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.

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Winter Is Here: Time To Bring in the Plants and Pour That Cup of Hot Tea

The first, and maybe only, pickings from the winter garden. Perhaps fried green tomatoes will be on the menu soon.

The temperature was right at 70 when I got home from work last evening, but after I let Annie out, I started carting all the potted plants that I could into the garage, knowing that the temperature was supposed to drop dramatically.   I tried to hurry, then walk Annie and put together something for supper, because Monday night is 90210 night.  It was a new episode; sadly without any of Teddy’s coming out adventures, mostly just a show focusing on the girls, in which they went on a yoga/sweat lodge retreat and dug their nails into each other in various ways.

This morning before six, I awoke to mean drops of rain pelting the windows and by the time I headed out it was around 40.  I don’t think it got much higher than that, and the car ourside temp went from 40 down to 34 by the time I reached home, where the thermometer on the back fence already was saying 31.  I dragged a few more plants, which I hadn’t felt so sorry for the previous evening, into the jungle inside the garage, and started to cover the one too big and my precious two tomato plants that I had put in last November. 

With it already getting so cold, I pulled off three of the green tomatoes, realizing that with a night of probably more than 12 hours straight below freezing and several similar days coming, even wrapped in a couple of layers of sheets, dropped cloths, and plastic, it’s doubtful that the plants are going to make it.

Even though I was somewhat bundled up (I know for you people who have real winters my being “bundled up” is relative), I was ready to get inside.  And Annie, having spent the time in the yard, while I was trying to cover the plants and wrap the outside faucets in the blustery north wind, didn’t seem in the mood for any walk either.

Tonight was a night for soup–a duke’s mixture of leftover homemade with a can of Progresso something-or-other tossed in and hot tea.  I rarely drink hot tea these days.  When I was kid on the farm, there were two evening meal drinks:  iced tea, which started its season somewhere in May, and hot tea, which, came along during the cooler football days of the fall.

So after all the outside puttering, and with downstairs being on the cool side with all its windows, tonight was night for hot tea.  

Soup and tea were ready just before seven–just in time to see my Tuesday evening standby, but, alas, no new Glee episodes yet.  They were trying to string us along with the re-run of the “Rocky Horror” episode.  And as good as that one is, I had been primed for something new, so I just switched over to ESPN and had my soup and hot tea along with some NCAA basketball.

Yeah, this is winter in Houston, Texas, and enough winter for me.  Even though hot tea is a nice change now and again, it’s nothing I want on a long-term basis.

Panettone, Plants, and Politics: Enough Alliteration for a Drizzly Day

It’s one of those luxurious Sunday mornings, luxurious but lazy.  Outside it’s a grey, drizzly day, but because tomorrow is a holiday, I’m not feeling the pressure to get things done for the work week ahead.

Two airy loaves of panettone, ready to go into the oven.

Even so, I’ve gotten a lot accomplished already.  I’ve put together panettone dough and have the oven getting heated up so that by the time I get this written, I can go down to the kitchen and put the dough in the pans.  I haven’t made panettone since about this time last year, but I know no one else who makes it, and I’ve made enough adjustments to the recipe (check out my recipe) I originally got from the Joy of Cooking to make this one mine.  I think there will be enough for two loaves:  a big one that I can take to work to share in the break room and a smaller one that I can grab a slice for breakfast on the road or make super-delish French toast next weekend.

Unharmed by the low temperatures earlier in the week, this tomato plant seems to be enjoying the Sunday drizzle.

I’ve also brought in all the sheets that I used to cover potted plants and my tomatoes in the garden.  Though the thermometer read 25° F. one morning when I got up with Annie, most of my plants came out unscathed.  Apparently, the low temperatures didn’t stay long enough to do much damage.  The tomatoes that I set in in

Tiny, new lettuce sprouts peeking through the cool January soil.

January (Can you deal with two prepositions in a row?) seem none the worse for wear, and by the looks, there may be a tomato or two for the plate in a few weeks.  I didn’t cover the pepper plants, so they look somewhat peaked from the cold, but I want to replace them with different varieties in the spring anyway.

It was also a good morning to grind the beans for fresh coffee.  I don’t drink coffee on an every-day basis, but I like a cup from Starbuck’s or freshly brewed at home for a treat.  I’m on my second cup now, and I definitely feel the caffeine.  I doubt whether I’ll take a Sunday afternoon nap today.  In addition to the coffee, I made a nice two-egg omelette filled with fresh pico de gallo–store-bought, but still full of fresh veggie taste.  (I noticed that when I was back home for the holidays that I am not the only one in my family that says “store-boughten” as opposed to the grammatically-correct “store-bought”.  I love the sound of colloquial English and think that “computer-ese” with all its LOLs and other abbreviation is making language much less expressive and more robotic.)

On a different note this pre-MLK Day Sunday, I can’t help but mention (I have to say “mention” or someone may think I’m being vitriolic) how these supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans who got elected in November are really having problems and don’t really seem all that fiscally conservative, let alone, fiscally adept. 

Here in Texas, Rick Perry, who has been governor for 10 years and campaigned on his financial expertise at balancing the budget before last November’s elections, now finds himself facing a $27 billion shortfall for the state.  In my old home state of Kansas, another supposedly fiscal conservative, newly-elected Governor Sam Brownback’s budget is bigger than that of the current one, which was created while Democrats were in the governor’s seat.  According to the Wichita newspaper,  Brownback “proposal increased spending from the state general fund to $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, from $5.7 billion in the current budget.”   In Perry’s case, he has been in the governor’s office since 2000, coming into the position after George W. Bush was elected President.  The problems in the state budget can’t be blamed on Democrats because the legislature is also heavily Republican.  In Kansas, while the previous governor was a Democrat, the legislature has been controlled by Republicans for decades, perhaps since the founding of the state in 1861 (I’ll have to check my history books.)  In both states, the legislatures must approve the states’ budgets. 

Whether Republican or Democrat, these days we really need some people in office in our state that have some business sense, and are fiscally adept.  Just saying you are fiscally conservative doesn’t really make a state more fiscally sound.

Mmmm.  Now the smell of baking panettone is wafting up my stairway.  I’d better go check on those goodies!

And here they are! Don't they look tempting right out of the oven?

Cold Weather Comes to Houston: Bad for Tender Plants, But So Good for Blue Fleece Pants and Brand New Sheets

So there’s always someone who goes out at 9:15 in 33-degree weather in their blue fleece pants to take a photo of covered-up tomato plants.  And that’s the back end of a little dog, there, on the right.

It’s cold other places, I know, but when the thermometer dips down below 30°F., it’s darn cold for us here in Houston. 

Right now (9:15 PM C.S.T), it says it is 33° on my thermometer out on the back fence, and it is supposed to be both 27° tonight and tomorrow night.  I know that isn’t so cold for most places, but it’s kind of like getting to the single digits or something in the way it feels here.  I’ve covered the most of my plants as well as I can and put a few in the garage.  I have the majority of my potted ones up against the back of the house and tonight covered.  I’m hoping I’ve covered the tomato plants well enough for them to make it and glad that nothing that I planted on New Year’s Day has peeked through the ground yet.

 I bundled up and got Annie into her pink coat for our walk.  She was frisky in the beginning, but we were both ready to run inside when we got back home.

In some ways the cold is both invigorating and a stimulus for hibernation.  I’ve been leaning toward the direction of hibernation, not really wanting to think too much about the horrible events last Saturday in Tucson.

I returned an item that I had purchased in December to Macy’s, took advantage of the January white sales, and got a really good set of sheets.  Freshly laundered to get the sizing out, they’ve made the bed just the perfect den for hibernation.