Throngs of Participants Celebrate Marriage Equality at Pride Houston 2015 in City’s Downtown (Hashtag–LoveWins)

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston's LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston’s LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said “lined up,” but there was no lining up for the masses that came to downtown Houston to be part of this event on this historic occasion.

On the heels of the only one-day-old Supreme Court’ announcement of marriage equality for the entire country, Houston was revved up for PrideHouston‘s showcase events, the festival and the parade.  Besides tremendous legal decree, another major change for the Houston LGBT events was the move from the Montrose “gayborhood” to downtown Houston.

i, personally, made some changes.  Although for years, I had lived in Montrose and walked the few blocks to the parade, later I moved a bit further away and had to drive to Montrose, find a parking place, usually many blocks away, and then make the walk to Westheimer Road to view the parade.  Now for last six years, I’ve been 25 miles out in the suburbs and making the effort to go take in all of the parade is an even bigger decision.  I always love the feeling of being amongst “my people,” something that I don’t have out here, but when I think about standing out in the Houston heat and being jostled around by drunk straights, I have doubts about going.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply.  They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply. They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

Mostly, though, I want to go, and this year, I decided that getting tickets for the Friends of Pride VIP bleacher seating was worth the cost.  In fact, it was.  With an open bar, all kinds of buffet food, incredible music, decent restrooms, and a gift bag to be filled with all kinds of LGBT chucherías.  The bleachers, though further back than the edge-of-sidewalk view that I had always taken in years past was a great vantage point, just across from the main stage, to enjoy all of the parade entries.

In fact, the mood of the event was of tremendous celebration, very much a victory celebration, and obvious harmony among all, even event organizers and law enforcement  I haven’t seen an attendance number estimate but from the throngs of people packing the downtown streets, there must have been many more attendees than last year’s 450,000.  The parade entries were diverse in types, many new ones added to those of previous years, with emotional members that kept giving off their excitement embed by that of all those smushed together along the sides of the streets.  It really was one of the best, perhaps the best, of all the parades I’ve been able to enjoy.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

HFD's Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

HFD’s Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

One of the many floats in the parade--I really don't care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren't very good.  It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many floats in the parade with Houston city Hall lit up in rotating rainbow colors in the background–I really don’t care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren’t very good. It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

Celebrate Your Pride By Taking a Look and Listen to Music from a Couple of New Artists from Down South, Like Way Down South (America)

It’s June.  That’s Pride Month.  Not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court is merely days away from making a momentous decision on same-sex marriage.  Here in Houston LGBT Pride activities are in full swing, culminating with the daytime festival and evening (into night) parade this Saturday, June 27th.  For the first time, these two events will be held in downtown Houston instead of the Montrose area, where the first Houston Gay Pride Parade took place in 1979.  (Find all the details about Houston Pride here.)

To celebrate LGBT pride here on the blog, I decided to introduce a couple of talented artists who have no fear of showing their true selves in their videos.  I found out about these two young Latin American performers thanks to remezcla.com and since my first listen to one video each, their tunes have been stuck in my head.  They are from neighboring South American countries.  Namuel, from Chile, has just put out this catchy single “Babycakes,” and the accompanying video can only be described as “cute and sweet.”  The video here from Jaloo, out of Brazil, also with an LGBT theme, goes with his “Bai Bai.”  This is a cover from a very popular song of a couple of years ago.  I’ll keep you guessing and not spoil it so you’ll listen.  I don’t understand much Portuguese, so I can’t say if the lyrics are the same, but the music in what I’d say is brega-style (I’m just learning about this genre of music, but I might compare it in a way to reggaeton. No matter the style, this tune keeps playing in my head much more than the original, which I really like.

Check out more great work from Namuel and Jaloo on YouTube and SoundCloud, where you’ll find a lot more by these terrific artists.

Happy Pride, y’all!

Home-canning Tomatoes Brings on the Nostalgia: Here’s a Recipe To Start Your Own Memories

Just made home-canned jars of tomatoes fresh from the garden--mostly Purple Cherokees, filled in with plump grape tomatoes.

Just made home-canned jars of tomatoes fresh from the garden–mostly Purple Cherokees, filled in with plump grape tomatoes.

I thought I probably wouldn’t can tomatoes this year. Last year, I hadn’t.  Because of the still dry conditions, except for the grape tomato, the plants didn’t produce much at all.  Also, this year I only set in seven plants: three Purple Cherokees, three hybrids that bear pretty large fruit, and another grape tomato.

If you want a plant that continues bearing for a long time and lets you almost daily grab enough tomatoes for your salads, I recommend planting grape tomatoes.  With just a couple of plants, you can harvest daily the same amount of tomatoes that you will pay $2.50 per container (or more) at the super market.  Of course, if you want the big, beefy slicing tomatoes that go great in a sandwich, there is none better than the heirloom Purple Cherokee; though even the hybrids picked fresh from the garden are nightly tasty.

Nothing better than a juicy tomato straight from the patch behind the garage.

Nothing better than a juicy tomato straight from the patch behind the garage.

With the rain this year, my tomatoes have been doing well, but with the onset of higher temperatures, the big tomatoes are no longer setting on.  I’ve already shared with friends, so more of the tomatoes getting ripe at the same time, I decided to look to see (Don’t you just love this redundancy!) if I had all the necessities for canning tomatoes.  It doesn’t take much: jars, lids, rings, and several pots for water.  I also have real canning tongs; something we didn’t have out on the farm.  Some say you have to have a pressure cooker for canning, but I do it the way my mom did, just using a big kettle with a lid and have always had good results.

The recipe is pretty simple, but I dug out the recipe card, one of many that I have in my mom’s handwriting.  Her distinctive writing and the whole process itself brings back a lot of good memories of helping with the canning when I was a kid out there on the farm in Kansas.

So the process (it’s really more of a process than a recipe):

Fill 3 pots with water and put them on the stove to simmer.  You’ll need 2 smaller pots, one to scald the jars and one to blanch the tomatoes.  You’ll need another pot big enough to hold the filled jars for the actually canning.  I have one that will hold 6 pints or 4 quarts.

I sanitize the jars by dipping them in one pot of boiling water.  You can also do this in the dishwasher or by pouring scalding water into and over them in the sink drainer.  Let them drain on a towel on the counter.  Then put sealing lids in the water to sanitize and heat up.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and water and put it in the sink.  Turn the jars right-side up and put them near the sink in order to have them ready for the tomatoes, once peeled.

Start dipping clean, washed tomatoes into the hot water in the other smaller pot, one or two at a time.  Leave them for about 20-30 seconds.  Use a big slotted spoon to dip them out of the pot and plunge them into the ice water for just a few seconds.  The skins should peel off easily.  Use a paring knife to cut out the stem areas and any blemishes.  Now fill the jars with the peeled tomatoes.  Smaller tomatoes can go in whole; larger ones should be cut into halves or quarters.  As you fill the jars, gently push down the tomatoes with your fingers to eliminate air pockets.  Fill the jars to approximately 3/4 inch from the top.  Make sure that no tomatoes will be sticking up against the lid.

Now add salt to each jar:  1/2 teaspoon for pints, 1 teaspoon for quarts. (Some recipes also suggest adding a spoonful of lemon juice.)  Next, wipe all around the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any tomato bits, salt, or liquid.

Now remove the lids from the simmering water with a spoon or tongs.  Be careful; the lids will be hot!  Put the lids on the jars and screw on the jar rings.  The rings should be tight, but not necessarily muscle-man tight.  I twist the lids on as tightly as I can and then loosen them back just a tad.  Remember that the rings are there to hold the lids on during the canning; they really aren’t what is actually sealing the jar.

You’re ready to put the filled jars into the big pot of simmering water.  How much water to start with is always a guess, but you want the water to cover the jars by about an inch once you have them all in the pot, so don’t overfill.  If I need more water, I just pour some from the pot that I used for sanitizing the jars.  Use the canning tongs to carefully stand the jars in the pot.  My mom always placed a dishcloth on the bottom of the pot for cushion, but I don’t do that.  Cover the pot with its lid.  The jars of tomatoes will cool down the water a bit, so turn up the heat until the water gets boiling again and then you can let the jars simmer.  Mom’s recipe says 20 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts.

Don’t mess with the jars in the pot.  The first year I canned tomatoes, I got worried seeing air bubbles coming out of the jars, but that’s just part of the process and what makes the vacuum to help the jars seal.

When the cooking time is up, lift the jars out of the pot with the canning tongs, and place them on a cloth on the counter to cool.  Once again, don’t mess with them.  Just let them sit until cool.  As the jars begin to cool down, you will hear a “ping”.  This is the final sealing of the jars.  After the jars are completely cool, test the seal by gently pushing down on the center of each jar lid.  If there is no “give”, that means the jar is sealed.

In the rare case that the lid easily moves up and down, that means the jar isn’t sealed.  At this point, you have two choices, start the canning process over with a new lid and 20 more minutes of cooking time, or put the jar in the refrigerator and use the tomatoes within a few days.

Making home-canned tomatoes is one of the least involved canning processes.  Whether you can just a couple of jars or a couple dozen, there will be a lot of satisfaction in preserving some fresh produce from your own garden.  Then some cold day in the fall or winter, you’ll have the special treat of opening a jar to make your favorite spaghetti sauce or chili with tomatoes that still have that home-grown flavor, something that the store-bought just doesn’t give.

Old Music and New Car

After a random discovery of a CD I had been thinking about for awhile, this morning’s commute was tempered by the 10 tracks from “Super-nova” from the Mexican synth-pop group, La Siguiente Pagina.  I don’t know much about the group, but I always loved the space-themed electronic euro-dance songs on this disc from 1997.  (If I had been looking hard, I would have found the entire album online; check it out.).  

As I drove in to work, listening to track after track, I wasn’t really taken back 18 years, because for the most part, the songs have stayed surprisingly fresh, though after listening to a lot that’s being played on the SiriusXM dance channels, there were definitely a lot more BPMs going on in dance music back about 20 years. It’s too bad they only came out with this one album and a remix disc from one of songs, “Outer-space.”  That disc is tucked away, just waiting to be found, somewhere around the house or maybe out in the garage.

Speaking of the garage: parked inside is the new ride–a white CR-V Touring.  I had been thinking “new car” for quite some time, since Christmas really, when there was absolutely no more room in the Fiesta hatchback after loading it with presents, goodies, belongs, and dog.  It was a bit more than four years old and almost 65,000 miles.  I had had virtually no problems with it, and it squeezed great miles out of every gallon, but besides the lack of space for trips, I often felt vulnerable out on the road.  Larger vehicles gave no respect.

And respect the CR-V gets.  Maybe because it’s bigger; maybe because I drive it differently because it has more power.  I didn’t choose it for either the respect or the power.  Besides the added space, I liked the safety features that come with the    new-this=year Touring, that the other levels of the CR-V don’t have, like the LaneWatch, and the Collision Mitigation.  Also, I thought the Fiesta had really good side vision, but the mirrors on the CR-V just seem to give a wider angle of vision; the one on the driver’s side has a sort of split mirrors, so all-in-all the blind spots are really minimized.  Along with just sitting up higher, the better visibility makes my entering and exiting so much less chancy.

The car has a lot of other features that come in handy, like the automatic tailgate, but what I notice most is the space.  My Saturday groceries, which about filled up the hatchback of the Fiesta, now seem kinda dinky in the back of the CR-V.  It’s a different drive too, more solid, and I can’t just scoot into parking spaces.  However, considering the size of the vehicle, the gas mileage isn’t bad.  Each week, I’m putting in about two more gallons into the tank for my 50 mile-a-day commute plus whatever chore and fun miles are put on.  That doesn’t seem bad for the difference in the vehicles.

So I guess now I’ll have to dig around and see what other CDs I can scrounge up.  If I find enough good ones, it might be time for a road trip.

All spic-n-span after being freshly washed; yep, and still waiting for the real license plates.

All spic-n-span after being freshly washed; yep, and still waiting for the real license plates.

The back of the 2015 CR-V looks pretty similar to other years, but I hate to say it, but what makes it look different might seem to be a longhorn.

The back of the 2015 CR-V looks pretty similar to other years, but I hate to say it, but what makes it look different might seem to be a longhorn.

Music That Sticks in Your Ears by OBK and Adam Lambert

Some songs stick and never seem to get stale, even though we ourselves might–a little.  One of my favorites, OBK, a Depeche Model-style group from Spain has been around since the early 90s and is till putting out good tune.  One of their

More recent favorite is Adam Lamber of American Idol fame.  His songs have been great from the beginning, but his latest “Ghost Town” really shows off his amazing voice.  The song reminds me of a blend of Lana Del Rey and the theme from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”  It’s going to be one of those that “sticks.”

Take a look at them both below.  Be patient with the loading of “A Contrapie.”

http://www.muzu.tv/obk/a-contrapie-music-video/1141689/

Rainy Days Make For an Opportunity To Binge-watch a Couple of Gay-Themed Telenovelas

Having a 3-day weekend (Spring Break Day–yeah, one day) allowed me to get the usual weekend chores taken care of early, and with it being a dreary, rainy Saturday, I split time between watching NCAA March Madness basketball and binge-watching a couple of Portuguese telenovelas on YouTube. Thanks to YouTuber Safe Light, the two soaps, Os Nossos Dias Our Time) and O Beijo do Escorpião (Scorpion’s Kiss), have been edited down to just the gay story lines, which are part of both, and added English subtitles. The gay story in Os Nossos Dias is that of David and Xavier, played by Duarte Gomes and Sisley Dias, a couple of guys and their developing relationship.  While Xavier is more open about his sexuality, David has a live-in girl friend, who also works at the same cafe as he does, and is struggling to come to terms with himself and his feelings.  Os Nossos Dias came on air in 2013, and the story is ongoing.  So far, Safe Light has added 33 YouTube segments of David & Xavier. The gay story of O Beijo do Escorpião also features Gomes, this time as Miguel, a pilot for a business jet company.  Gomes is paired up with Pedro Carvalho, who plays Paulo, his best friend and co-pilot.  Though the story begins with  Paulo in a hidden relationship, Miguel seems to be a typical playboy during his non-flying hours.  Their story, of course, has the many twists and turns of any soap, and one must take it as such, it also has moments worth reaching for the Kleenex.

Growing Tomato Plants and Monarch Cocoon Evidence of Advent of Spring

The tomato plants had to be covered a couple of times since being planted in February to protect from possible frosts, but they've shot up and have blooms and at least one small tomato.  They share the small space with turnips, radishes, lettuce, beets, onions and carrots.

The tomato plants had to be covered a couple of times since being planted in February to protect from possible frosts, but they’ve shot up and have blooms and at least one small tomato. They share the small space with turnips, radishes, lettuce, beets, onions and carrots.

First Tomato 2015Yesterday the calendar marked spring’s first official day.  Despite longer periods of cold weather throughout the winter months than is usually experienced here in northwest Harris County, evidence of spring is busting out everywhere in the yard.   The big oak tree that shades the house in the summer is dirtying up the patio with its series of nasty droppings of “really-I-don’t-know-what” along with last year’s leaves that were still trying to hand on after a couple of late frosts.  Recent rains with a few days of sunshine have perked up the grass and all of the plants already growing and others are piping up throughout the ground.

Sun-kissed day lilies add a spot of early color to the yard.

Sun-kissed day lilies add a spot of early color to the yard.

The milkweed plants in the sunny south flour bed made it through the cold days, but now their leaves are being devoured by a hoard of monarch caterpillars.

The milkweed plants in the sunny south flour bed made it through the cold days, but now their leaves are being devoured by a hoard of monarch caterpillars.

One of the caterpillars has already made its cocoon on the side of the garage.

One of the caterpillars has already made its cocoon on the side of the garage.

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