Sunday, December 30, 2007

You wanna go where everybody knows your name...

The Christmas rush is over, most of the wrapping paper is picked up and it's that easy time before the New Year sets in and chills us all with a sense of unwanted responsibility. A perfect time for filling the hours by sharing a cup with friends, and in Marcellus, NY, there are fewer friendlier confines for doing just that than the old Alvord House, or the new Daniel's Grill. The Alvord House is run by the Dillon family, whose ancestors have kept a public house on that very site for nearly 200 years. Many a weary traveler has refreshed himself at their doors, and the Halls are no exception. Fridays are Mr. H's favorite night to grace the dining room; early enough to indulge in the shrimp boat special and still move on before the crowds assemble for the Blue Grass concert at the American Legion Post next door. When Mrs. Hall is at the helm, the Cadillac is generally to be found in the parking lot of Daniel's Grill. More urban and upscale, yet intimate enough to enchant, Daniel's boasts a kitchen run by the former chef of the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles. Daniel's carries Mrs. H's particular brand of Scotch, by the owner's request, and the Halls are often seen quaffing a bracer or two, in tuxedo and gown, before retiring to home. Happily, both these fine establishments are just staggering distance from Penguin Hall.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Slamming into the future, face backwards

Penguin Hall is sporting a new look these days with the addition of some well-placed pieces of new leather and old accessories. Mid-century post modern, as it is commonly called in the décor business, is very au courant; and Penguin Hall is in the forefront of the movement. Whether one purchases these items in a trés trendy boutique for an exorbitant amount, or still, (by virtue of the previous owner’s own laziness about clearing things out every 20 or 30 years, whether they need to or not), actually owns the pieces, is of no importance. There they are, happily on display, and as the song goes; everything old is new again.

“(Watch that you don’t) Deck the Halls”!

With the heavenly aroma of sauerkraut soup still wafting in the air and visions of electronic mayhem dancing in their heads, the little ones reluctantly slipped off to bed. A (very) brief time later, they came down again, yelling and laughing, tearing up the house and generally having the time of their lives. After all, what says Merry Christmas more than chocolate, tinsel and lots of plastic-y guns and ammo? That pretty much sums things up at Penguin Hall.
If sometime in the near future Central New York is overrun with aliens, mutants or zombies that have 1) an overwhelming zeal to conquer Earth (a near constant, so far as can be discerned from recent media); and 2) an unfortunate allergic reaction to Nerf™ material- well, then Penguin Hall will be the last bastion of society. If it glows, pops, whirrs, emits beams of light and/or lazers, and poses a significant threat to life and limb- there’s a good chance it’s under the tree, or worse yet, in the possession of one of the younger, less reliable inhabitants or visitors of Penguin Hall. One can hope for peace on earth, but you can bet the farm on pieces of earth; -usually on the carpet or the couch, or anything that is supposed to remain in a pristine state.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Get the kids off the streets and clear the road!

Master Ian has his learner’s permit and he’s working on getting his twenty hours to qualify for the driver’s test. No street will be safe for the next six months. Ian has a fine driving record behind the wheels of the yard tractor and ATV, so general opinion around Penguin Hall is that he will present less of a threat to the wheeling public than say, that retired couple down the block that has refused to acknowledge the presence of the recent stop sign in our neighborhood. Ian studied hard for the written portion of the test and passed with a solid 100%. There is no doubt that he will be as diligent or more, about the requirements of the driving portion. Mr. Hall was overheard to say, “Keep yer eyes on the road and the tank filled up. Remember, as long as the wing’s not on fire and the cockpit’s not full of smoke, everything will be fine.” Sound advice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oh, look honey; it snowed...(again)

Schools closed, cars slid down the expressway and the kids cheered again- more snow! The warm beckoning open spaces of the grocery store and the mall now hide shyly behind huge snow fortresses. Time to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book and a friend or two and wile away the evening. And that's just what goes on at Penguin Hall- Chris, Colleen and Ian bask in the glow of an old-fashioned easy-log from the supermarket in the family room. Meanwhile, Syracuse leads the pack in the race for the Golden Snowball ( and Marcellus does its part by pulling in another 15" just this weekend. As they say at Merriam-Webster, (in the vernacular of the new word-of-the-year) "w00t!"
Christmas is a festive time; the cocktail party at the crematorium, the parties at the Knights of Columbus and the Masons, and this Friday, the highlight of the week: the customer appreciation bash at John's Auto and Body in Solvay, NY. Southern Comfort and buffalo wings mulled in the perfume of motor oil and axle grease- it brings to mind a picture out of Dickens to be sure. John himself will be waiting for us under the mistletoe and the El Camino up on the hoist. A Merry Christmas, indeed!

Mr. and Mrs. H. enjoyed lunch at that famous central NY eatery, Doc's "Little Gem" Diner today, and were happily surprised to find out that Doc is offering a Christmas dinner of his own. Doc suffered a setback recently; the 24 hour diner had been open for over 40 years without cessation. A fire just after Labor Day forced Doc to shut down for repairs- but it had been so long without closing no keys could be found to lock the doors! Syracuse insomniacs rejoice now, however, because Doc is up and running again, albeit on a reduced schedule. He closes briefly Sunday nights, one supposes just to check the locks and make sure the lights can actually shut off, if necessary. Happy Holidays to Doc and all his crew at the Little Gem, where it's always 68 degrees and fluorescent.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

According to Andy "WarHall"

Bowing to that true barometer of fame "Google", Penguin Hall now officially stands, if not in the spotlight of the Fifteen Minute Famous, then on the periphery. It is no longer necessary to go to Blog Search, then carefully spell out and frame your query to join us. The Gentle Reader need only bring up Google, type in Penguin Hall Monitor (sans quotation marks!) and effortlessly enter our happy realm.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's On!!!

Ah, Winter! Central New York has donned it's snowy white blanket again and all of Marcellus is transformed into a living Christmas card. Penguin Hall is aglow with the holiday spirit; Masters Chris and Ian have set up the trees around the house and placed several trains a-running. All bets are up and prayers to the Snow Gods are the order of business amongst the little ones; yesterday was a snow day for Marcellus schools on account of the 14" snowfall. That puts the Syracuse area in the lead for the coveted Golden Snowball Award! The active weather system in place so far bodes well for a white Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed and your toddies hot and close at hand, as the Monitor watches the weekly totals! (To follow along, go to

Friday, November 23, 2007

When they say "20-25 people", they really mean just two meals....

T-day at last. A day for thanksgiving, a day for taking pictures and gorging ourselves senseless. And yesterday, at Penguin Hall, that meant not just gorging yourself on one measely little turkey, but three insanely stuffed up birds. The great irony in all this is, that when you finally sit down to the roast, it becomes apparent that the turducken and its feasters are merely exchanging appearances; by the time one has finished the meal, you feel as stuffed as the turducken looked when you cut it open. For those of you who are interested, here is the play by play: After thawing for three days in the cooler, you cover the birds in foil and cook at 350 degrees for 4 hours. Then, for the last hour, you cook it uncovered. Basting produces a glorious glow to the skin and at nearly five hours and an internal temp of 170-180 degrees, you have a meal fit for a holiday table.
A very proud Mr. H presided over the cutting of the birds, and with glasses raised, a toast to the feast, the holiday and the efficacy of the internet, which made this meal possible. All cheer Cajun, for a centerpiece that was completely prepared, easy to make and a spicy, delightful dinner!

A cross section of the turducken is shown below, and the cajun pork sausage stuffing can be seen, cascading out of its cozy confines of multiple fowls. Side dishes included a mixture of green and yellow beans with sage flavored sauce, orange marmalade/thyme spiced yams, mashed potatoes (turduckens make an unbelievably flavorful gravy!), fresh rolls and the ubitquitous cranberry (or as the kids call it "can-berry") sauce. Mrs. H. opted for the Australian Yellow Tail Shiraz as the wine pairing; it held its own against the nicely spiced sausage dressing. (The younger members of the household can be observed enjoying a soda-pairing with their repast.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

T minus two days, and counting....

The mysterious foam box arrived in the mail Friday. Mysterious because, while the lid was clearly on the top, the label was applied upside down. (You can tell it is a good product, because the dry ice comes in a bag with a penguin on it!)
Immediately, the frozen feast was whisked into the freezer for safe keeping. Since it is only two days 'til Thanksgiving, the thawing must begin. Pushing aside various and sundry perishables, room was made for the portly fowl(s), and for the next 48-72 hours, much salivating and speculating will ensue.
Shown at left: Chilling in the 'hood; specifically in the neighborhood of our frozen beverages. Following that, in the cooler as we begin the long slow process of bringing the bird up to temp. Next episode: Dinner most fowl!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Countdown to "Turducken Day"!

The good china is dusted off, the linens are fresh and frenzied trips to the local market are the order of the day around Penguin Hall. Colleen, Chris and Ian have been scanning the horizon for the uniformed courier bearing the frozen centerpiece of their Thanksgiving feast. Flying all the way from Louisiana this year (in the refrigerator compartment) is a magnificent turducken for the family table!
For those who came in late...a turducken is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. Turducken is believed to be Cajun in origin, although it may also have originated in eastern Texas or northern Louisiana. Some enthusiasts have taken it a step further, and come up with the turduckencorpheail. This is a standard turducken, which is then stuffed with a cornish game hen, which is then stuffed with a pheasant, and finally stuffed with a quail. The turduckencorpheail is not for the faint of heart; it is an extremely time consuming endeavor, as birds of the proper size must first be obtained, and then prepared. The largest recorded nested bird roast is 17 birds, attributed to a royal feast in France in the 19th century: a bustergophechiduckneaealcockidgeoverwingailusharkolanbler (originally called a Rôti Sans Pareil, or "Roast without equal") - a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an Ortolan Bunting and a Garden Warbler. The final bird is small enough that it can be stuffed with a single olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing placed in between the birds. This dish probably could not be recreated in the modern era as many of the listed birds are now protected species. In the Thanksgiving 2004 PSA of the Halo machinima series Red vs. Blue, Sarge parodies the concept of the turducken. Starting from the smallest bird, a hummingbird is stuffed into a sparrow, then a Cornish game hen, into a chicken, a duck, then a turkey, then a penguin, a peacock, then an eagle, into an albatross, then an emu, an ostrich, a leopard, into a pterodactyl, and then finished off in a Boeing 747. (When asked why a leopard, Sarge explains it's just for presentation.)*

There will be late-breaking updates and pictures as events warrant!
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sweet Innocent Pussycat, or Ruthless Assassin- You decide!

A recurrent visitor to Penguin Hall has been “Killer”, a Siamese-American Shorthair mix, who is apparently the neighborhood extermination queen. (Shown, at right, is Pepper, our indoor resident, and Killer, waiting patiently on the doorstoop for some "fast food".) Lately, residents of P.H. have been making book on which form of vermin Killer will present to us; odds had been leaning towards mice and the locally indigenous small avian population. But Killer, not being content with appetizers, has been working towards honing her skills on larger fare, thus forcing us to extend the field. Here’s hoping she doesn’t get above herself and try to take on something really fierce, though local opinion seems to agree that anything smaller than a wandering herd of hyenas is pretty much taking it’s life in its hands if it steps in the yard. Killer, (or “The Verminator” as we call her) is really a very sweet visitor and a loving companion; a true delight to one and all.

The Dead Pool (for those of you keeping up:)
Mice: 6 (she managed a double-header on Halloween)
Birds: 5
Skunks: 1
Mystery Kill: 2

Friday, November 2, 2007


Get out the fog machine and bring on the spooky music- it's that time of the year again! The time to buy and hand out ten pounds of chocolate secure in the knowledge that the kids will bring back fifteen. A time of sloppy pumpkin seeds on every surface of the kitchen, small children wielding sharp implements and danger lurking around every corner. A time of year that brings together those time honored traditions of devils, evil-doers and sugar. God bless America.
Towards that happy goal, Penguin Hall, of course, is decked out in it's usual fare of gravestones, black lights and black cats, spiders (actually, they're not decorations; they're perennial residents) and ghosts. Despite the perfectly lovely weather this year, however, the crowds were down and horror of horrors; there was candy leftover! That makes the scariest thing at Penguin Hall the bathroom scale.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Hall Over the Road", Part 2

The trip back home took a short detour, when Mrs. H. realized how close they were to her brother’s new home in Brighton, MI. A few sharp turns on the freeway and the next thing you know, they were splashing back a few with Mr. and Mrs. Pranitis, noted raconteur and famous authoress. Mrs. H. can always be counted on to make a beeline for a good swig of scotch and Mr. P. stocks some of the best.
The Halls were barely home from that trip when they darted out to Nia-gara Falls, not once, but twice more this summer! The Arntz’ were so swayed by the descriptions of New York in the fall that they came out to check it out for themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Acton took a long awaited second honeymoon trip there in June and the Halls went back to raise to a toast to them as well.
Of course, no summer season would be complete without the family reunion in Waverly. What a turn-out this year! Forty-one of the planet’s most handsome relatives gathered for this afternoon of good food and great memories. The larger afternoon affair spawned many smaller gatherings over the weekend at the hotel, and not even a couple of false fire alarms could quell the laughter and gaiety.
As part of the family clan migrated east across the Southern Tier of New York, Mrs. Hall and Colleen met up with them later in the week. Raucous lunches are de rigueur for the Pranitis folk, and this one certainly lived up to the bill. Gracing the lunchroom of the Binghamton Regency, trading bon mot and trenchant insights: (shown left , clockwise from top); Peggy, Pat, Colleen and Beverly.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tale of Two Cars- Late “Breaking” News

Even as this blog goes to press, there is fresh news regarding the Rockford High School roadster. The first photo (shown in the previous blog) of Jerry’s car was taken at the June 19th reunion outside of Grand Rapids. The second one (shown here) came to us July 21st, with word that “it looks like the Berlin raceway affair on August 25th is off”. Jerry had been placing fairly high in his last races and it’s a cinch he was pushing that little Toyota pretty hard. Happily, however, word has just reached Penguin Hall via e-mail that Jerry Vogel is back on to race at the Berlin Raceway. His newest acquisition sports its “traditional” silver and red colors, along with the red polka dots that were the hallmark, so to speak, of his father’s race car. Here are Jerry’s own words: “I bought another car and I’m ready to race. I got 2nd in the heat race from 9th and 2nd in the feature from 5th first night out. Harley Farkle's back!”

“Hall Over The Road”

Mr. and Mrs. H. polished up the Cadillac, filled it full of gas, de-iced the wings and hit the high road to points west– to put some miles behind them and a few friendly faces in front. First stop: Rockford, Michigan.
Rockford High School, Class of ‘66 felt it needed something to really put them on the map. Car racing is red-hot right now and Rockford H.S. being no piker when it comes to trends -they jumped on the band wagon and sponsored a race car of their own.
Rockford High School, Class of ‘66 felt it needed something to really put them on the map. Car racing is red-hot right now and Rockford H.S. being no piker when it comes to trends -they jumped on the band wagon and sponsored a race car of their own.
The photo included shows a group of the Rockford High grads with the Class of ‘66 “Farklemobile.” Jerry Vogel, the driver of this monster of the track, is seen third from left, top row. Jerry has had a pretty impressive record with this baby, and only time will tell where Jerry and the "Farklemobile" will end up!

Hail to the Chief, he’s the chief and he needs hailing...

Make room for another line in Mr. Hall’s bio. Congratulations to F. Samuel Hall, new President of the Onondaga-Oswego Funeral Directors Association.
Mr. Hall has been on the board of directors for three years, but it was a distinct honor to be elected president of the group. He immediately called another meeting and set forth his plans for the future of the organization. Never one to rest on his laurels (“Laurels make for lousy resting”, he has been known to remark) Mr. H. has been working tirelessly to organize the finances and the structure of the group. His goals for this term include: positioning OOFDA to become a more politically strong force to benefit its members in local legislation and designing a new corporate identity for the group. Political pundits and gossip columnists are all a-twitter as to what will be his next move. Only time will tell...

Deadly Dinner Party Really Slays 'Em

Missing this invitation could really be murder.
Twelve unsuspecting citizens of Marcellus received invitations to cocktails and laughter; but what came after chilled more than just their drinks. About 30 minutes into the evening, the air and the merriment was split by the sound of a piercing scream. The charming hostess Miss Colleen was discovered lying on the floor of the upper dining room. Who dun it, indeed?

As each guest arrived, they were handed an envelope that described, in detail, their relationship with the hostess and a variety of reasons why they might want her, shall we say, out of the picture. By engaging in conversation with each other and discovering who was where and when, each guest attempted to solve the puzzle before “the authorities” had to be brought in.
More calculating than the murderer himself, was Master Christopher, who wrote the scenarios and the character stories, then sat back and let the evening unfold. His role was to be the omnipresent and ever faithful servant of the manor.
There was considerable concern that the dinner guests would show up, munch up all the goodies, solve the puzzle in 10 minutes and leave for more exciting pursuits, like hanging out at the local mall or watching TV. Instead, what was feared would only last 30-45 minutes, went well over an hour and a half. Period music played on into the night as the “character guests” enthusiastically attempted to solve the murder. They re-enacted their every moves of the evening, thoughtfully stepping over the now-covered “victim” on the floor of the dining room.
Finally, with the appearance of an “officer of the law”, a poll was taken of the guests to see who should be “handed over to the authorities.” Only two of the guests guessed correctly, and at the end, the “murderer” revealed his actions and his motives.
The party went on gaily after that and Chris is now working on a second “evening” of merriment and malice.

Tell your friends!