Meanwhile, chop the onions and peel and chop the garlic.  Cut the tomatoes in half and chiffonade the basil leaves.  In your pressure cooker, sauté the onion in olive oil until it looks translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté a minute more.  Add the rice and stir until each rice grain is coated with oil. Stir in the eggplant.  Add the wine and broth.  Check for seasoning, adding the pepper and salt if needed.  Bring to pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  When you are ready to eat, add the grated Parmesan, the tomatoes, and the basil leaves, reserving a few for garnish.  Serve each plate topped with a bit of shaved Asaigo cheese and a bit of basil.  Delicious!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Very Meh Day

Today has been one of those days in which one more or less wishes one had not gotten out of bed.  I did actually get up for a while, but felt so like a big blob that I retreated back to my snug little nest.  I failed to do any of my usual morning activities except for reading the newspaper and doing the crossword puzzle, neither of which could really be considered an activity.  Once back in bed, I didn’t even feel like reading my book.  And I had previously had such plans for the day!  My doing nothing made me feel even more oppressed. I attribute my state of blah to too many saltwater taffies yesterday.  They are such a terrible weakness with me.  Thank Heavens, they are not universally available.  Rachael and I purchased a bag recently, and each had two, or at most, three.  I carefully monitored her intake to see that she didn’t overdo it and encroach  into my share, and I was careful to give a non-piggy example of moderation, thinking that I could have more later.  The next day, I went to have another delightful sweetly tidbit or two, and there were none!  I was horrified. Had I actually gobbled up an entire bag of them without noticing?  Apparently so!  However, a few days later, serendipity!  I found them in a safe place while looking for a pen or some such thing.  A little gift from above! 

Speaking of which, years ago the dearest friend of my youth, knowing of my proclivity, brought me a bag of them when she came from Ireland to visit.  I carefully hid my gift from my greedy family, and with the thrill of her visit, more or less forgot about it.  Then, sad to say, she, not too long later, died.  Several years after that, I was rummaging about in my closet, and lo! There was the bag of saltwater taffy!  This time, it really was a gift from heaven, or at least from one in heaven. 

All this blather about candy and heaven, has perked me up immensely.  I am going to get up now, and face the day.  Yay!  Thank you, my Blog Friends, for cheering my up.  I might even cycle to the store and get some….. No, I guess I had better get some carrots, or something healthy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Eventful Day

Dakki on a healthy day

In the last post, I mentioned that I had postponed the trimming of the auntly toenails.  I made a date to have lunch and give a pedicure (of sorts) to my Aunt Pauline, and then planned to go to Dakki’s house and help her with a recalcitrant fingernail.  As Pauline and I sipped our tomato soup, she mentioned that Dakki, whom I had tried to telephone earlier, had …. well, the trots.  This always seems like a somewhat humorous ailment to those who are not suffering from it, but in a nonagenarian, it can be fatal. And rather quickly, I might add.  So, true to form, I was horrified.  I called Dakki, and got no answer.  I called about ten more times, and still got new answer.  I have a key to her house, but it is passé, as in true paranoiac tradition, she keeps getting her locks changed, and her house is like Fort Knox.  I called a few more times, cycled home, and then went to bang on her door and lean on her doorbell.  No response.  Her car was there and she had not collected the mail from her mailbox.  What to do????? She has one neighbor, her particular friend, whom she frequently visits. I checked with them, but she was not there, and I managed to get them all agitated too.  Finally, standing on her porch, I called 911, telling the dispatcher about Dakkis personal details, including her age and the trots, and that they would have to break in.  Wow!  I was still talking to the dispatcher when I heard the sirens.  She  said, “I can hear the sirens.  They’ll be there in no time.”  And they were.   Two handsome firemen arrived and said that a police person who would do the breaking in was to follow.  One of the firemen cleverly checked Dakki’s windows and found one (unlike those at Fort Know) that he could get open, so we all hoisted him in.  “Does she have a gun?” he anxiously asked.  “I’m afraid so,” I replied.  He got a slightly worried look.  “Virginia, Virginia,” he shouted, “We’re here to help you.”  No response.  He let the neighbor, also a nurse, and me in, and asked where Dakki slept.  I pointed to her bedroom.  He entered and got an even more horrified look on his face, signaling us not to enter.  My stomach sank.  “Virginia, Virginia,” he shouted a few more times.  Then I heard, “Grrrrrr! Growl! What the hell’s going on here!  What’s happening?”  My stomach returned to where it should be.  I rushed into the room, as she was just struggling to be awake (a daily battle for both of us,) and I burst into humiliating tears.  Just like those children who got puppies.  She seemed shocked to find five folks in her bedroom – the handsome police woman had arrived by this time, and had joined the crowd. 

Later the police woman told me that she was upset to see Dakki’s address on her screen (or wherever it appears,) because she had answered so many calls from Dakki that she knew the address, (why am I not surprised about this,) and knew her well.  I could tell that she was a one of the many Dakki fans, and would have been sad to lose such a good customer. 

Dakki receiving urgent care

The next morning Dakki was still ailing, so I took her to the Urgent Care, where she got some IV fluids, and amused the cute nurse.  She seems to have a thing for handsome young nurses. He thought she was pretty cute too.  How do I know this? He said so.  

(As you can see in the photos, Dakki is very pale, so the fireman can be forgiven his mistake.  She is one of those folks with a cadaverous look even when quite lively.)  

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Blustery Day

The marvelous Stacy Sundae with her celestial choir

Gosh, what a day!  As usual, I scheduled way too many items on my agenda, and then felt like a bit of a lazy flop when I couldn’t manage to get to them all. But then, as I eliminated one item after another from my plan for the day, I comforted myself with the thought that I had been silly to imagine that a slow mover like me ever could have managed it.  Actually, I really only had four things planned, but a late start foiled me initially, and then an act of God finished off any hopes of success. 

For starters, Rebecca and I went on our run in a delightful drizzle – so much nicer than the oppressive heat that has broiled us for the last couple of months.  My idea was to cycle to Becca’s house, drink tea, go on our run, drink tea, cycle to the fabric store for some supplies, cycle home, change my clothes, cycle to the Choir Camp Concert at the Cathedral, cycle to my Aunt Pauline’s house for a little visit, come home and sew with the supplies I had purchased at the fabric store.  Hah!  I was dreaming.  By the time Becca and I had run and finished our tea, it was almost time for the concert.  And I was in my running shorts – not appropriate wear for a concert at church, and no time to go home and change.  Well, if I wanted to hear the magnificent children’s Schola sing , I would just have to be brazen and look like an elderly hussy.  And I did want to hear them. They are amazingly wonderful.  So I  cycled to the cathderal, crept in, tried to look invisible (this would have been much easier in my camouflage pants, or course.)  Suddenly – whoa! There was thunderous crashing and roaring from above.  When we emerged after the concert, the world was awash!  And the lightening was still streaking the sky!  Yikes!   One of my too many fears is being struck by lightening.  Unlikely as that may be, it is often a matter of concern.  Well, I comforted myself, if I were struck, I probably wouldn’t notice, and in any case, it would be over in a flash!  But, my rainy ride home was happily uneventful, and, as the rain had abated a bit, was actually rather pleasant.  When I got home, having abandoned all thought of the sewing store, I called my Aunt to reschedule for a more clement day, took a shower, put on fuzzy pajamas for the first time in months, settled down with my book, a cup of tea, and some nice buttered Jacob’s cream crackers – one of the most perfect foods.  What could be better? All in all, despite my failed agenda, it was a sort of perfect day.  

My faithful steed getting wet as it  awaits me
Thanks to Maria for the pictures.  And ... the Schola Cantorum will be singing at the ten o'clock Mass on Sunday, so if you missed them today, you can see them then.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Sunday Morning Ritual

 A Sunday morning years ago
Whoa!  It’s been a while.  I haven’t abandoned you, Faithful Readers.  It’s just that…. well, I don’t know what.  Retired folk are always so busy, I’ve heard, and it seems to be true.  This doesn’t  make sense.  When I was a working woman, I was a fairly faithful blogger.  Now that I’m not, well -- I’m not.  Mysterious! But what have I been doing?  I don’t even know.  Just stuff, I guess.  Here is one bit of the stuff---

Years ago, when Rebecca was a tot, I read a biography of J.M. Whistler, and one thing that impressed me, and there were many, as he was quite the fellow, was his Sunday breakfasts.  All his friends were invited to drop in on Sunday morning and have buckwheat pancakes.  His recipe for the pancakes was included. I made them, and they were dreadful.  I thought this breakfast idea was wonderful (except for the pancakes,), and I would have  loved to have had it be a tradition in my house.  Dennis and I enjoyed having guests for breakfast on occasion, but our breakfasts were infrequent.  And never included buckwheat pancakes. 

Years later, when Rebecca was all grown up, and Rachael was a tot, we started really serving breakfast after church every Sunday to anyone who wanted to come.  There were nine regulars who came without fail each week, and a number others, a few of whom showed up once in a while.  Then we switched parishes, joined a different choir, I got a different job, some of the regulars moved away, and gradually  we abandoned Sunday breakfasts.  I lamented this, but it just didn’t seem to work with all those changes. 

Lately, however, Sunday breakfasts are on again!!! I so enjoy it!  When I have guests for dinner, I am always in a bit of a panic. What if everything isn’t perfect? (It seldom is.) What if my guests forget to come? (They never have, but nonetheless, it is something to worry about.  Well, actually, my Aunt Dakki has forgotten more than once – she even forgot her own birthday party.  But she is a different sort of case.) Breakfast, on the other hand, seems so much simpler.  I don’t expect perfection, and I feel that I can confront disaster with equanimity.  I may well be deluding myself about this last however.  I hope not though.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day

Today, on Father's Day, I'm thinking of my adorable Daddy, the best ever! But that's not unusual because I think of him so often every day!   I was a lucky girl,


Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Happy Bloomsday!

About a thousand years ago, my Aunt Dakki and I were attending the opera.  As we anxiously waited in our seats for the performance to begin, I said conversationally, "I have only ten pages of Ulysses left to read."  She replied, "Oh! How is it so far?" 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day. It's one of my favorite holidays, but I'm not quite sure why as it really isn't much of a holiday at all. One puts out one's flag, admires it, and takes it down later. So why is flag day so special? Well, it means that summer is really here. It's usually lovely day, and the herald of many more bright sunny days. It's fun put up your flag, admire it, and then take it down later. One feels a bit like a Boy Scout. So, Happy Flag Day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Pot Luck Day

I was having breakfast with some friends, and the subject of potato salad came up. We all had our different opinions, but the theme “no goopy greasy mayonnaise” was consistent.  I talked about one of my favorite recipes, which is from my antique New York Times Cookbook. In my youth, I hated all potato salad except that made by my mother. Rebecca too reminisces about Grandma’s potato salad and we speculate as to what its secret might have been.  When I asked her for the recipe, she always hemmed and hawed, and managed to change the subject.  In later years her brother, my Uncle Robert, made exactly the same potato salad.  When I asked him for the recipe, he hemmed and hawed in exactly the same manner.  My supposition is that my Alsatian Grandmother must have made this salad via some stream of consciousness cooking, and her children must have absorbed it (the recipe stream, not the actual salad) by osmosis, also later channeling her and making the same via some inner stream .  Unfortunately I absorbed neither the recipe nor the inner stream, and now a great potato salad is lost in the eddies of the river of time.  Sigh. 

  My Mutti was an excellent cook, constantly producing wonderful concoctions, and as far as I know, she did not have a cookbook and never used a recipe.  She even made fudge from scratch with no recipe and no candy thermometer.  This is, to me, amazing.  When I make fudge, I am like a chemist, checking the weather report for humidity, measuring ingredients to the exact amounts called for, observing the thermometer and temperature of the brew obsessively.  Those drops of fudge goo into a cup of water are alien and meaningless to me.  One of Mutti's friends, seeing that there was not a single cookbook in the house, gave her a Betty Crocker cookbook, and this she promptly gave to me, as I was a new bride and could not even boil an egg.  My mother did not pass along a single drop of the inner stream, and kept me out of the kitchen pretty much altogether.  I could make cakes from a cake mix and was allowed to do this on special occasions, but that was about it for my early culinary skills.
  Happily, I saw an ad telling me that if I joined the Book of the Month Club, I could have these five fabulous cookbooks, so I promptly signed up.  The cookbooks actually were pretty fabulous too.  I still use them today, and as you can see, they have been good friends for quite some time.  The other two were Julia Child's original French Cooking, and Larousse-Gastronomique - both fabulous, although I use the latter mostly for information rather that recipes.  I now have a pretty bit cookbook collection, but I return to these in a pinch.  A clever detective would deduct this as the pages are covered with food splashes and stains.  

A terrible picture.  I had served most of it at a pot luck and then eaten almost all the rest, forgetting to take a photo till this was all there was.

French Potato Salad (New York Times Cookbook)

8 medium potatoes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper

¼ wine vinegar
2 tbs. consommé
2 tbs. dry white wine (I usually use vermouth unless I happen to have something yummier in my refrigerator)
½ tbs. dried tarragon leaves 
1 tbs. chopped parsley
½ cup oil

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water till tender but still firm – about 30 minutes. (That’s the official instruction.  I usually chop them into the desired  final size and then steam them in a vegetable steamer until they can be pierced easily with a sharp knife. Much quicker.)

If you cooked the potatoes whole, peel them and slice them into either chunks or slices.  Me – I go for chunks.

In another bowl, mix the salt, pepper, consommé, vinegar, and wine, whisking until the salt dissolves.  Then add the oil and tarragon, again mixing well.  Pour over the potatoes, tossing gently until all the liquid is absorbed. 

Gaaaaaaaah!  I can't make the fonts be right!!!!! Sorry!!!