Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Festivities with Scott

Scott has a new schedule. He's now off Friday and Saturday. He'll go back to work tonite, making the 7:30 pm train.

Went for a long leisurely walk in The Pennypack.

We both LOVE walking. Scott does exercises for his bad back. I do not. Neither of us were in any pain.

Scott remembered visiting the Bryn Athyn Cathedral last year and viewing Nativity Scenes. Here's my fantastic blog post from 2012. My sister Donna came with us.

  Don Fitzpatrick told us we'd see the Nativity Scenes at Glencairn, the former home of the founders, Mildred and Raymond Pitcairn.

We walked over from the Cathedral. 

  Holy cow! You can take an online tour.  

Got the below shots from Glencairn's newsletter. 

There is something so appealing about the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger, The Three Wise Men. Dozens of countries submit nativity scenes for this annual display.

Today is the first official day of Winter. The Winter Solstice. At 4:49 pm, the sun will now - think Ruthie think! - start going backward?

Let's give it up for The Sun, shall we?

Hey, not the Son of Man, please. Though I am thanking Him right now  - he sits at the Right Hand of God - for my wonderful life, so far.

Oh, at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral I did put in a prayer card asking for more people to attend New Directions so we can help them. Our census is down.

Earlier, when I went into the kitchen to refill my tea cup with delicious Sleepytime Pomegranate Tea, there was a deer munching on something in the back yard. When one deer comes, there's usually more. I saw two.... they're really camouflaged.

Gosh, it was cold when I went to the back yard to photograph what remains of the sun today.

Christmas Lights and Movie Night

We took Scott's car, his new Honda Fit, white as Wonder Bread, and toured the 'hood.

First stop, The Valenza House on Terwood Wood.

They start assembling this fabulous creation after Halloween and after they took down their Philadelphia Eagles display.

Sadly, the Eagles lost badly to the Washington Redskins yesterday, said pharmacist Hannah Bae over the phone, when I ordered some more prednisone.

The Valenza house is NOT TO BE MISSED. I was wearing my PJs so didn't wanna get out of the car in the cold night.

 This spectacular house, above, is on Edge Hill Road near Overlook. No where to stop.
 Nothing more beautiful than white lights!
Greenhill Road is an incredibly steep hill. Wanted to see Michael Garofola's house, as I met him and his kids, Stephano and Garrett, in the Willow Grove Coffee Shop.

His house looked great but their nativity scene was not lit up. Above is a neighbor's house on Greenhill. That street looked terrific!

This is Rockville Ave in Abington, near home. I always pass this so we decided to go down the road.
Like a may pole. It's hung from a tall tree.

 Beautiful lights on Greenhill Road.
 I believe the above is the Garafola's house.
 Blink twice and you'll drive by. Glad I brought my camera.

 Up the street on Cowbell. Nice job.
 And you? Where art thou? I love well-placed wreaths.
 Down the Cowbell Hill. Looks like a gingerbread house.
Catty-corner from me. Bob and Judy Masser.

Didn't you love seeing Xmas lights as a kid?

Back in Cleveland, we went to NELA Park.

It's still operational.

Scott and I enjoyed the film Amadeus on WHYY-TV, though he slept thru most of it.

Then I switched channels and watched an unknown film that really kept my interest. Very imaginative and beautifully filmed.

It got terrible ratings. Take it from me. It'll become a cult classic.

The Heavenly Vintage, a love story.

The two men loved one another. The angel with the wings decided to have them removed and buried. In a notable line, where the blond guy asks him if it hurt, the angel said, More than I thought it would.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Coffeeshop Writer's Group - Nearly everyone was there - My Birthday Celebration - Poem: I Make Bread

Stayed up till about 1 am working on my new short story The Ten Lives of Tom O'Shea, based on the story of this highly decorated police officer. 

See this blog post for background info, which also figures in my short story. 

Polished it this morning and got good feedback from the Writer's Group, esp. Floyd. I will do what you suggest, Floyd.

I was shocked and delighted that people remembered my birthday. I'll be 69 on Christmas Day. Brought my cheese challah which everyone enjoyed.

Soft butter is imperative. I walked quickly to the Dairy Case and squeezed every single tub of butter or its surrogate and brought back... Giant Brand of Butter with Canola Oil. Excuse the gap.

Our humble servant Allan Heller could not make it. He appears in my short story as a pizza delivery man.

Our group has a debate going. Shall we email our work to one another? Floyd and I vote yes. So does Linda since she's emailed her new sci-fi story to us.

Some people say they feel overwhelmed by the amount they've gotta read.

For my 60th b'day, my daughter Sarah gave me a most unusual gift. She signed me signed up for a novel-writing class at 

Not only did I write - and finish - my novel - but I had to read chapters by eleven other people. Now that was a lotta reading.

One woman, Anne Strauss, has published two novels. We had an Indian guy in our group, a cardiovascular surgeon, who was working on a novel. Then there was a guy who was an editor of an auto mag.

We'd all get together for an online chat. All eleven! One time Dan and his GF Nicole came over.

"Mom," he said. "I proposed to Nicole." 

Now of course they've got two kids, Grace, four, and Max, 18 months. We're going there for Xmas. I have another challah - just the dough - in the freezer.

Just talked to mom who doesn't wanna go. She doesn't like people seeing her walking with a cane and crexing along.

It's better to be seen, I said, than forgotten.

 Martha sent in some wonderful Xmas memories. She was a shy child, full of unintentional hysterical mischief.

Carly read a fictitious account of a California Xmas. She hails from California. The main character was Jackie. The poor little girl lived in many a different home.

Donna wrote a poem on different views of Christmas.... from the viewpoint of an adult and a child. Very food-centered. Licorice put in Christmas stockings.

The two of them bought me a Xmas cactus for my b'day

I put it in my newly cleaned window sill. BTW, I love the shape of Coke bottles. The little people were given to me by Mom who traveled to Belgium years and years ago. She also bought me the little blue dish in the front.

Thanks for the peanuts, Marf! See they know me. She also got me

How simple! How wonderful!

Kreative Kym wrote some short poems which she read us. Kym, send me a couple and I'll post em if you wish.

Linda is working on a sci-fi piece. The emperor's name is Alaric Linda.

Beatriz read a piece about growing up in Venezuela without her parents. Instead, she was raised for a year by her grandmother, her maid who went home at night, while her parents were in France. Her dad had gotten a grant to study there.

They came home - with their new twins - and Beatriz had no idea who they were.

Wow! Quite a story.

 Who made these professionally drawn bookmarks?
The same individual who gave me a b'day card of a flower and a fly.

Beatriz Moisset.

I really enjoyed my coffee - French Vanilla.

Why is my backpack strapped on? Oh, I guess I'm gonna go shopping. Scott and I are having pizza tonite so I've gotta get the requisite toppings.

Only 9 more minutes until he calls me.

BTW, my blood sugar is 175 from the challah. Let's see if it's gone down any.

Yes, it dropped to 160. But, ya know what? It could also rise. It has a mind of its own.


The first five refused to rise
they were testing me
initiating me into the club.
Is she worthy?
“Whisk oil into yeast, then
beat in four eggs, one at a time.”
I was twenty-four, living
with Millard in a rowhouse in Philadelphia
mom’s porch furniture in
the living room. A blue
slab of formica was my kneading
board on the kitchen table.
The room looked out onto a huge
patch of gray sky, cement, and
not a single blade of grass.

The aroma of the bread
in the oven filled the room
and wrapped around me like
the mantilla worn by
a senorita in love with a
bull fighter.

I did everything right
this time. As the bread
grew like a baby in the oven
I washed the tools in warm
sudsy water: wooden spoon with
a smiling face, rubber
spatula with dough cleaving
to the edges, a deep porcelain
bowl that once held my grandmother’s

Smells good, Millard would say.
Or, rather, that’s what I wanted
him to say, once the bread
stopped being sassy and
claimed me as one of its own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

To Make a Challah

Wiki - Challah (plural: challot/challos) (Hebrew: חלה‎) is a special Jewish braided bread eaten on Sabbath and holidays.

This "double loaf" (in Hebrew: lechem mishneh) commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt according to Jewish religious belief.

Here's my finished challah. I began making breads when I was first married, using The Joy of Cooking book. I still follow the same recipe. I add grated cheese to the recipe for fulsome flavor.

Was inspired to make this challah by a recent article in the NY Times. 

 For the first time, I used King Arthur's Bread [and baking] flour. Note the egg yolk on left set aside, with added water, for the glazed topping.
 Stir everybody: 3 cups warm water, 3 eggs (save one yolk for the glaze topping) two T oil, one T salt, one T yeast, half-cup grated cheese, and enough flour to knead out on the table. Maybe eight cups.
 After stirring, turn out on table and cover with flour.
 Knead in the flour until the dough has absorbed it all.
 Place in oiled bowl to rise. 45 minutes.
 Cut into SIX oblong strips. Braid the strips. One will be the top braid, the other the bottom braid like this:
Bake in hot oven - 375 degrees - for 45 minutes.

Let cool for half an hour. Then serve with butter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dan fixes my laptop and gives me an assignment - Purple drapes - Clean windowsill

  A million thanks to my son, Dan, for fixing the so-called virus on my computer. I went to their house where he worked on it for half an hour and fixed it.

While there I pigged out on the fantastic

When I kissed him goodbye, Dan, of the shaven head and cloven hoof, said, Mom, you've got chocolate on your face.

Went directly home, injected six units of insulin, and then followed Dan's orders.

Drove to the Comcast Building on York Road - it's near this now-defunct store.

The parking lot is so tiny I parked up the street on Krewson Terrace, where Dan's schoolmate Mark Davis once lived with his family and his rabbits. Mark now has two "wives" and five or six children.

I then entered said Comcast building and placed this cable box on the table, with a sticky-note that read "Owner of Box Deceased."

Wrote the note while I waited at a red light.

This same deceased gentleman also had many overdue library books, which I'm charged with returning. As a retired and newly-deceased highly-decorated Philadelphia police officer, it's interesting to see that he read CRIME FICTION!

The continuing saga of fixing up my bedroom.

Okay, I paid an exorbitant $90.10 for JC Penney to come out and measure the dimensions for new drapes.

The drapes I bought were about $170. I actually couldn't stand them, but their nicer ones cost a fortune. When I brought them home and stared at them across the living room, I thought How hideous, I'll have to paint them with squiggles to make them purty.

Then I got the idea of dying them.

Off I went to Walmart, parked in the way-back, and found Stacy, a smart woman, who guided me to the Rit dye and told me to buy two bottles (the only two they had left).

It took hours and hours to dye them. Put them in hot water in the washing machine.

Since the instrux were written in terribly small print, I printed them out. Main thing is Hot water, agitate the dye before adding the fabric, then rinse thoroughly.

They suggest you wash them with detergent. I did this for the first batch, but not for the second, b/c it was getting dark already.


Purple ... you can see the pretty pattern after it's been dyed.... like invisible ink

Next I tackle cleaning my bay window

My late bro David's colorful ceramic birdhouse is the centerpiece. I talked to him while cleaning it and setting it up. I had a robin's nest and eggs and feathers on the windowsill for years but decided to throw it out.

Wonder what the late Rev. Larry Soneson would think of that?  Hmm, maybe I'll listen to his sermon. Or, maybe I won't.

What I did listen to was Herbie Hancock, the prodigal pianist, giving a talk about Buddhism and Creativity on YouTube. 

He used to play with Miles and Wayne Shorter.

Now, I gave his type of Buddhism a try many years ago. I went to a home in Abington and chanted.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a path to enlightenement.

Chanting is not for me.

Hurray for Obama for lifting the boycott against Cuba!!!