Monday, February 28, 2011

Go Away and Take Your Snow With You

It's a cliche to complain about February, the longest month of the year, at least in Ohio. Even its name is mean. Is that f-e-b-r from the same root as febrile? I could look it up, but I have been turned snail-like and lethargic in my movements on account the pervading grayness. Life has become "who gives a flying fig?" in the daily lack of sun and warmth, to say nothing of the trash ad detritus reveled as rain falls and turns the snow into brownish, gray slop, in which is floating unidentifiable "things." Where did all that stuff come from? But then, who cares?

I was awakened in the middle of the night by thunder and flashes of lightning. Had I drifted off into a Rip Van Winkle stupor only to awaken in April? No. It was just February mooning us on its way out. March around here has had some fierce snow storms, so it's not over yet. But March does not beat us down like February. March goes out like a lamb and we can count on it to lighten our mood eventually.

So long, Feb. Try to coma back next year a kinder, gentler month.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am not a gourmet cook by any means. I cook in order to eat, not because I particularly want to emulate the great chefs of the world. I have a friend, for instance, who watches the food channels only. She knows the details of every famous dish creator. She doesn't cook much herself, but she knows how to make a lot of things and who invented each wannabe Escoffierian delight.

However, there are a few things I make that I think are quite tasty and which do not require hours over a hot stove. One of these things is my spaghetti sauce. It is my own invention, evolved over years of discoveries of what mixes well with what. I have a neighbor, whom I do not know well, who is from Italy. When I told her of my ingredients, she literally threw up her hands and said, vehemently, "No! No! You do not make it that way. Just tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper!" Another neighbor who was in on this conversation, whose husband's grandmother is Italian agreed with the protester. She makes this grandmother-in-laws spaghetti and doesn't use any of the ingredients I use. "No!"

I was shocked a few years ago to discover that a very dear in-law of Italian descent, whose aunt's spaghetti sauce is legend, that said aunt actually uses Ragu in her lasagna. Ragu! From an Italian! This in-law, whom I love dearly, has claimed that only Italians can make Italian food, and that those of us not of the blood are just being presumptuous to even try. And her aunt uses Ragu! Shocking!

So I make my sauce with tomatoes (canned in the winter, fresh when my tomatoes come in), tomato paste, onions, green peppers, garlic, oregano, rosemary, basil, Worcester sauce, a bay leaf, salt and pepper and chicken stock if you have any handy, or even left over gravy. All this is apparently a crime, but everyone who's tasted it has loved it, including a few Italians, whom I don't tell about the ingredients. In the summer I have all fresh herbs, but dried ones work fine in the winter.

Speakimg of gravy, I had some left over from a roast beast the other day. I used it to make mushroom barley soup. I happened to be out of Worcestershire sauce, which I like to use to de-glaze the pan. I have to say that I cannot cook without Worcestershire sauce. I don't use it on oatmeal or dessert, but I love it with just about everything. My father taught me to use it in scrambled eggs, just a soupcon, to add flavor. That started me using it in lots of other stuff. Anyway here I was with sauteing onions and mushrooms and no Lea and Perrins. I decided to try a bit of balsamic vinegar and a bit of sherry and I must say it was just a very fine mushroom barley soup. Since I don't have any French friends or neighbors to tell me "No! No!" I guess I'll try it again. Soup is very forgiving, I have found, and this winter it's been a godsend.

Tonight it's beef stew in the slow cooker and I can spend the afternoon reading, or trying to catch up with all the Oscar winning movies I've been DVR-ing on TCM. Yesterday I watched "Chariots of Fire." So good.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Right now I am missing my water aerobics class. I slipped on ice a couple of weeks ago and skinned my shin. I got an infected spot which is healing but I'm not allowed to go into the pool until all is clear, which should be next week. I really miss it, because if I'm not doing that, I am a slug. I do not like exercise much, but it's something that a person must do; otherwise stagnation sets in.

The water feels so good - it's warm - and I do enjoy the companionship of the women in the class. Some of them have decamped to Florida for a couple of months, which was a wise thing to do this particular winter. We laugh a lot, which is also a healthy thing to do. When I broke my hip last March they brought cards, candy and lots of good smelling lotions and plants. We do that when someone is out for a while with an illness or surgery.

Most of us wear unflattering, expensive bathing suits which don't fade in chlorinated water. We look like a bunch of nuns. Most of the women are 50-60ish. I think there are a couple in their 70s, but I am the only real geezer in the group, so they think it is remarkable that I can stand upright most of the time (except when I slip in the snow.)

One dear, kind women, who is also from Kent, picks me up so I don't have to drive in the dark- the class is at 7 am. My favorite time is the make up class on Fridays at 4:30 in the afternoon when there is sun shining on the pool and you can forget all about the snow and ice out there. We never have sun on the pool in the mornings, even in summer, because we are on the wrong side of the building. I look forward to going back very soon.

Addendum: Saw "Nixon in China" from the Met on Saturday. It was fascinating. The same singer has played Nixon since 1987 and I think he has morphed into him. It was terrific. The libretto was based on actual documents from the 1972 meetings and the dinner. In the scene with the famous overstuffed armchairs, Mao is waxing philosophical, Nixon is trying to talk business and Henry Kissinger has no idea of what's going on. Madame Mao is strident and shows off her ballet of the Red Detachment of Women. Pat Nixon wants to go back to the past. It's not something I want to see again, however. The music is very repetitive and things move very slowly. But I'm glad I went to see it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spot the Kitty

Once when my friend Susan and I were in London, we watched this really daffy morning TV show every day whilst breaking our fast. It was during the Christmas season and they were running a contest called "Spot the Pudding," Some poor sod was wandering around London dressed as a Christmas pudding, complete with a sprig of holly, and if you spotted it, you could win some sort of prize - a gift basket from Fortnum & Mason perhaps? Well, Susan and I spent a lot of time wandering about London ourselves and never spotted the puddling. We never happened to catch the program when someone HAD spotted the pudding, so we never found out what the prize was or where the pudding had been spotted. And some poor alum of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts was probably in that pudding costume, trying to break into the big time. Coulda been Colin Firth, even.

All this has nothing to do with my post today, except that in the above picture, you may want to try to spot Dupree. I love to watch him strolling down the sidewalk between the banks of snow. In his younger days, he would bound right through the snow, coming in with snowballs all over his belly. Now as a geezercat, he prefers the shoveled sidewalks and this is how he looks. Too cute, I think.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Snowed again today. What is this, Siberia? Under that snow is ice. Under that ice is tundra. Ivan Ivanovich is digging in the snow, hoping to find a few potatoes to stave off starvation. Anna Karenina is weeping and planning to throw herself under a train, if there's one handy. The sky is gray. A lot of the snow on the ground is gray. It is early in February. There is no end in sight.

I have decided to hibernate. Ice is hazardous to geezers. There is no need to go out. I have U-Verse TV and TCM is doing their annual 31 days of Oscar. I have already recorded a ton of fine old movies to watch. I have a number of books stacked up by my throne. The furnace is working. So I shall hibernate until there is some hope of real sunshine, not reflected off snow. Bears are smart and they don't even have TV or books with which to pass the time, so they sleep a lot.

I may do that , too.