Monday, December 26, 2011

Fun and Feasting

Christmas Eve eve, we went up to the West Side Market, a sort of family tradition of late. It was festive, as it always is during the holiday season. I was happy to see that the Greek bakery lady was back. The last few times I had been there she was not at her usual place behind the counter. I found out that her father, the baker, had had a stroke and she and her husband had been taking care of him. Now she is both baking and selling and she has not mastered all of his recipes, especially the little tortes I love, but will soon be up to speed. The vendors were jolly, some wearing silly Santa hats. We had lunch at Min Anh, the Vietnamese restaurant on the west side. Delicious food there, as usual. For this reason we got to the market a little later, which meant that some of the vendors were cutting prices and we bought a lot of stuff which has been used for great dinners.
Christmas Eve, Polly decided to make pierogis, using an online recipe. They were excellent, but she says that she will never so that again - too  labor  intensive. We ate a lot, gave some away to a friend who dropped by with a nice beef roast (That's the kind of friend to have!!), and still had some left to freeze for later.  Emily had sent a box of German goodies which we are trying not to gobble down all at once, things like Mozart balls and Lebkuchen, not for the calorie conscious.
Christmas morning started with John's pancake breakfast, which kept us full enough until the late afternoon and dinner. Christmas dinner was a sumptuous feast, with duck prepared by John with Polly's homemade marmalade  and two great side dishes (armored turnips and Brussels spouts) and a mince pie by the chef d'jour Polly. She has spent a lot of time in the kitchen during her visit home, and her way with food is  much appreciated. I did stir myself enough to make some plain old mashed potatoes and Sally did the clean up.
Today the Kinder are taking a hike in the  Cuyahoga Valley National Park and then we are going to the movies with dinner to follow at the Chinese restaurant  next to the theater. And after that, we'll come home and finish the mince pie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dead Cat Christmas Card

Since Dupree has been my Christmas card subject for lo! these many years, I had to include him again this year. So his little spirit joins me in wishing everyone
A very pleasant and peaceful Christmas holiday season.

Embellishing the Tree

The siblings put the tree up the other day and trimmed it mightily. Polly is the usual arbiter of what goes on and what does NOT go on. This used to cause the annual putting up the tree fight. However, now everyone being in their fifties, or close to it, the trimming went smoothly. Polly had the idea to use some of my German Jumping Jacks, which are a great addition.
I love these things and have a selection  of them: Mozart from Salzburg, a lederhosen wearing lad from Rothenburg and a jester from Oberammergau, the home of the Passion Play. Perhaps there was a jester somewhere during the Passion, but I do not know exactly how that role would fit in with the general scheme of things.

The Slovenly Peter is John's but I have hung it up with my others. Slovenly Peter was the creation of Dr. (of what I do not know) Heinrich Hoffman, a series of cautionary tales for children, in which infantile miscreants suffered all sorts of gruesome chastisements: getting their fingers cut off, being drowned in an ink well, exploding from over eating, and the like. My sister and I absolutely loved this book when we were very young children. At some point the libraries took it off the shelves as being too intense for delicate children, and I didn't see it for years. My friend Bob Morrow, a former art teacher of mine, had an original copy of it he had had saved from his childhood.  I was able to find a copy of it from Blackwell's in Oxford. Anyway, there he is, along with a miniature Peter which I bought at the Chriskindlmarkt in Akron a couple of years ago when they had brought in a group of jolly Germans to brighten up the holiday season here in Northeastern Ohio.
 Before I found my Slovenly Peter book, feeling that my children would benefit from this sort of thing and thinking they would find it as hilarious as my sister and I had, I got them a couple of similar books by Hillaire Beloc, titled "Cautionary Tales for Bad Children." Alas, they did not find it funny, but were rather terrified by the fates of some of the kiddos - burning up in a fire (playing with matches and being eaten by a lion (disobeying the warning signs at the zoo.) I think they're still dealing with this in therapy. We were much hardier in the old says.
The tree looks great.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Does It All Mean?

I wrote a post a while back about how, in Catholic school, we were presented with concepts well above our understanding, burdening our little minds with weighty theological terminology. A lot of this came in the Catechism, in which a question was asked and an answer given to be memorized. In the very early grades, some of this we could understand, if we cared to delve into it, but most the our responses  sprang to our lips automatically, for which we could accumulate holy pictures of agonized looking saints. By the fourth grade, preparing for Confirmation, things got a bit  more complicated, and asking for explanations was not encouraged. Our heads were full of big words about bigger matters, like "occasions of sin," "plenary and partial indulgences," "transubstantiation," and the like. We never never questioned these mysteries, so they stuck in out little heads forever.
The illustration above, done by Sally when she was 7 or 8, is an excellent example of the way a child's mind, confronted with one of those mysterious  pronouncements in religion class, tries to get around that mystery. I don't think anyone answered her query. I don't remember hearing about a wind blowing through the room during the visit of the holy spirit. I remember being confused as a child by pictures of the apostles with little flames over their heads. I knew it had something to do with Pentecost.  My nun didn't mention what that meant or anything about a wind. In Sally's picture, she has a sort of round thing dripping with flames hanging over the table at which the apostles were seated, as if they had yet to settle on the heads of the apostles. She needed to get that wind out of the way first. I love the look on the face of the questioning apostle. I have saved this drawing for over forty years. It is one of my favorites of the many drawings my children did. I cannot answer the question that Sally used this drawing to ask it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Sky

I do not love to exercise. What I do like, though, is having done it. I like doing it early in the morning, because that's as bad as I'm going to feel the rest of the day. It's over by 8:00 a.m. and from then on, is on;y going to be better for that. I have been doing something exercise-ish early in the day for about 45 years or so. I was in an exercise program at the university for years, which involved floor stuff (stretching, bending ) and a lot of running. Then I did walking, lots of walking. After my first hip surgery, the elective one, I started Silver Sneakers, a program for geezers, which involved the stretching and bending stuff with a little mild aerobics thrown in. I have found all of this immensely boring, but I have done it anyway. Now I am in a water aerobics class which I actually enjoy, thanks to the other participants, a group of friendly, funny, smart women. We do this at 7 a.m. twice a week, which means I arise at 6:00 a.m., while it is now quite dark.
All this is just a lead up to the subject on this post, which is the beauty of the December morning sky. There is no other time like it. I don't know why, and I have seen years of early morning skies. In December the sky is the deepest and richest shade of dark blue. You can almost hear this color. For the past few days the moon has been full and pure glowing silver. In spite of light pollution, there are actually stars to be seen. Venus, of course, low in the western sky, smaller but as bright as the moon. I love this sky The moon shines into my room, but I have to get out of bed to see it. Early in the evening it is low and huge and then toward morning it is way high up in the western sky but still extremely bright. I remember flying home from some place years ago in December on a clear night and could see the silver pools of water far below as the moon reached them in a sort of explosion of brightness - the sort of magic that takes away the thought that you're in a speeding metal tube high above the earth. Even down on the ground, I love to go out to get the paper and just stand there and look up at the December sky and enjoy the moment.
Then I have to go and exercise.

Monday, December 12, 2011

See This Movie

Yesterday Sally and I went to see "Hugo."  It is based on the Caldecott award winning graphic novel and it is just a splendid movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, and it is an homage to the art of movie making. There is a version in 3-D which I did  not want to see, because I never get the 3-D sensation and I can't think of any reason that anyone should need to see it in 3-D. It is beautifully cast and filmed in plain old 2-D. Ben Kingsley, whom I didn't recognize at  first plays Papa Georges who turns out to be someone you may never have heard of unless you're a film nut like me. Sacha Baron Cohen plays a frustrated station guard in a fine and funny Peter Sellers kind of way without a trace of Borat.
If you have a brighter than average 8 or 9 year old  kid relative or friend who has not had his/her wits dulled by the usual kid movie crap, I think the movie would be even more enjoyable than already is. It has not been very heavily promoted, so people are taking their children to see junk like the chipmunk movie, which is a shame. " Hugo" is set in the 30s and there's not one anachronistic use of language in it, which is refreshing, too.
Lovely flick. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I have been remiss in keeping up with my blog of late. No particular reason.  Thanksgiving was busy, what with  visiting relatives from far away, namely Polly and Emily. Polly spent a lot of time in the kitchen, much to our delight, since she is an excellent cook. Emily made her Gorgonzola pasta which we all love. A good time was had by all.
The girls and I went down to Salem to tour the Charles Burchfield house. Burchfield is one of my favorite artists, one of these great Ohio guys from the 30s and 40s. He did theses magical expressionist watercolor landscapes.The neat thing about the house is that copies of his paintings are positioned so that you can look out the windows and see what he saw, since not much has changed in the neighborhood over the past 100 years - a rare thing, indeed. Much of his work is in Buffalo, NY, since that's where he ended up. The Cleveland Museum of Art has some of this paintings also. He was a contemporary of Clyde Singer.
Went to see "The Descendants." which we all enjoyed. It's an Alexander Payne ("Election,""Sideways") flick set in Hawaii. Never liked Hawaiian music, but just loved it in this movie. And then there's George Clooney, who just gets better and better with every  movie he makes.  They need to give the guy an Oscar.
Of course, there was the loss of Dupree which was tempered somewhat by having everyone home. Then, of course, the girls left and the house was really empty. We keep thinking Dupree is still around. I mean after 17 years,m he was part of the furniture, only warmer, fuzzier and cuter. We really miss him.
Saturday's opera was "Rodalinda, a Handel work with much tessitura, a lot of it by two counter tenors. They had beautiful voices, except when the had to do their recitatives in falsetto, which came across like an old Sid Cesar skit, the one where he played a silent film star whose career was ruined by the arrival of sound. The one counter tenor even looked like Sid Cesar. When they were interviewed during intermission, they both had very deep male speaking voices. I'm not sure why Handel used that vocal range for those roles, since they both were regular guys, one of whom was married to the leading woman (Renee Fleming).So  she's singing a duet with a guy who sounds like a woman. Oh, well. It's only the second opera by Handel that I've heard and it was a good lead up to a Messiah sing on Sunday which Sally and I attended up in Hiram. I haven't sung a "Messiah" for about fifty years, and even though I can whistle just about every chorus and a few of the arias, trying to follow it along was not easy and I got lost a couple of times. It didn't help that some tone deaf guy kept walking up behind me and throwing me off even more than I already was wandering about in the mass of notes. But it was great fun and the soloists were mostly great. That night it was up to the campus to hear the Kent Chorus do their Christmas program, which included a Missa Brevis by Haydn. I don't know why it seems as if every weekend I am engulfed in music. Coming up this Saturday is the Met "Faust," which looks good even though they are setting it in the 30s. But the misc will still be great. I think.
So, I guess I have been busy. Really enjoyed having all four of my grown children here for two weeks. Polly will be coming home again for Christmas, hurrah.