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.

Hakurei Turnips: First Garden Take of the Spring

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Two or three warm days make it feel like spring is here.  The grass is noticeably greening up.  Even here in southeast Texas, where the temps normally come back up after a few cold days of cold, we’ve had a long winter of bundling-up.  I know our mostly in-the-50s days and down-in-the-30s nights are not that bad compared to those in some other parts of the country.  I spent a good many years lasting through cold Kansas winters, so I can appreciate not having to scrape windshields and scoop off driveways these days.

The below 30s and accompanying freezing rain and sleet we did have on a couple of occasions have interfered very little with the veggies that I planted at the end October out in the small garden behind the garage.  The perky leaves of the mix of greens and the glistening tops of the carrots and turnips seem to be almost showing off here in the middle of February.

The carrots and the traditional purple top turnips probably won’t make for some time, but this next weekend I intend to cut a batch of the greens for a wilted salad.  This evening, though, I couldn’t resist pulling up four of the Hakurei turnips.  Right now, some are about the size of a big radish.  They are sweet and crunchy with just a little bite, as I verified by munching them down once they were washed and the tops nipped off.

I get most of my seeds on line from Johnny’s Seeds.  I don’t mind giving them a plug because I’ve gotten the seeds very quickly and the packs are a lot fuller than those you get at the big box stores.

I’m eating a lot of store-bought veggies these days, but it’s sure fun to have a bit of the home-grown taste of these turnips.

Stitchin’ Time at the 2013 GHQG Quilt Show

This bright, geometric design garnered one of the prizes at the GHQG 2013 Quilt Show.

This bright, geometric design garnered one of the prizes at the GHQG 2013 Quilt Show.

In the midst of three-digit heat, I headed out to the Stafford Center in Stafford, Texas to meet my niece to take a gander at the 2013 show of the Greater Houston Quilt Guild.  This year’s theme for the biannual affair was “Gone to Pieces.”

Though I’ve attended the huge Houston International Quilt Festival many times, the guild show was just the ticket to enjoy a couple of hours of looking at members’ exhibits and vendors’ booths filled with fabric, notions, and all other things “quilt”.

While many entries at the “big” Houston quilt show can be out of my league in what I might attempt in quilt making, most of the exhibits at the local guild show serve more as inspiration to get me back into  creating something from all the containers of fabric upstairs.

Here are some of the show entries that caught my eye:

This group quilt was one of my favorites.

This group quilt was one of my favorites.

This close-up shows all the hard work that went into making this group quilt.

This close-up shows all the hard work that went into making this group quilt.

Unique, cupcake quilt, deliciously put together.

Unique, cupcake quilt, deliciously put together.

This close-up reveals some of the intricacies of piecing and stitching.

This close-up reveals some of the intricacies of piecing and stitching.

Colorful and detailed umbrella quilt.

Colorful and detailed umbrella quilt.

Hand-painted blocks represent a garden during each month of the year.

Hand-painted blocks represent a garden during each month of the year.

“Pride Unleashed” at LGBT Parade 2013; Hundreds of Thousands* Celebrate in the Houston Heat

One of the colorful entries of Pride Parade 2013--the theme this year was "Pride Unleashed."

One of the colorful entries of Pride Parade 2013–the theme this year was “Pride Unleashed.”

Record heat hit Houston on Saturday, but that didn’t deter the largest crowds I’ve seen in almost 30 years of attending this city’s gay pride parade.

Last year, I passed on heading back into the city for a sixth commute of the week, only to fight the heat and the parking.  I just needed to get back this year to be part of the throngs of kindred spirits.

Putting on cool clothes and filling a small backpack with my camera and bottles of water, I set off out into the 107 degree heat.  After picking up a friend on the way, I headed down to the old Montrose neighborhood, where I had spent many of years in Houston, and site of the pride festivities.

I knew that the crowd would be large when I couldn’t find a parking place anywhere near my preferred area.  We finally found a space, got our gear together, and walked further than sensible people should walk in over-100-degree heat.

My perception was that the crowds were about the most diverse that anyone might find any place in Houston.  And while the attendees at the parade 2 years ago seemed about half gay-half straight, the ratio this year appeared much greater in the gay direction.  That might be because of positive decisions that just came out of the Supreme Court only a few days ago.

The parade got going even before the stated 8:15 start time and even finished before 10 but seemed to have as many entries and as much excitement as previous years.

The photos that follow give only a taste of the evening; the Houston Chronicle has a good page up that highlights a lot of days festivities.

*The Houston Chronicle reports that more than 400,000 attended this year’s event.  This is sure to be a Houston Pride Parade record.

The diversity among us--parage attendees applauded entries,, screamed for beads, and celebrated throughout the evening.        They have to be, though, some of the best behaved hundreds of thousands of people around.

The diversity among us–parage attendees applauded entries,, screamed for beads, and celebrated throughout the evening. They have to be, though, some of the best behaved hundreds of thousands of people around.

As the crowds of spectators await, HPD heads down Westheimer, leading of Pride Parade 2013.

As the crowds of spectators await, HPD heads down Westheimer, leading off Pride Parade 2013.

The pride of Houston's LGBT community--Mayor Annise Parker (left) and her partner, Kathy Hubbard.

The pride of Houston’s LGBT community–Mayor Annise Parker (left) and her partner, Kathy Hubbard.

PFLAG--one of the wonderful ally groups that have been supporting for years.

PFLAG–one of the wonderful ally groups that have been supporting for years.

Pride2013 Diana

Rolling down Westheimer.

Rolling down Westheimer.

Houston Fire Department "represents".

Houston Fire Department “represents”.

There was no lack of the rainbow colors.

There was no lack of the rainbow colors.

Just one of the many attractions to be found on parade evening.

Just one of the many attractions to be found on parade evening.

Totally representing the parade's theme of "Pride Unleashed."

Totally representing the parade’s theme of “Pride Unleashed.”

There was no shortage of commercial groups taking part in the parade.

There was no shortage of commercial groups taking part in the parade.

Even Without Much Rain, Delicious Veggies Coming from the Garden

Another evening's garden pickings: lettuce, peas, turnips, and a few green onions.

Another evening’s garden pickings: lettuce, peas, turnips, and a few green onions.

On this last day of the month, another front came through this afternoon bringing in a cool spring wind from the north, but March is hardly “going out like a lion.”  Though we’ve had other storms come through, not much precipitation has come with the wind.

Despite the lack of much rain, the little garden behind the garage has been producing fresh vegetables for supper.  The turnips, especially, have been delicious, whether raw or cooked.

The beans I’ve planted haven’t come in very well, and i don’t know whether I will fill in with more.  In reality, fresh, store-bought beans taste pretty good, and there’s no bending over to pick them.

Green peas and turnips sautéed with some bits of green onion, all fresh from the garden, make for a delicious veggie dish for supper.

Green peas and turnips sautéed with some bits of green onion, all fresh from the garden, make for a delicious veggie dish for supper.

Third Month of the Year Marches in with Bright Skies and Cool Temps

Now that I've gotten the plants in the bay window cleaned up, this pink African violet can peek back into the kitchen.

Now that I’ve gotten the plants in the bay window cleaned up, this pink African violet can peek back into the kitchen.

This first March weekend breezed in trying to pull the remaining leaves from the oak trees, but not quite succeeding at the task.  Saturday morning, I was out early in the front

The first full pea pods of the season hang from the plants; it's too bad there aren't enough plants for a good picking.

The first full pea pods of the season hang from the plants; it’s too bad there aren’t enough plants for a good picking.

The first tomato of this spring grows from a plant that made it through the winter.

The first tomato of this spring grows from a plant that made it through the winter.

yard once again raking up more of those leaves and clean up the curb; however, the brisk north wind kept me from doing a very good job.

With the invigorating weather, I’ve finished up other house and yard chores, and now have meat loaf and butternut squash in the oven, cooking away for Sunday lunch and for leftovers for the coming week.

Now, except for a run out to the store and post office, I can sit back for the rest of the day.

Sunday Sunshine Makes for a Good Day To Spend Time Puttering in the Garden

These are some of the vegetables planted in November; in comparison to the lush growth of the turnip leaves, the carrots are coming up sparsely.

These are some of the vegetables planted in November; in comparison to the lush growth of the turnip leaves, the carrots are coming up sparsely.

Yesterday was the perfect day to be outside; even with the breeze, the sunshine warmed up my face from the cooler air inside the house.  I set about trying to clean and organize  my veggie garden out back of the garage.

The three short rows of turnips are spreading out their thick leaves, and I think I might have glimpsed a bit of white root that is starting to be a turnip.

After last year’s poor showing, I was against planting English peas again, but somehow I did it, and the spindly plants are trying to pull themselves up the trellises by their tendrils, despite their lack of a real affinity for climbing (unlike the pole beans, who really get it).   The peas’ real talent comes in the sweet white blooms they produce.  Even so, when the time arrives, I can never pick enough pods of the little green balls to get more than a handful or two to throw into some soup.   I couldn’t imagine trying to grow enough of these fragile plants to collect enough to fill a bowl for a family meal.

Back in November when I put in the turnips and peas, I also planted a mix of lettuce, Texas onions (which are supposed to make bulbs, and not just get to the scallion stage before the heat burns them up). and carrots.  These are all doing their best although they have an ongoing contest with the ever-eager chickweed, which wants to grow anywheere it can in early spring.  I tried to help out the young vegetable by getting on the gloves and pulling out the chickweed and occasional nasty nettle, but it wasn’t an easy task because in the midst of all the vegetable plants and weeds are at least 30 volunteer tomato plants, which have sprung from the compost I had tilled into the soil.  Because a number of the tomatoes I had last year were heirlooms and so tasty, I’m leaving some of the bigger ones in the ground where they are and digging up and temporarily potting others to pass along to friends.  The remaining ones will have to be either pulled up with the chickweed or hoed under.

These volunteer tomato plants are trying to get acclimated to pots after being plucked  from their crowded space in the garden.

These volunteer tomato plants are trying to get acclimated to pots after being plucked from their crowded space in the garden.

My potting table at the back door is not so convenient to the garden itself but is just the right place to be the landing place for sprinklers, empty pots, and any other outside necessity.  Right now, the table is also crowded with a couple of pots as an experiment of container lettuce, a number of the tomato orphans from the garden, and the starting homes flowers that I hope will grow from the seeds given to me for Christmas that came from my niece and nephew’s Kansas garden.  We’ll see which can take this southeast Texas humidity.

When I arrived home from work this evening, the plants and flowers all over the entire yard and garden stood perky and were still glistening from the .30 inches of rain that had fallen in the late afternoon.  Like other rains  over the past few weeks , the amount of rainfall was small but is enough to keep the ground moist.