Saturday Morning Bits and Pieces, But the Rain Gauge Is Back in Place (With Even Some Rain in It)

Another magnificent jungle cactus bloom--just the thing to spark up a drab July.

Here we are at the end of July, and this is only my second post of the month.  Blame it on the heat.  (“Don’t blame it on the bossa nova.“)  It’s been that kind of month; one that has seemed to drag on, maybe because it has days in six different weeks.

Our temps here in the Houston area haven’t been so far out of range, like in some places.  However, they have been about 5-6 degrees hotter on most days than the low 90s that we usually have most summer days.  Also, the spring and summer have been very dry this year.  Now, though, the spotty, summertime showers that come in from the gulf seem to have returned.  Here at my house, there has been some sort of shower each of the last four days.  How much Tropical Storm Don has played in this, I don’t know, for, in general, that storm has been pretty much of a bust.

Because of these recent showers, I finally remembered to replace my rain gauge.  The previous one fit into that category:  “they don’t make’m like they used to.”  With the new glass tube in place, I can report that here near Huffmeister and 529, we had .20 of an inch of rain early this morning.

Obviously, the plants respond to the rainwater much better than that out of the hose.  However, I’ve kept the tomato plants alive, and if August doesn’t burn them up, they might produce some fall fruit.  The plants in the flower beds and pots are holding their own for the most part.  The July highlight was the second bloom ever on one of the jungles cactuses (epiphyllum).  This time I saw the bud the evening before.  I looked before I went to bed, but it still had not opened, but there in the morning, when Annie and I went out to the yard just before daybreak, there it was, fully opened.  At that early hour, this bloom was still pristine, unlike the first one in June that was starting to wilt, as it was already becoming light when I discovered it.  It’s such a pity that the life of these beautiful blooms is so fleeting.

With all this heat, stay inside with the A.C. is about all one wants to do.  It’s kind of like what winter forces upon people in some places.  Anyway, it’s gotten me in the mood to start a new quilt, something I haven’t done in a long time.  I’m piecing it by hand.  I’ll do a bit of “show and tell” as it gets a bit further along.

Looking out further afield, I’m happy that the certification of the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been done, pleased that marriage equality has come to New York (now to overturn DOMA), and dismayed that all those people who got elected to congress to help improve the jobs situation are so stubborn (no, “stubborn” is too mild of a word) that they would send the county on its way to ruin, rather than move one inch to compromise.  (They should have a lit M-80 stuck in their pieholes.  No, sorry, wrong hole.)

It’s Saturday morning.  The coffee in the cup is cold now.  Annie is happily chewing on a sparerib bone.  It’s not even nine quite yet.  Still a lot of the day to look forward to (Sometimes only fragments will do.)

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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is No More; President Signs Repeal into Law, Today, December 22, 2010

President Obama signs law repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on December 22, 2010

“It’s a great day,” stated the President, and, indeed it is a great day. 

I got up at Annie’s regular going-out time, and even though I have the day off, I did not head back for the coziness of the bed.  I flicked on the TV, looking to find which network might have coverage of the signing ceremonies.  MSNBC, as would be expected, started showing the event at 8:00 AM (CST), but then by chance, I found even more direct coverage via whitehouse.gov.

I’m sure there will be any number of youtube videos up soon if not already of the event, but from a personal point of view, putting off a planned trip in order to watch was more than worth it.

It was definitely emotional to be able to watch the happenings on such a momentous occasion, something I had almost given up on just a couple of weeks ago.  But I was even more impressed by the President’s words before signing the repeal into law (Again look for the youtube video.  I’ll add it here later.)  Today I saw a happiness and a sincerity from the President that I haven’t seen for a long time, probably since the campaign.   The President was truly happy to be able to get this law passed as he had promised, but even more, was happy for the people who had long been affected by the discrimination of DADT.

What this indicates is that this President is going to be a stronger President now despite the results of this past election.  Maybe having a majority in both houses of congress was not the challenge he needed in order to show his strengh.

Today, December 22, 2010, should be remembered as a proud day for all Americans.

(I’m even going to remove the widget on the sidebar asking for people to call congress to lift the ban.)

Incremental Equality, But More Than Just Being Legal; And–Rachel Maddow Interviews “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Victims

Some events are so staggering that they leave an indelible image in our minds of where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news. I remember Kennedy’s death, the Challenger disaster, and 9/11 that way. It seems that it’s the disastrous events that stay embedded in our brains more than those more glorious.

I don’t remember how or where I was when I heard that the Supreme Court had ruled in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003.  I do remember, though, the elation I felt after the highest court in the land’s ruling–for once feeling that I, as a person, wasn’t somehow “against the law” for just being who I was.  I do remember the thud-to-my-gut sensation watching the election returns in 2005 when Texas–like so many Bush-Rove politicked states–voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.  Legal? Yes.  Equal? No.

Therefore, it was with guarded optimism that I watched C-Span this past Saturday, knowing that it was perhaps one of those pivotal moments, with the U.S. Senate voting on the repeal of DADT.  When a cloture vote of 63-33 stopped McCain and his makeup-wearing, Republican cronies from any chance of filibustering, I became more hopeful. 

(Yes, makeup.  I’d be interested in knowing how many of these old southern geezers go to the beauty shop to get their makeup and hair done together so that they can dish with the stylists dolling them up for the cameras.  Are these the same people worrying about the military becoming feminized?)

Before I take too far of a turn here and screech my wheels, Rachel Maddow had a wonderful show with a full live audience yesterday reviewing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in which she had a panel of former and current gay military members:  Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Maj. Michael Almy, Cadet Katie Miller, and Capt. Jonathan Hopkins, who have played a big part in getting the effects of DADT made known, which ultimately helped to get this discriminatory policy overturned.

It’s compelling, so you might want to keep a Kleenex handy just in case.

U.S. Senate Votes To Eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Announcing the vote count of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. Senate.

Today, December 18th, 2010, at 2:30 PM (CST), the U.S. Senate approved the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the 17-year-old law which denied openly gay military members from serving.  The final vote in the senate was 65-31 on the bill which the U.S. House of Representatives had approved by a 250-175 margin earlier in the week.

The bill now is to be signed by the President.  However, both the President and the Pentagon must agree about how and when the measure will actually go into effect.

U.S. Senate To Vote on DADT Repeal; Call Your Senators Today–Easy Access to their Phone Numbers Here

The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in this Lame Duck session.  Senate Majority Leader Reid has called for the Senate to vote on the same legislation on Saturday, December 18th.

It’s time for you to do your part.  Call the senators from your state and tell them to vote for the repeal of DADT. 

Unlike some days, when I have had difficulty getting through to Senator Cornyn’s and Hutchison’s offices, this morning I was immediately able to speak to interns (I assume) who listened to my point of view and probably were tallying those for and against.  Maybe it’s easier to get through because it’s Friday or people are Christmas shopping.  Whatever it is, it seems like today is a good day to call and be heard.

Find the numbers for your senators here.  Just click open that cell phone and call.

A View from the Suburbs: Not All the Dips Are in Washington; Here Are a Couple That Everyone at Your Holiday Festivities Will Want To Socialize With

The counter was filled with recipes, and then later filled with the results.

In less than two weeks Christmas will be here. 

I know that I haven’t posted anything for over a month.  I’ve been bummed by the entire political scene and just haven’t even wanted to write about any of that, but there are many other sites that express my viewpoint (check out my blogroll–“Places I Frequent”–esp. Towleroad and AmericaBlog Gay), so “my two cents” would only be just that.

More than anything, I’ve been busy, and with the time change, it’s usually dark when I arrive home from work, so the evenings seem shorter even though the actual clock time is the same as before.  Then too, there was Thanksgiving and an entire Sunday afternoon putting up a storm door on the backdoor, the continual necessity of sweeping up the acorns, and now the leaves, dropping from the otherwise wonderful oak tree which shades my house and patio.  More recently, another birthday decided to pass my way.

But most of my time has been spent preparing and decorating my house for a holiday open house for my colleagues and friends.  I had never gotten myself together to have a party after I had bought my house and moved in, now more than a year ago.  So as my mom used to say, “It was ‘high time.'”

I think my house looks plenty “Christmasy,” not over-decorated, but something in every part to say “tis the season.”  The dining room window is just the place for the tree, a white one trimmed in red and gold.  (Take a peek at the banner above.)

This was my first big party in years, so, of course, I overdid it.  Every evening for more than a week, I was cooking or baking something–9 pounds of meatballs, a turkey, even a roast made on the barbeque, plus a variety of cookies, a sugar-free fruitcake, queso and chips, some dips, and who knows what else.

I had dug out my recipes, wanting to make things I hadn’t had the chance to for years.  A couple of the dip recipes are even better than I had remembered.  And if you want to try them both, you can make them both, one right after the other, and only have to clean up the food processor once!

This first one is so good it will knock your socks off!

Beau Monde Dip

  • 12 ounces sour cream
  • 12 ounces mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons Beau Monde spice (I used Spice Islands brand)
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh dill (my recipe calls for 2 tbsp. dry dill weed but I think the fresh dill is what makes this dip so good)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dry parsley (I used dry)
  • 1 large unsliced round loaf of pumpernickel rye bread (if you can’t find pumpernickel, any kind of heavy, coarse bread will do)
  • 1 small sliced loaf of pumpernickel rye bread

I used to mix this up in a bowl, but it’s super easy using a food processor.  Put a couple of green onions into the processor and pulse into fine pieces.  Add a generous handful of fresh dill and pulse again.  (If you’re using fresh parsley, pulse it in now.)  Add the sour cream and mayonnaise, then the Beau Monde spice and dry parsley.  Pulse until well mixed and the color is consistent.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Just before your party starts, hollow out the center of the round loaf of bread with a knife to form a “bowl”; be careful not to cut through the bottom of the loaf.  In fact, leave at least a couple of inches of bread on the sides of “the bowl.”  Put the “bread bowl” on a large plate or platter.  Cut or tear the bread removed from the center into pieces to be used for dipping and place them around the bowl.  Cut or tear more pieces from the second loaf for additional bread for dipping. 

Most people love the dill taste and using the bread makes a nice change from chips.

This second dip recipe is a great alternative to traditional guacamole.  Not only is it easy–and tasty–but it will last in your refrigerator for a week and won’t turn brown.

Guacamole Cheese Dip

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pulse the green onions into fine pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

On the Road Home: Pickled Okra, Prop. 8, and Lt. Dan Choi

With the red jalapeño peppers, these pickled okra should have a bite!

Maybe it’s the summer heat, but lately I’ve been having trouble getting any posts written.  The work week evenings just don’t seem long enough, and weekends require getting accomplished all the to-do items that have accumulated through the week.

My best thinking time these days takes place after work as I make the 45-minute or a bit more commute home from downtown Houston out to my corner of the “burbs”.   Though I know my posts can be long-winded,  I thought instead of trying to write longer posts on just one topic, I’d start a new series of posts called “On the Road Home” and give a word or two about several of the topics that are on my mind.  (Keeping it to “a word or two” might be difficult.)  So here goes.

Okra is about all that’s left doing anything in the garden, and more of the plants are starting to produce, so I’ve had nice messes to eat for a couple weeks now.  Now that there are more to gather, I decided to try my hand at making some pickled okra.  With two days’ worth of okra, I have enough for a 1-pint jar.  There have been some trials and errors, but I’m hoping for good results after they’ve set for about 6 weeks.

The judge in California disallowed the ban on gay marriage that was passed in the elections of 2008.  The judge seems to have written a strong decision against the ban, but I’m sure we’re going to hear all kinds of screaming about activist judges and a lot of conservative candidates are going to try to use the ruling as fodder in this fall’s elections.  Rachel Maddow had a good recap on her show this evening.  She had a lot of interesting excerpts from Judge Walker’s decision.  Link to the entire decision here.

Actually, the raison d’etre for this new series of posts was what I caught on the radio this evening “On the Road Home.”  Usually, I switch around on the 6 eclectic stations I’ve got locked in, and tonight after making one of the switches,  I caught Democracy Now interviewing Lt. Dan Choi, the army officer, who has just been kicked out of the army based on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for admitting that he is gay.  I was totally impressed by his elequence and convictions.  Also, this interview shows him from quite a few different angles, not just an activist.  I was listening, but click here for the article and video of the interview, starting about the 9-minute point.