“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more.”

Edgar Allen Poe

Dinner and a Movie Monday – Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein is a 1974 comedy directed by Mel Brooks. Gene Wilder stars as a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein. A great supporting cast included Teri Gar, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn, among others. The film is a parody of the classic horror films of the 1930s. Mel Brooks shot the film entirely in black and employed 1930s-style opening credits and scene transitions like fade to black. The film also features a period score. A box office smash, Young Frankenstein ranks No. 13 on the American Film Institutes’s list of the 100 funniest American moves.

In my books it’s a classic. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. And I still do, every time I watch the movie. Peter Boyle’s portrayal of the monster was hilarious, He could speak volumes without ever opening his mouth. Cloris Leachman was perfect as Dr. Frankenstein’s housekeeper and paramour and who could forget Marty Feldman’s Igor?

And the outtakes…when Igor says “what hump” or Gene Hackman as the blind man shouts to a frightened monster running out the door “Where are you going? I was going to make espresso.” And then there’s Igor’s reference to “abby normal” or Gene Wilder’s “Put…the…candle…back” If you need to kick back and have a belly laugh, this is the movie for you.

Sauerkraut and Sausage

2 lb sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1 T caraway seeds

¼ c brown s ugar

1 diced apple

½ bacon

1 large onion, chopped

1 ½ lb kielbasa sausage cut into 1 inch slices

  1. Place the sauerkraut, caraway seeds, brown sugar, and apple into a large saucepan over medium-low heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  3. Place the bacon and onion into a skillet over medium heat, and cook until the bacon is almost crisp and the onion is beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir the bacon mixture into the sauerkraut. In the same skillet, brown the kielbasa sausage in the remaining bacon grease until the sausage begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes; stir into the sauerkraut mixture. Spoon the sauerkraut and sausage mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until bubbling, about 1 hour.

A starry, starry night

One of the things my family loves to do on a crisp fall evening is to head out to the fire pit. Sweaters, blankets and quilts are rounded up, fire wood gathered, coffee brewed or hot chocolate made. Someone usually digs through the pantry in the hopes of finding ingredients for s’mores or make a mad dash to the store if necessary.

When everything is ready, we circle the chairs around a blazing fire, sit and talk. No television and no electronics. We actually spend time communicating with one another. Even the kids.

It’s always a good opportunity for story telling. I love to share the stories my grandparents and parents passed down to me while spending an evening on the front porch swing or one of those old metal gliders that squeaked. I liked to stretch across the cool concrete and listen to them talk about things that happened long before I was born.

We have lots of family stories to revisit, whether it’s camping trips that flirted with disaster or one of the unplanned road trips taken through the years. Someone might even bring up the one about the year two cats got into a fight…in the branches of the Christmas Tree. And we laugh no matter how many times we hear the same story.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to make a very special memory, one I find myself revisiting often. It happened on a cool, clear night in October when the ground fog crept across the fields beyond the house. The moon was yellow and full. My grandson, Caleb, was seven at the time and full of energy. He was twirling around in circles beside the fire, dancing freestyle. And he kept insisting that I join him.

“Oh, honey,” I said. “It’s really dark out here, and I can’t see what I’m doing. I might fall down and break my ankle.”

“Take my hand, Granny,” he said, reaching out for me. “I won’t let you fall.”

How could I refuse? That’s how I ended up, dancing with my grandson under the stars on a beautiful fall night. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The Old House

My sister and I had lunch at a local winery a few weeks ago. To get there, we had to travel for a few miles down a narrow, windy country road. On the way, we passed an old, abandoned house almost hidden behind a huge magnolia tree. On our way home we pulled over to take pictures.

Places like this have always fascinated me. How long has the house been there? Who built it? And why? Maybe some young man bought this house for his bride. And carried her across the threshold. A farmer and his wife moved here with plans to fill the fields with crops and the yard with children. Or it could have been a place of refuge for someone who wanted to be left alone.

There’s no telling. If only the old place could talk. What stories would it tell?

Dinner And A Movie Monday – 5 Flights Up

5 Five Flights Up is a 2014 American comedy-drama, starring Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors) and Diane Keaton. The film is based on the novel Heroic Measures written by Jill Ciment and was released on May 8, 2015.

Alex and Ruth Carver, an older couple, want to move from their charming apartment because living in a 5-story walk-up is becoming too difficult for them to manage without an elevator. Alex is a painter and uses one of the rooms as his studio. Ruth is a retired school teacher. They have lived there so many years that it and the neighborhood have become intertwined with their lives. Their niece Lilly is their broker and is pressuring them to sell because she believes the apartment is worth up to $1M.

Three other plot lines develop simultaneously with the sale of the apartment. Do they pay for an expensive operation for their elderly dog or do the humane thing and put her to sleep. The second is an alleged terrorist who may be lurking in the neighborhood near the Carvers’ apartment and how it impacts the sale of their apartment. The third is the Carver’s search for the perfect new home.

Their decision in the end may come as a surprise. Or not. But it was a lovely story about growing older and all the things that go with it, both good and bad.

Meatloaf – An economic staple from my childhood made a hundred different ways. This is my recipe. 1 – 2 lbs ground meat, 1/2 a sleeve crushed saltines or bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/2 chopped onion, 1/2 cu chopped bell pepper, 1/2 cup catsup or tomato sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix together. Press into a loaf pan and cook at 350 degrees until done in the middle (about an hour) Serve with macaroni and cheese and fruit salad.

Caleb’s Story continued

Sprites

Chapter 4 – Episode 1   

     Floren rolled around on the ground clutching his shaking belly and laughing like a hysterical hyena.

    Owen glared at him. “What’s so funny?”

     The dwarf pointed at him, hiccupping uncontrollably. “I can’t help it. The very idea. Owen, a ranger with the reputation of being the greatest swordsman ever playing mommy to an orphan baby dragon. Think about what that’s going to do to your reputation.” He covered his mouth in an attempt to hide snorts of laughter.

     Misa threw up her arms. “I think it’s sweet. Don’t you Calebth?”

     The elf had a point. It was kind of endearing. And the little dragon was so dang cute, and he started to say so, but when he saw the ranger’s angry expression, he shrugged his shoulders and shut his mouth in a hurry.

* * * *

     They managed to salvage their supper. Calebth scraped the burned spots off the fish, and Misa shoed him how to sauté the mushrooms until they were plump and juicy. After supper, when stomachs were full, everyone was in a better mood.

     Misa handed Calebth a bucket. “Take this down to the river and fetch some water.”

    Floren snorted. “Sure that’s a good idea? I’m willing to wager the boy can’t do that without making a mess of things. Anybody game?”

     Calebth drew himself up to his full height and frowned at the dwarf. “Of course, I can. That’s simple enough for a child to handle.”

    Misa patted the boy on his arm. “Don’t pay any attention to Floren. He likes to think he’s funny.”

    Calebth walked away from camp and down to the river’s edge, dragging the pail behind him and feeling sorry for himself.

     I’ve got to stop making mistakes. Misa feels sorry for me. Floren thinks I’m a joke. And as far as Owen is concerned, I’m useless. He’s never going to teach me to use the sword if I don’t show him I’m not a complete failure.

     He was so busy trying to think up ways to prove his worth, he didn’t notice the splashing in the water. Or if he did, he thought it was a fish. He didn’t see the sleek green head with scales poked up out of the water. Another one joined it. And then another. Pretty soon there were six pairs of eyes following the boy.

     He got down on his knees to fill the pail, and when he did, arms grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him in the water. He held his breath as long as he could before swallowing mouth full of water, thinking I’m going to drown. One of the creatures blew a bubble that covered his face, and suddenly he could breathe again.

     When Calebth didn’t come back to camp Owen, Misa and Floren went down to the river to look for him.

     Misa plucked and iridescent scale out of the mud at the edge of the water. “Are there sprites in these waters?”

     “Aye.” Floren shook his head. “They probably took him.”

     Owen drew his sword and called out. “Give us back the boy. He’s worth nothing to you.”

    “One of the sprites popped his head up out of the water. “Of course we will, ranger. For a price. Give us your shiny gold coins. All of them. We can use them to light up our home under the water.”

     After a  moment’s hesitation, Owen reached for the moneybag he wore around his waist.

     Floren grabbed his arm and hissed. “You can’t do that.”

     “We have no other choice,” Misa said.

     The ranger held the bag in the air. “Release the boy unharmed, and it’s yours.”

     Owen, Misa, Floren took Calebth went back to camp. The boy sat next to the fire, shivering while Misa piled on more wood. Four miserable faces stared into the flames.

     “What are we going to do now?” Calebth sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Cold, sopping wet and depressed. He couldn’t have been more miserable if he tried.

     “You tell me.” The dwarf muttered. “Thanks to you we have no money for a boat to take us to Dragon Island. And we can’t go back to the mine because it’ll be overrun with bats. We’re back to square one.”

     “Quit blaming the boy.” Misa waved a branch at the dwarf.   

     Owen spoke up. “We’re all to blame. Especially me.”

     Everyone stared at him like he’d lost his mind.         

    “Misa, either you or Floren should have gone with him to get water. And none of this would have happened if I’d been training the boy like he asked.” The ranger was right. And they all knew it.

     When they camped the next night, Owen gave Calebth his first lesson. Once they finished, the ranger showed him how to clean his sword while they listened to Misa and Floren, arguing over choice of weapons and whose was better. Mowg curled into a ball at their feet.

     The elf waved her wand in the air. “Mine is light and can be used at long range.”

     Floren snorted sarcastically. “Someone could snap it into without even trying. An axe weighs more and can do more damage.”

     “I can do spells from a 100 yards away. You have to be up close to inflict injury.”

     In the middle of their argument, Mowg jumped to his feet and growled, glaring out into the darkness.