Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Day in Cleveland

Yesterday Polly, John and I went up to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I wanted them to see the Gauguin show, which ends next week. It's not what you expect, since it is mainly prints he made in Brittany when he was younger. No nekkid Tahitian ladies. I had already seen it but I wanted to see more of the new East wing, which I had only dashed through the last time I was there. It had opened in July with much fanfare.

The architect of the renovations is a South American, named Vinoly, and not many people are pleased with what he has designed. The museum, like many others, needed more space, and that's happened, in spades. It is huge, and the West wing isn't anywhere near done. They are roofing over with glass what used to be this beautiful interior gardenplaza, which was right next to the cafe. It is going to be a "gathering place," which seems to be a concei t now loved by architects of large public buildings. (The Akron Art Museum, which opened its new, improved museum a couple of years ago, has one that looks like the underside of a football stadium without the hot dog stand.) The enclosing of this space at the Cleveland Museum means a loss of an open air garden in which one could have lunch and relax.

The new exhibition spaces are large and cold. All the warmth of the old museum is gone, or maybe I'm just not used to it yet. I did find some of my favorites which I always have to visit. They've been moved out of their former places. In the original 1916 building, which is still there and still beautiful, there were these sort of hidden niches, where certain treasures were displayed as if in the home of a wealthy collector. They have spread these out now, but at least they're still there.

One of my favorite paintings seemed to have disappeared, but I found it, in one of the new galleries, the very last one in a series of open spaces. It's not by a very famous painter, but it used to be in one of those little niches, along with some lovely decorative art of its period (early 19th century) and it just glowed on the back wall, so you couldn't miss it. It is of a young lady wearing an Eastern head dress and it's by an Austrian I've never heard of. I was very afraid they would have deaccessioned it, since it's not that distinguished historically. I also have to visit the silver tureen, which is an enormous thing crawling with what looks like lost wax created sea creatures and a crow. It's there, but not as elegantly displayed as it used to be. And I have no idea where the Guelph treasures are. Everything will be open in 2012, so I'll have to wait.

We had lunch at Presti's an Italian deli in, where else, Little Italy, and gelato for dessert. It was a nice day.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I am informed by my European correspondent (and frequent proof-reader)that it is spelled as in the title of this post. I had it for the first time in London, in an Italian restaurant around the corner from Victoria Station,16 years ago. My European correspondent testifies that she is burnt out on it, having eaten too much of it in the years that shes has lived over there. It is easy to find here, but it is too rich for frequent indulging. But the Greek bakery's version was delicious and that will do for me for another 16 years.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Boar's Head Festival

We were so lucky yesterday. Snow had been predicted, which always makes me nervous when travel is involved. Even though we're only 45 minutes from the Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, I still don't like to drive or be driven when there is snow on the roads. However, the sun shown all day with nary a flake.

We got there early enough to get our usual seats. This year there was a full choir in the back of the nave which was quite good. We could not take photos with flash so I am including a picture from their web site. There are several groups in the procession: first, the Beef Eaters; then monks who light the tall candelabras; then the food and flag bearers (boar's head, roast peacock, sweetmeats); then a hilarious group of teeny little elfish jesters in bright green and red; then the Herald who sings the Boar's Head Carol; Good King Wenceslaus and his servant;the Yule Log, which this year was rolled in wildly by some little bad boys who kept fishtailing it around the corners, almost throwing off the little one who sat astride it ringing a bell; the Waits who are merry makers; Joseph and Mary, she sitting on a donkey, which this year did not bray although we wished he had; shepherds with one sheep which this year did not bleat; the three Kings in all their splendor. All this is accompanied by music from the participants and the congregation and there are horns along with the mighty organ.

The thing is, we have got to quit telling people about it. Some people we told about it who came last year were back this year bringing friend with them, and I can see this multiplying next year as those new people bring more people. Well, it's a lovely thing, and one does want people to experience it. When we went to Number One Pho for dinner afterward, we ended up with 13 people at our table, and there were 6 more who went to another restaurant which didn't have room for all of us. But we had a splendid time with some really fine people.

Oh, before Christmas, we went up to the West Side Market and I found out that my Greek bakery lady, whose picture was in one of my posts last year got married this year and I met her handsome husband. I am so happy for her.l Her father does the baking and she has staffed the stand for many years. I had visions of her growing old (she's probably around fifty something now), slaving away for her father . Well, she was beaming when she introduced her husband. They will be going to Greece for their honeymoon this spring. An d, she had tera misu (even spell check doesn't know how to spell it!)instead of the usual torte which I have always liked It was excellent.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fa La La

What a nice Christmas we have had, with three fourths of my children here and the other fourth Skyped in the afternoon. She had sent us a box of German goodies: chocolates, Lebkuchen and spiced tea.( That was lovely, but having her here would have been lovelier, of course.) John made us a big breakfast, with Polly's help: home fries, Amish bacon, scrambled eggs. People had gotten up a tad late, unlike the old days when "Can we get up now?" was heard starting around 4 a.m.

I'm the one who got toys this year - an Ipod Nano from Sally and an Internet radio from John. There will be a learning curve with these gadgets, although John has already programmed the radio so that I can get WCLV and BBC4. Now I can listen to the opera on my stereo and enjoy the quirky (to me) British programmes. There's one channel which plays the Goon Show! Or I can listen to broadcasts from Lower Slobbovia or some thousands of other countries in all languages. The Nano has a video function which we have already played with. Now I have to learn how to download podcasts and other things. Music is easy, since I've messed with ITunes in the past. Sally has an Ipod Shuffle which we gave her a few Christmases ago, so she's conversant with those things and has already helped me with some things. Both of these toys have manuals and web sites to help, so I shall occupy myself with figuring out what's what.

We had a good dinner with turkey and company Jell-O. We have so many sweets around that we have hardly touched the apple-walnut-raisin pie that John made on Christmas Eve. We had gone to our usual Universalist Unitarian candlelight service, where we saw old friends and listened to the choir and sang "Silent Night " in English, German and Spanish. Unitarian are all about diversity. (A friend had once expressed her concern that "Unitarians are not Christians." but they are more Christian than a lot of people who claim to be so.)

Tonight we are going up to the Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland for the Boar's Head Feast and then to the Number One Pho for dinner. Perhaps we'll swing by the Christmas Story House on the way home. A very nice holiday has been had by all here and I hope for everyone else.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Once again, Burnell pet Dupree stars in my annual Christmas card, joining me in wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and in general a pleasant holiday season no matter what you call it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Here We Come A-Caroling

We had our annual caroling party the other night, which meant that I finally got the manger and my cheap little lighted village up and running. John baked two pies, one apple and his first ever pecan pie. Both were delicious and well received by all. We had cider to wash the pie down. I am still amazed that we can crowd all these people into this living room, especially with the tree up, which rather restricts space. There were fewer than usual, only thirteen of us, rather than the usual 18 or so.

We do this acapella because that's the way we like it and also because guitars would take up too much of the limited space. I reckon we went through about 25 carols or so, in four part harmony. We have song sheets with the words and we all know the tunes. We save "Silent Night" for next to last with "We Wish You A Merry Christmas for the grand finale.

Years ago, when we were younger, we tried doing this outside, but when we went to the homes of non-singing friends, they just stood in their doorways, confused s to their roles as recipients of carolers. Were they supposed to ask us in? Distribute cookies? Join in? Since everyone involved, including the carolees, were freeing, it just didn't work, and we just do it here in the warm living room.

When my sister and I were Girl Scouts, back in Atlanta, our troop would go out caroling at a few homes, but also to the orphanage and the TB hospital (at which I would try not to inhale lest I become contaminated.) Occasionally we would be given treats, because Southerners now how to deal with people singing out on their front lawns.

We have a new walnut Baby Jesus for the tree. The original was given to me 40 years ago by a non-observant Jewish friend. She and her husband decided that their children should go to Saturday school at the temple in Akron and learn about their Jewish heritage. Unfortunately the children took it very seriously and decided that Christmas was unJewish. My friend had to give up the Christmas tree, so she would give me an ornament every year to get her Christmas "fix," and admire our tree. Well, that little walnut infant is rather dingy, but I love it because it reminds me of a dear friend who is gone from this earth. Polly just happened to be given one by a friend this year, so we added him to the tree. He's much fancier than my old one, but is a welcome addition.

Since Polly is home for Christmas this year for the first time in many years, she and Sally decorated the tree with more than the usual number of ornaments, going through the box and pulling out things they remember from their childhood. The tree has born up well under the onslaught. The tree is, as usual, the most beautiful tree ever.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hat Hater

I don't know what has happened to my head of late. I don't mean my brain, which is no more addled than usual, but my actual head, noggin, bean, kopf, tete. I simply cannot wear a hat any more. This especially apples to headgear of the winter variety. I do all right in the sum me, with my Tilley hat, or various sun hats that I keep around to work in the garden. It's these winter hats.

I don't think my head has grown. I have always had a rather small head. I know that when one gets older the ears grow, which is why so many of us older ladies keep our hair long enough to cover the massive things that seem to practically reach our shoulders. (Old men have hair growing out of theirs; we women get the Basset hound look.) However, my head seems to have gotten bigger in some way.

Certain hats will not stay down, popping right off my head. If I pull them down, I get that bag lady look, the street person mumbling to herself look. If I try to tie my scarf around my head it slides off the back. No matter what I do, if it isn't popping off or sliding down, everything bunches up at the back of my neck causing me to walk funny and making me have to turn clear around to see anything off to the side.

Yesterday was the first really cold day of the late fall and I had to wear something on my head or risk having my ear lobes freezing and breaking off (which would have been a painful solution to the growing ear problem) and I just walked around feeling trapped and furious about my hat. Maybe I experienced some kind of birth trauma, like getting my head stuck in the birth canal and that's what hats on top of and sliding off my head remind my psyche of.

And then, too, yesterday reminded me that this is the beginning of all that cold weather stuff.

I realize that the world situation and economy are not good and that I should be worrying about that instead of my non-hat head, and that I am lucky to have a head at all and warm hats to not wear on it. Well, I'm just not Pollyanna and some things are just annoying. Really.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Soup

Since I wrote about boiling my turkey carcass for broth, I thought I would show off one result of that process. This is the vegetable soup I made on Monday. It's mighty good. Been slurping it for lunch for two days and it gets better with age.

One thing that makes my soup so good, I am sure, is the pot in which I make it. This was my mother's Club Aluminum Dutch oven. I use it for pot roast and beef sew (when I 'm not doing them in the CrockPot), chili, pork chops with sauerkraut, chicken with artichoke hearts and various one pot meals. The lid was long gone when I inherited (or stole) this vessel, but I have another which is almost as good, although the original was more dome like.

So ya have the soup, crusty bread and a glass of wine, which is ever so good for one's stummick and well being.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Saturday afternoon I moseyed over to Akron, to the majestic Civic Theater, one of those rococo pleasure palaces built in the 20s, with starry skies over what seems to be semi-Gothic, Moorish palace gardens. And I mix my architectural styles in the spirit of the romantic build es of that era. It's from the days when going to the picture show was an ADVENTURE. It is being lovingly restored and is used for a variety of live performances such as the one I attended that afternoon" the "Nutcracker" ballet.

It has been staged for 17 years by a local professional ballet company, consisting of dancers from the ages of 4 or 5 to adult. It's connected to a pre-professional school of ballet and most of the adult dancers are former students who come back to Akron for the production. They put on an absolutely beautiful production, with gorgeous costumes and scenery. I love to watch the teensy little dances, who are amazingly disciplined, playing mice and angels. They always receive a round of applause as the patter off the stage. The Waltz of the Flowers was just gorgeous, and so were the Snowflakes all in white, with snow drifting down.

The audience is fun to watch, too, consisting of large numbers of little girls, dressed in velvet and spangles. They sparkle, too. After the ballet, the dancers mingle in the vast lobby and meet their star struck fans. I wonder how many of these little people go home and dance around their houses.

I would love to have been able to go to something like this when I was a child. My sister and I took a few weeks of ballet when we were living in Montgomery with our relatives at the beginning of the depression. Our glamorous Aunt Amalia ran a dancing school and taught ballet. She could dance right up on her toes! We loved it, and when we moved to Atlanta, she arranged for us to study with Madame Solomanov, who had, it was said, come over from Russia with Anna Pavlvoa's troupe and stayed on to teach lazy little Southern girls. Unfortunately Madame scared the hell out of us, and we begged to quit. So we did - and I just know that, like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, "had I learnt I would have bee a great proficient."

Since there was no televison then, I didn't even see any ballet until I was in high school, when the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo came to Springfield, Ohio and I got to see the real thing. The Joffrey Ballet also came through the next year. Somewhere in the stuff that I have too much of, I think my program from one of those ballets lurks. Some of the great dancers of the era were in those companies.I remember that one of them did "Rodeo" and one did a pas de deux from "Swan Lake." It was lovely.

And seeing "Nutcracker" makes me readier for Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ready or Not, Here It Comes

The other day, when I went to my eye doc, the first person I encountered asked, "Are you ready for Christmas?" The next person, the tech who props me for the doc, asked the same question, as did the next person, the tech who takes pictures of my eye balls. And then my darling retinologist Dr. Lamkin (isn't that a cosy name for a guy who is going to stick a needle in your eye?) asked it again.

What does that mean, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Have I been out to the mall buying useless gifts for people who have everything they already need or want? Have I baked cookies? Mailed packages off to faraway loved ones? Is my tree up? Have I strung lights all over my property? Do I have enough wrapping paper and Scotch tape? I just finished boiling the turkey carcass to make broth for future soups, fa cryin' out loud.

I hate to sound like Scrooge here, but everyone gets so pressured and frantic around this time of year. I get a sense of anxiety in the people who ask this question. I figure they're not ready themselves and are hoping I'll say,"Wow, is Christmas pretty soon? I guess I'd better order that electric orange peeler they're advertising on TV at 3 in the morning."

We have pretty much decided this year to shower each other with consumable stuff, since we have run out of space for anything other than ephemera. It's fun to receive gifts, of course. Who doesn't like to open a gift? The problem, however, is what to do with it, where to put it then.

Everyone has too much stuff already. I'll be "ready" for Christmas on Christmas Eve, I think.

And I wonder if, as Mary and Joseph walked into the inn, the innkeeper asked her, "Are you ready for Christ, Miss?"

You read it here first.