View from the Suburbs: The Flag, Pink Bougainvillea, and Even More Okra Recipes

 

Waiting for the breeze.

I put my flag out this morning for the  Labor Day holiday and took it down this evening.  This is the first Labor Day in my house, and just like other national holidays, I’ve put out the flag.  My Georgian-style house looks great with the flag hanging out from it.

Anyone who says liberals are unpatriotic have definitely got it wrong.  Even though the flag is just a symbol, if we don’t respect the flag, we don’t have much respect for all that it represents.  I have never liked that businesses and other places put flags up and don’t take them down until they are deteriorated almost beyond recognition.  I also miss the time when it was a daily ritual for school custodians to raise the flag in the morning and take it down and neatly fold it up at the end of the school day.

I know the Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that it’s a First Amendment right to desecrate the flag, but those who disrespect the flag really are showing no respect for the country that gives them that very right.

There’s a house in the neighborhood, which has cars parked in the drive with bumper stickers saying, “I’m proud of my U.S. Marine son.”  Yet wound around a pole jutting out from the house is a U.S. flag so faded and tattered, it looks more like a rag someone used for washing the car.

Then there are people like the notorious Phelps clan, of Topeka, Kansas.  They continue to trample and show complete disrespect for the flag at protests across the country, especially at funerals for soldiers who have died fighting for the flag and the very freedoms which give these people the right to  protest.   This entire family has never grown up.  It’s like the 15-year-old who calls her mother “a bitch.”  Give that same girl another couple of years and she’ll know better.  The Phelps have never grown up enough to understand the freedoms the flag gives them.  Or maybe they do, and they’re just using it to work the system.

This pink bougainvillea has found the right spot.

On a brighter note, while summer is still here there’s a promise of the fall to come in the air.  Each morning when I take out Annie for her “go”, the air is just a bit fresher.  Some of the flowering plants are now coming into their own.  The bougainvillea I bought in the spring is now covered in blossoms.  Each bloom goes through a wonderful transformation of colors, starting with the palest of apple greens, finally ending in almost a hot pink.

What’s left of the vegetable garden is still trying.  The okra continue to produce and even the pepper plants that would bloom without any peppers setting on are finally getting a few.  I’ve canned almost 20 pints of pickled okra.  I’ve even tried cooking it some new ways.  The results were definitely tasty.

Grilled Okra

Brush olive oil onto whole okra pods.

Arrange on a medium to medium-high grill.

Let cook about 3 minutes on each side for about 10-12 minutes total.

Okra should get nice grill marks on all sides and be sizzling when cooked.

Serve with garlic butter or just salt and pepper.  Great finger food!

 

Cast iron skillet works best for frying okra.

Battered Fried Okra

12-16 okra pods

1 egg

1/4 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive or vegetable oil.  While the oil is heating to almost sizzling, beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Cut the okra–about 1/2 inch slices–into the egg mixture and toss with the fork.  Put the dry ingredients into a paper or zip-lock plastic bag and shake well.  Add the egg-covered okra into the bag a few at a time, shaking until all the okra are coated.  Add a bit more flour if the okra are not coated to your liking.

Put the battered okra into the hot skillet, spreading them out evenly.  Let them cook until golden on the bottom.  Then turn with a pancake turner.  Cook until done.  (Okra changes to a darker green when it is cooked.)

If you love okra, this recipe is enough to serve 2 people 1 helping.  You might like this with a dollop of ketchup on the side.

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All Part of the Weekend Heat: Katydids, El Rey, and Nathan Adrian

Katydid--all that's left is the shell.

The katydids were singing big time last evening when Annie and I took our walk.  (Today I found the shell of one on the leaves of a plant in the backyard; hence, the new banner.)  Aside from the bugs’ buzzing, the neighborhood seemed almost deserted.  I’d say that with all this August heat that everyone was out on the back veranda having a mint julep; that is if people had verandas and still drank juleps.  But by the time the sun is nearly gone, it’s pleasant enough.  There’s a coziness about our little sub-division, as it has it’s own physical boundaries, and the style of the homes and all the mature trees, give it a feel all its own, unlike many of the others out here in the county that just slide from one into the other, without a feeling of being some place.

With all the heat of the day, this morning I was up early to get the plants watered and start the sprinkler for the front grass.  Each week day, I swear to myself that I’ll sleep late on Saturday, but when it’s time for Annie to go out in the morning, every green thing that needs a drink pulls me to the task.

After a shower and some coffee, I was after the Saturday errands.  Even at 10, every stop I made had the sun blistering down and the heat radiating up from the cement.  As I was gadding about, I stopped for lunch at location of one of my favorite Cuban-slash-Mexican places, El Rey.  When I lived in my apartment, I made an El Rey drive-thru run at the one on Washington almost every week.  This one sprang up among all the new shops on the north side of I-10 near Memorial City.

Michael Phelps swimming to victory in the 100 Butterfly.

Finally, I made it back home, and after some time of just soakin’ up the AC, I clicked on the TV.  NBC had on the National Swimming Championships from Irvine, California.  At first, I thought it was live, but after looking for other results, I found out that most of what they were showing was pre-recorded.  Anyway, I got to see Michael Phleps winning the 100 Butterfly and Nathan Adrian beating out Ryan Lochte adn Jason Lezak in the 100 Freestyle.  Both were pretty exciting races.  You can check out all the results and other news about the National Swimming Championships here.

Nathan Adrian prior to his win in the 100 Freestyle in the National Championships.

Adrian all smiles after his victory.

Saturday Morning Musings: Weekend Reflections

The sunflower lost a bit of its luster in all the rain, but I wanted to get in a picture, just for the sake of history--well, yeah, my garden's history.

There should be little danger of fires around here this Fourth of July weekend.  In just the past couple of days, we’ve had more than six inches of rain.  This Saturday morning, I’ve already been out dumping water from all the pots and other containers so that mosquitoes won’t have even more opportunity to increase their numbers.

The sun is trying to shine through, but the patchy clouds seem to be winning, so it looks like there’ll be even more rain  Although six inches is a lot of rain, fortunately, the showers that came weren’t deluges, so the plants in the garden weren’t mashed down into the soft soil.

Last evening, I started reading a new book just as a heavy shower came through, and felt so snug and protected in my house.  It’s a feeling that a year ago at this time I had never experienced.  Then, out in the garden this morning, picking some okra and tomatoes, and having the whole weekend before me, I couldn’t help but remind myself how I had spent many of my weekends a year ago.

At that time, I’d be peering through the online real estate listings, and later, out in my car, checking out possible houses and neighborhoods.  It was how I spent a lot of my free time for more than a year.

I have to admit I still like to go through the online listings from time to time, just out of curiosity, but I’m happy with the choice I made, and glad that this weekend, I will have the pleasure of puttering in the garden, taking some action at getting this very room finally arranged, and curling up on the sofa with a book, rain or no rain.

Watering To Welcome in Summer

Kitchen Garden 6-19-10 (Too bad the sunflower doesn't show up; it's taller than the fence now.)

Another week, another garden pic. The week itself has been busy, but routine.  For all the watering I’ve been doing, my water bill only went up $15.  Since this is my first summer in the house and also because we haven’t had that much rain, I didn’t know how I’d fair after putting all the water on the lawn and garden.

The garden looks lush and green, but the production hasn’t been all that good, although in reality, maybe better than I had expected.  One tomato plant has more tomatoes than all the rest combined, the beans have just produced a mere handful at each of the three pickings, and the cucumbers seem to shrivel on the vine after they get to be about an inch or two long.   I knew, though, going into it, that the soil was pretty awful, which makes me surprised that the plants have grown as well as they have.

Fresh Garden Salad

I had to take a picture of the one salad that I’ve had with everything from my garden–a simple dish of tomatoes, cucumber, and bits of onion.

Next weekend, I plan to slather on the sunscreen and head into town for the Gay Pride street festival when it starts in the morning and then go back for the parade later that evening.  I’ll post photos here; I have to see how the new camera does with night shots!

You Wanted It–You Got It: More Garden, and How About a Chainsaw?

Garden back of the garage (6-12-10)

A couple of pics I want to get in before it gets too late.  I realize I haven’t put in a picture of my garden for a bit.  These are really more for me just to see how everything is growing because I know I’ve been too impatient.  Now, though, I see I’ve really overplanted my little patch.  The rows really no longer exist because everything has grown together.  I’ve been picking about a tomato a day from my several plants, and a few beans here and there–enough for a couple of delicious meals.

My "Butch" Chainsaw and the Remaining Pieces of the Tree

A week ago Sunday, the dead tree that had been in the back yard decided to come down on it’s own, before I could use my tax refund to get someone to come do it.  Luckily the tree was so dry and rotted that it sort of telescoped down without doing any damage, except for two fence pickets, which g0t the tops broken off when the tree fell.  Part of the upper branches went into the neighbor’s yard, but they had them cleaned up before I could even offer to do anything about it.  Monday, I went out and made my “butch” purchase–a chainsaw.  I don’t suppose the Poulan 14-incher is all that butch, but it worked very well at cutting up the old tree, which took me two evenings after work to finally get all cut up into pieces I could take out for the trash truck to pick up.  The electric chainsaw was $49 at Sears and the pickets were less than $2 each, so for about 55 bucks and a lot of sweat I got rid of the eyesore in the back yard.  Not bad I’d say.

I really don’t know much about chainsaws, so realizing that after cutting up this dead tree,  all I’d probably ever use one for would be to cut smaller branches from my other trees, I decided upon this small electric Poulan.  I like it a lot.  Except for adding oil, it came basically ready to use, is easy to handle, and cut that old tree up with ease.

Memorial Day: Enjoy It But Don’t Forget What It Means

Memorial Day falls at a time when I can never get more than just the three days off from work, so although I’d like to go back to Kansas and my little hometown of Dorrance every year, the short time and the chunk of change I have to cough up for the airfare just doesn’t make that feasible.  (I’ve written about why Memorial Day is important to me before.)  This year I’m going to enjoy the still-newness of living in my house, putter in my yard and garden, and take advantage of some discount coupons to do some shopping.  I hope whatever you’re doing this weekend that you’ll take a few moments to remember those who have passed on, whether Veterans or not.

It’s still early on this Saturday morning, but though I was sure I would want to climb back into bed after taking Annie out even before six, I I was lured by the garden and other things I can do, having the luxury of three days before me.

With the sun a bit more up, I checked out the garden more closely and see that I will be able to pick my first beans in just a couple of days.  Altough all the plants in the garden look lush and full, I’m afraid that the poor soil keeps them from producing as many and as big of vegetables as they might if the soil were better.  This first year is a learning experience, and with the compost and more good soil, I’m sure next year’s crop will be better, but I don’t know if it can be any more fun!

This little garden seems to grow and change week by week. (5-29-10)

There are lots of blossoms. How many will become beans is a question.

This ruellia (ruellia elegans) was given to me by a friend and just keeps blooming and blooming. (And, yes, the grass will get mowed this weekend.)

View from the Suburbs: Making Work Pay Tax Credit

Annie and the Garden Hose

You may sit on a different side on the topic of the Stimulus Package, but, personally, I was quite pleased with the unexpected amount in my tax refund from the Make Work Pay tax credit.

My little Nikon Coolpix S230 took a little spill onto the hard tile kitchen floor a few months ago, and as a result, its touch-screen operation no long works.  I can still take photos and download them, but that’s about it.  Partly because of this blog, I enjoy taking photos and got the Nikon after a similar-sized Canon’s shutter mechanism developed problems.  These were my first two digital cameras.  Being a fan of the old film-type SLR cameras, I had started reading about the Canon T1i,  because I wanted a camera that was going to get good quality definition, but the chunk of cash for one was really more than I wanted to fork out at the moment, and I really have liked the convenience of being able drop the small camera in the pocket of a pair of baggy shorts and head out with Annie for a walk.

To make a long story short (can I really do that?), yesterday morning after my intown haircut, with that tax credit money burning a hole in my pocket, I stopped off at the nearby Best Buy to look at cameras and came home with the Nike Coolpix P100, which I think is going to be a nice compromise between the small S230 and the larger Canon.

I read the quick instructions and charged up the battery.  I need to read the manual to learn how to use all the bells and whistles, but I think from what I see in these shots I’m going to like this camera.

The Garden (5-22-10)

Angel Wing Begonia in Bloom

Blossoms of Yellow Wax Bean

Green Tomato in Hiding

Cucumber Blooms

Sunflower Starting To Open