Time To Try Some New Cookware Just Right for the Cool Weather

These bright Cocinaware pots purchased at HEB should be fun and easier to use than covering baking dishes with aluminum foil.

These bright Cocinaware pots purchased at HEB should be fun and easier to use than covering baking dishes with aluminum foil.

The cold weather just doesn’t want to give up this year, even here in southeast Texas, where the winter temperatures usually bounce around, chilling us to don our jackets and sweaters for a few days, then soon after, heating back up enough to coax us back into shorts.  Since sometime around Thanksgiving many of the days have been grey and bleak with the highs just into the 50s, if that, and here we are.  Tomorrow starts March, and my winter coat lays over the back of the rocking chair, just waiting to be grabbed as I head to work or out to walk  a little black and white papillon.

With all this cold, almost every weekend, I’ve put together a pot of soup or popped a roast with vegetables into the oven, making enough to divide into lunches to carry to work or for some quick leftover suppers.

I’ve been making the roasts in glass baking dishes with aluminum foil as a cover.  This works OK, but every time I start the cooking process, I’ve been longing for a dutch oven with a proper lid.  I have two cast-iron pots, both of the famous French name, bought second-hand many years ago.  The large oval one has a lid and served me well to bake chickens and cook stews on the stovetop.  With so much use, it’s become so pitted up and rusty that it’s now found a resting spot out in the garage, waiting to be put out for the next yard sale or maybe or to be an interesting planter.  The other, a smaller yellow round pot, doesn’t have a lid, and none that I have seem to fit well.

I haven’t been willing to put out the money for name-brand dutch ovens that I’ve seen at the department stores and the discount stores really didn’t have anything that really fit the bill.  Today, I stopped off to do my weekend grocery shopping at an HEB, which is larger than the ones where I usually go.  This store has a large kitchenware department, and right as I was passing by, my eyes lit upon some colorful dutch ovens and other cookware.  The brand of HEB’s cookware is Cocinaware.  The enamel-covered dutch ovens come in two sizes, 2.8 quarts and 5.2 quarts.  I soon decided on a turquoise green, but was unsure of the size to buy.  I wanted one that wasn’t so big; the smaller would be good for a roast and some veggies, but probably wouldn’t be big enough for pot of chili.  In the end, just put both into my shopping cart.  The price was right: $19 and some change for the small pot and just ten dollars more for the 5.2 quart pot.  Together, the $50 for both was less than I had seen for any other single pot that I had seen in the store or online.

With my other groceries, I picked up a pork roast and a couple of cans of sauerkraut, so that’s what’s in store for the trial run tomorrow.

These dutch ovens are pretty and seem well-made. I don’t know if they’ll near as long as the  second-hand ones that they are replacing.  But I reckon they might.

Early in the Year But Plants and Seeds Are in the Ground

Planted on February 9th, these small tomato plants have a long way to go before they begin producing, but they seem happy to be in the ground and out of their small containers.

Planted on February 9th, these small tomato plants have a long way to go before they begin producing, but they seem happy to be in the ground and out of their small containers.

This is my sixth year of living in my house, and one of the reasons that I wanted a home with a yard was to have a vegetable garden.  The overall yard space isn’t so large here, but I’ve made a space behind the garage for a small plot, and every year I’ve planted tomatoes and some other veggies.

I had thought about not putting in a garden this year and had delayed tilling up the plot.  However, one day this past week, I had some extra time and decided to get out the tiller, spread the compost that had been brewing, and dug up the garden space.  I hadn’t really planned to  plant anything that day, but with the sun so warm I dredged a few rows and dropped in carrot and beet seeds.  Later, I went to Lowe’s in search of some other items, but wouldn’t you know it, out in front wwe racks of vegetable plants, and I couldn’t resist looking at the tomato plants.  I ended up getting seven: a grape tomato that wouldn’t stop producing last year, three hybrids, and three Purple Cherokees, which are one of the tastiest tomatoes.  I don’t always get good results from the heirloom tomatoes, but if they produce, they are worth the effort.

Here's hoping this small Purple Cherokee tomato plant will produce some tasty fruit in a few months.

Here’s hoping this small Purple Cherokee tomato plant will produce some tasty fruit in a few months.

I also got turnip and radish seeds, and even though, the sun was starting to set, I got the tomato plants set into the ground, putting bone meal and manure down into the holes first.  There was still enough room in the little garden, so I added several rows of turnips and one of radishes.

February is a good time here to put in the root vegetables, but many think it’s too early for tomatoes.  I’ll take my chances by putting them in early.  Once it gets hot here, the tomatoes may bloom, but they stop bearing.  If, by chance, the weatherman predicts a late frost, I’ll cover up the tomato plants.  We’ve had a few nights below 32, but those temps haven’t done much to the flower beds or potted plants.

Anyway, having the photos here makes a way to keep a record and we’ll see how the garden grows!

Wintery Day Is Just Right To Stay Inside and “Chill”

Morning greetings of winter white out the door--Lyons, Kansas.

Morning greetings of winter white out the door–Lyons, Kansas.

Just like family get-togethers and exchanging presents, snowstorms seem to be a tradition of every Christmas holiday visit I make back to my home state of Kansas.  This morning we woke up to a couple inches of the white stuff on the ground, with even more swirling around in the air.  The snow itself made for a pretty scene outside, but the cold blast of 7 degrees when I opened the door was more than what I’d call “brisk.”

The first thing I had to do was sweep a path on my sister’s patio and then out on the grass for Annie to take a “go.” Finally, she did, at lightning speed.

With the snow still coming down most of the day and the cold wind zipping at the skin, other than re-sweeping the doggy paths, I haven’t wanted to venture out.  It was just the kind of day to keep the house cozy by using the oven to cook up the pork roast and sauerkraut we got yesterday in preparation of a cold day.

Tonight the forecast is for 5 degrees, but I’m sure that the blankets and quilts on the bed will keep me–and Annie–warm.

Swept paths for a little dog to make a quick run outside.

Swept paths for a little dog to make a quick run outside.

Annie stays near--or on--a warm lap on these cold days.

Annie stays near–or on–a warm lap on these cold days.

Tis the Season To Dig Out and Decorate

The mantle is fiilled with Santas and other shiny treasures.

The mantle is fiilled with Santas and other shiny treasures.

I don’t know why the Christmas decorations are put away in so many different places: some in the guest bedroom closet, some in the big closet under the stairs, and others out in plastic bins in the garage.  Well, yes,  I do know why.  When it’s time to put them away, they end up in the place that’s most convenient to get to at the moment.

Outside light crawl up the skinny tree trunks and cover the holly bushes.

Outside light crawl up the skinny tree trunks and cover the holly bushes.

Like most everyone else on my street, I started to put up the outside lights and other yard ornaments the day after Thanksgiving.  Our little cul-de-sac street is the most well-lit of the neighborhood.  I like to take it all in a couple times every evening when I take Annie out.  I’ve pulled out the pieces for the mantle bit by bit; some haven’t been up there for a couple of years.  The tree is still well-lodged at the back of the closet under the stairs.  It may just stay there this year as it is a big task to put up and load with all the red ornaments.  I love it, but as I haven’t made plans for any celebrations at home, it may not be worth it this year.  There’s a smaller tree that can be pulled out and lit up, which can go at the top of the stairs.

The best reason to have a mantle is to have a place for Santas.

The best reason to have a mantle is to have a place for Santas.

The decorations add to the flavor of the season, but as I look around my living room, because the room is already furnished mostly in golds and reds, it has a Christmasy feel all year round.

Chocolate Bar Nostalgia On My Birthday

When I was a kid, on my birthday, I'd get to take a box of Hersey candy to school to distribute to my classmates and teacher.  All these years later, I decided to try a repeat and pass them out to all the others at work.

When I was a kid, on my birthday, I’d get to take a box of Hersey candy to school to distribute to my classmates and teacher. All these years later, I decided to try a repeat and pass them out to all the others at work.

New Chilean Singer Neven Jogs a Mind Trip Back to the Land of “Tren al Sur”

There was a day when the few things I knew about Chile came from 80s-90s band Los Prisioneros, and their hit Tren al Sur and its accompanying video were perhaps the spark that drew me to travel to that  South American country for the first time only a few years after the dictator Pinochet was out of power.  Meeting Chilean friends via the internet really made it all happen in 1995, and then again 5 years later.  Once there, I was intrigued by the beauty of the Pacific coastline paralleled by the snaking range of the Andes mountains and volcanos, which runs the length of the country, and even more so by the kind, soft-spoken people (though I was, and still am, perplexed by the obvious political riff among these same people).

In Chile, I made it as far south to the city of Puerto Montt and the nearby gaelic-feeling island of Chiloe.  I took the bus, not the tren al sur, but it was very much one of the best tourist adventures of my life.  In more ways than one, this video and music still take me there.

I have such a place in my heart for Chile that I’m still ready to have a visit with anyone from there whom I might meet who has made his way up here to Houston.  Likewise, I keep myself informed about what’s happening there, at least that of significant importance.  I don’t hear much music out of Chile these days, maybe because most of my music listening time comes via  SiriusXM radio during my daily commutes.  Somehow, though, by clicking here and there on Twitter, I came across Neven (@Nevenilic).  His style of music might not be exactly the type I hear on my radio most of the time–it’s sort of Justin Timberlake-esque.  What’s more he’s not bad on the eyes.  There’s a brand new video of his most recent outing After Party, but I like even better una que salio´ last year called Bad.  Neven, not to mention the videos, is still a little raw, but he’s got the voice and talent.  Maybe we’ll be hearing more of him here in the U.S.

Take a look and listen. First, comes Bad: 

And now After Party: 

Ryan Dolan’s Got a New Tune and Video: “Fall to the Floor”–You Might Shoulda Oughta Listen

OK, so I’m in a rebellious grammar sorta mood tonight (when you’re supposed to be correct all day, you get that way). Anyway, my Irish twitter pal has a new song, and the video highlights a story that we don’t see all that often. I think you’re going to like it.