Monday, January 31, 2011

Get Ready for Valentine's Day Now

Here's a chance to make your Valentine happy on the big day. This family story picture book will surely reach the heart of any sentimental person who likes living in the past, which is not a bad place to be these days. There are no sex scenes, everyone is fully clothes, wearing very fully clothed clothing, in fact. There are no cell phones, no Facebook, no one is Tweeting or texting. There is evidence in this book that people actually talked with each other and ate slow food.

This book can be obtained through Authorhouse here and will make a dandy Valentine gift, because it is very sweet and non-fattening. You could include chocolate with the book, but it is not really necessary. And if you have a rich old aunt, she may so pleased that she will leave you her entire estate.

On a different note: Last night I made a fine dinner for the birthday boy (John) with recipes I got from last week's Parade magazine (Jan.23). The entree, called Tray Baked Chicken is by Jamie Oliver, and the dessert is called Pear Flip Flop. Both were well received by the consumers. I'm sure you can find them online.

Now on to -ugh- February.
Well, some sales person I am. The name of the book is "May: A New England Childhood."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Smoky Dupree

Last summer when Dupree was so ill we thought he was a goner, one of his problems was that his formerly soft belly fur was a mass of snarls and mats. He had been doing his summer shedding, but he had not been groomed often enough, with the result that the tangles were too thick to respond to the usual brush or nubby grooming glove. When John took him to the vet, one of the things she did was to shave his belly and get rid of the mess of mats. He didn't seem to mind having an almost bare belly.

When the fur started growing back lo! and behold! it was a lovely soft smoky blueish gray. And now, not just the belly fur is that color, but his whole undercoat is that lovely soft shade. It is most becoming, and gives him a very prince-like appearance, a bi-color coat, like one of those smoky black Persian cats you see on cat calendars. It is hard to resist in passing, when he is sleeping as in the picture above, when one must pause and give it a feel, which makes his toes curl. Not bad for a cat of advanced age. It's enough to make you want to shave all his fur off and see what hapens...a cat of another color.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burns Night Review

Well, it just worked out fine. Our usual group was mostly absent, but we had some new talent and a new audience. A fine crowd attended and the folks from the Brimfield Historical Society put on a fine spread of eatables. John emceed the proceedings with wit and charm, even though he is my son and I shouldn't brag on him, as they say. He began by reading a poem by Edgar McCormick, the late professor of English at KSU, a writer, a poet and one of the founders of the Brinfield Historical Society, for whom the room we were meeting in was named.

There's a man named Merle who can recite four hours of Robert Frost if you'll let him. He regaled us with Frost, Dickinson, Burns and Sandberg among others. Merle is a sort of minstrel who has committed to memory just about the works of any poet worth mentioning. He doesn't just recite, though, he gives you the poem with his voice, his face, his gestures and his whole body. He's a local treasure and we were so lucky that he showed up.

A woman who told us about her father's hobo days during the depression, gave us a genuine hobo song, one I'd never heard. She used to sing with a polka band, and she was in good voice. John and Sally sang "Hard Times," which went with the hobo theme. Another woman, a retired librarian, gave us a review of an Alexander McCall Smith book set in Edinburgh, which she assured us that we would love. I believed her. We had a 10 year old with great timing who told as joke his Poppy had told him. It was clean and funny.

Beth, a terrific folk singer from Cleveland sang a song I love, "In the Sally Gardens," and later did "The Long Black Veil." She has a beautiful voice and could have been out some place singing for money, so it was lovely to have her and her talent with us. I did a couple of stories, but not the one I'd planned to do. I had told it years ago, but I just wasn't sure about it, so I ran a couple of oldies, which worked for this new audience.

There were several Burnell family songs, like "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," in which we were joined by Saunis, one of the usual gang. She and Ted, her husband, did a great bawdy song about a drunken Scotsman who fell asleep in his kilt and was surprised to find in the morning that he had received a blue ribbon on a certain part of his anatomy.

I think the star turn was provided by friend David C. who introduced (to some of the younger members of the gathering) the famous Scot of vaudeville days, Sir Harry Lauder. David is half Scot on his mother's side and he grew up listening to scratchy recordings of Sir Harry singing "Roamin' in the Gloamin'." He played Harry's version, on tape, and then we heard the 5 year old David C.'s version, to which the response was a universal "Awwwwww." Then he proceeded to belt out the song, with the audience joining in the chorus. It was a hit!

We ended up with "Auld Lang Syne," a final nod to Robbie Burns himself. 'Twas a lovely evening and we expect it will happen again next year with more performers, now that they've seen it once; at least one man said he'll sing next year and he's already practicing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mozart Goodie

Emily just sent a package of sinfully delicious German chocolate things. Our favorite, which are also available here in the U.S. of A. are Mozart Kugeln, better known as Mozart balls. In his hometown of Salzburg, it seems as if every shop window is filled with Mozart balls. The packaging is beautiful, all shiny gold and red and purple with his portrait curving over the plump round confection.

First there is an outer shell of dark chocolate (very good for you with its antioxidants and all), then a thin shell of light chocolate (still good for you because it makes you feel good), then a thick layer of marzipan (good for you because it's almond paste and we all know that almonds are good for you) and then the center of soft chocolate. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

There were also other chocolates in this packet, all fine, but Mozart takes the prize. We ration them, because a person could just go crazy and scarf up a batch of them without thinking, while enjoying the Jupiter symphony or that great trio from Cosi Fan Tutti.

Ah, sweet Mozart!

Robbie's Birthday in Ohio

What started in our living room a number of years ago has now gone public. We've had to move it for the last 10 years or so, using , first to the UU church social hall (basement) and for the last two yeasts the Kelso House (Brinfield Historical Society) meeting room. John has been on the board of the historical society for several years and this year that body decided to make the Robbie Burns night a part of their public offerings. We hope that many folks will show up for it this coming Saturday night (Jan. 22). We hope our old friends will also show up as they have in the past.

Last year was the first year we actually had a Scotsman wearing a kilt and playing bagpipes. He did not criticize our lack of Scotch whiskey or the Sacred Haggis. Our version of this festival is a lot less formal than the usual celebration. We do require that guests perform: tell a joke, tell a story, sing a song, play an instrument, do a jig or whistle a tune. It's always fun and surprising and everyone seems to have a good time. I know that we do. The audience is uncritical and appreciative. I'll let you know how it turns out in this new format.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movie Madness Marathon

Oldest daughter Polly was here for three weeks and left last Sunday to return to Provincetown. leaving an empty spot in the old home place. While she was here we managed to catch a bunch of movies, trying to get in the Oscar contenders. Besides which I went on my own to see "The Tourist." which is at no risk to being a contender for anything, even though Johnny Depp was in it, a what-was-I-thinking role for my darling Johnny. Venice was gorgeous, Johnny looked like hell and Angelina was very scary looking. It was a Hitchcockian thing and not boring.

I saw so many films in such short order that I may have placed Jeff Bridges in a tutu curing the Duke of York's stammer, or the Duke duking it out with Angelina, and Natalie Portman doing tour jetes in a gondola.

Soring it all out, "Back Swan" was a third rate "Red Shoes," but very entertaining. Not nearly enough dancing, in spite of all the hoop-la about her practicing for months to recover her balletic skills. Never showed her feet, just the arms and hands, which I can't imagine required so many months to perfect.

"The King's Speech," starring everyone's favorite Mr. Darcy; he was splendid, as was Geoffrey Rush. It was painful to watch his struggle and equally painful to watch the kind of family he had barely survived: a brother, the ultimate Brit twit; a mother, the Ice Queen; a jolly clueless father. All of the performances were superb and made one glad not to be a royal.

"The Fighter" was about another dysfunctional family, but one with juice and heat and emotions all over the place. I'm not a fight movie fan, but this was about more than that, and again, the performances were just amazingly good. Christian Bale as a crack head and Mark Walberg as his younger brother were so, so good. Melissa Leo played this impossible mother, the opposite of the Ice Queen and much more loving - but impossible even so. Fine movie.

"True Grit," probably my favorite because Jeff Bridges is so very good as is everyone else in the movie. And the sound track, which is variations on "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," a Burnell performance favorite, is just beautiful. Sally and I couldn't help but sing along, even though we were probably annoying the hell of the people in front of us. I haven't seen the John Wayne version for years; Polly's theory about that one is that they played it "cute," even though it's good, and that this one is more from the original book. The girl was terrific. There was an interview with the Coen brothers on Terry Gross the other day and she asked them where they found a girl with such a fine voice, since American teenagers seem to have that irritating nasal quality, a late version of the Valley Girl patois, They said the casting director interviews thousands before finding the act res they cast. It was such a satisfying flick. Last night there was an American Masters special on Jeff Bridges, from "The Last Picture Show" to "True Grit," including clips of The Dude from "The Big Lebowski," which I've probably spelled wrong.

R.I.P. A very fine singer died today: Margaret Whiting. Lovely voice, very big in the 40s and 50s. Worth hearing now.