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!

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It’ll Be Hot in More Ways than One: Pride Houston 2013

pride-2013-fotoSaturday’s temps are to be near or at 100, but Houston’s Pride Celebration 2013 is sure to be even hotter!  The theme this year is “Pride Unleashed”.

The pride festival, with booths and entertainment, starts at 1 PM very near the corner of Montrose and Westheimer.

Parade goers might get a bit of a respite from the heat as Houston’s unique night time event begins at 8:15, heading down Westheimer from near Dunlavy Street.  With this past Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling knocking down DOMA and getting marriage equality back on track in California, it’s likely that the number of attendees will be even greater than the approximately 325,000 from previous years.

Look for much more about Houston Pride here.

Nothing Like Mom’s Noodle Recipe and Old Breadboard To Warm Up a Chilly Day and Evoke Memories

Cut homemade noodles sprinkled out on Mom's old breadboard to dry--though because of the humidity, they never really dried, once cooked they were no less delicious.

Cut homemade noodles sprinkled out on Mom’s old breadboard to dry–though because of the humidity, they never really dried, once cooked they were no less delicious.

A whole chicken slow cooks with onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to produce the broth for the chicken noodle soup.

A whole chicken slow cooks with onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to produce the broth for the chicken noodle soup.

(This is my first blog post in a long time and the first one that I’ve written on my MacBook Air.  It wasn’t as much of a problem as I had anticipated.  Actually, it was no problem at all.  Photos load from my camera to the Air easily and working with the WordPress template was very intuitive.  I can’t say the same about trying to post from my Acer netbook.)

Cool, grey days with dampness that demands fuzzy slippers–this is about as wintery as it gets here in southeast Texas, but it’s just the weather to cozy up the house with the smell of homemade soup.

To make the broth, I chopped up onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and dumped it all in the bottom of a crockpot.  Then I placed a whole chicken in on top of the veggies, sprinkled on some poultry seasoning, finally pouring about half a cup of brine from the jar of Greek olives (no other salt), and set the pot to slow cook.

Later in the day, I dug out my mom’s noodle recipe.  I remember watching my mom roll out the wide, thin circles of noodle dough, then hanging them over the tea-towel covered backs of the kitchen chairs to dry for awhile.  Then she’d layer the noodle circles, roll them into a tight cylinder, and begin slicing off the noodles with a big knife.  After the noodles were all cut, Mom would sprinkle them loosely all over the breadboard, which she had already used to roll out and slice off the noodles.

One of the treasures that made it to my house after my mom passed away was that breadboard.  It had set in my sister’s garage for some time, and nobody else wanted it.  I dig it out every time I make bread or roll out pie dough even though the counter would work just as well.  Thus, the breadboard is just the thing to bring together memories and the aroma of cooking chicken.

Probably because of the Houston humidity (unlike dry Kansas air), even with hanging them over chairbacks, my noodles never dried very much.  Consequently, once rolled up, they were difficult to slice very thinly, so after I put them in the bubbling broth, they swelled much wider than those my mom always made, which was usually just about a quarter-inch wide.  Nevertheless, the resulting tasty chicken noodle soup brings both warmth and memories to the kitchen and more than satisfies my tongue and tummy.

Noodles (Mom’s recipe)

4 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. oil

1 3/4 cup flour

Knead & let stand 20 to 30 minutes.  Roll on floured board. Cut into strips. 

New Little Camera Given Its First Test on the Dog Walk

Right out of the box--a none-too-big one at that--my M532 is a cool blue. The pic was taken with my old camera, a Nikon P100.

I used to have a good little digital camera which I used for photos on my blog.  It was a nice touch-screen gadget, but after a bounce or two on the ceramic tile floor, “it no worky good.”  When I looked for a replacement, I thought I’d better myself and went for a bigger Nikon–not one of those PROfessional type ones, but definitely too big for a jeans pocket.  I like the Nikon (P100); I even took a class to learn a bit more.  Even so, I missed having a camera I could carry with me anywhere, and, I just use my cell phone as a phone.  I know it can take photos, but I’ve never been into using it that way.  So, I’ve  been hankering for awhile for another small camera.

The other day Best Buy had an online sale, and I saw this Kodak M532 would be coming down to $59.99 that night.  There’s a Best Buy store just down the road, so I decided to go there to check out the instore pricing, but they don’t stock that camera; however, cameras with similar specs of other brands were significantly higher, so when 12:00 AM came around, I hit the “buy” button.

This afternoon, after doing some other running-around (yeah, I still have a few vacaction days left), I spied the small box on my front porch, where the UPS driver had left it.  Multi-tasker, I am not, but I opened the box as I munched on a late KFC combo (late–I mean the time, not as in “dead”), all the while trying to keep track a break-up lawsuit on The People’s Court (I’ve got to get my fill of daytime TV before I go back to work).

When dog-walk time came, I got Annie leashed up for our usual walk around then neighborhood and stuck the little Kodak in my pocket.  On the way, I took a few shots, and here are the results.  Though, the small lens does have some limitations, I like the clarity of the pictures.  For 60 bucks, this camer was a good buy, maybe not best buy, though I did buy it at Best Buy.  (Yeah, lotsa people get a little punchy at midnight, which is what it is right now.)

Annie at the top of the stairs debates about going for a walk. (This photo makes me wonder about the flash on this little Kodak.)

This is only a small part of the agapanthus in my favorite yard of the neighborhood. I like my own yard, but there is still a lot of work to do before it can compete with this one.

When you look at the people, my neighborhood appears very diverse, but no matter the ethnicity, many seem very conservative.

On short walks, these crape myrtles at the entrance of the subdivision are our destination. They are at their best with the heat of summer.

A Sunday Drive: In Search of Bluebonnets

Barely out of the car, Annie is panting in the hot sun at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. These were some of the few bluebonnets we encountered.

Having finally accomplished the long-put-off doing of my income taxes before noontime, and with the yard and garden work already finished for the weekend, I coaxed Annie into the car and off we headed out 290 in quest of bluebonnets.

The bluebonnet is the the Texas state flower, and for a few weeks in spring, the roadsides and pastures can be ablaze in color from the bluebonnets and other wildflowers, especially the Indian paintbrush

Without seeing a glimpse of a bluebonnet, we drove as far as the quaint, old town of Chappell Hill and turned onto a side road.  This asphalt lane, like so many other roads in the Texas Hill Country, seems to be filled with natural beauty and history.  It never ceases to amaze me how on one piece of land you’ll see a humble dwelling that probably was once a share-cropper’s house, and then, not even a quarter mile down the road, a 6 or 7 figure “swankienda” stretches out into the acreage.  But these, along with the green meadows and wooded creeks, make for a drive that forces you to go at a speed slower than that of Granny going to church.

After about 50 miles of driving, a small, hillside field showed off its indigo glory, but the cars and motorcycles that were already stopped left no place to pull over and try to take pictures of a small dog romping amongst the bluebonnets.

So on we went a few miles, and ended up at Washington, Texas, which is the place where the Texas Declaration of Indepedence from Mexico was signed.  Many years ago, a big part of the area was made into the Washington-on-the-
Brazos State Park
.  It’s really a wonderful place, not too overdone with the history part.  There’s a museum and a visitors center, but there are also places to picnic and lots of trails to walk and discover the history as well as nature’s beauty.

With a 92-degree south wind pushing at us, a maybe mile-long walk was about enough to do in a guy and a little dog.  I’d brought water for her, which she lapped up when we got back to the car, but after getting the AC going, I began looking for a convenience store to find a cold drink for myself.

We did find some bluebonnets in the park, but either it’s still a bit early or the drought has caused the bluebonnets to suffer this year.  Whatever.  We had a good day on our quest, finding more than the flowers.

Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. This looks like a replica to me; maybe some of the boards are original.

Some of the flowering plants growing along the pathways. The pinkish-purple appears to be a native verbena. The white blossoms on the other plant were pretty, but the stem looked very prickly.

The park has many trails to wander, some along the Brazos River. Here and there, youll find informational signage, telling about the history of the site, but these signs do not interfere with just enjoying the tranquillity of the area.

Pieces of history, like this old water well, are evident throughout the park, but because the park has not been "over-developed", the visitor can almost feel like he is discovering artifacts.

Located outside of the state park, current-day Washington, Texas holds hardly more than some kind of eatery and a post office.

Delhi Commonweath Games: Matthew Mitcham Gets Silver in 1-Meter Springboard, Looks Forward to Wednesday

Only because of listening to the BBC on KUHF ( Houston’s local public radio station) in the morning on my way to work did I hear about the Commonwealth Games 2010, taking place in Delhi, India.

Diving Determination--Matthew Mitcham at the Dehli Games (SMH photo)

The event is a sports competition among many of the countries which were once under the control of the British crown and takes place every four years.  The sports include many of those seen at the Olympics, but some appear to be those that would go with a “spot of tea”, like cricket and lawn bowling.

I was curious to see if Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s gay diving sensation, would be taking part, and, indeed, he is.  In fact, in today’s 1-meter springboard, he took the silver medal to Canada’s Alexandre Despatie. Mitcham will compete again on Wednesday in the 10-meter platform, the event which put his name on the map with the Olympic Gold Medal win in 2008 in Beijing.

Update (Wed. Oct. 13th):  Matthew Mitcham finished second in the 10-meter platform dive to England’s 16-year-old Thomas Daley.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian “scored 509.15 points to claim his fourth silver of the Games and finish shy of 16-year-old world champion Tom Daley (538.35 points), whose sublime performance included one dive that earned perfects 10s across the board.”

Watch Matthew in a promo for the Dehli games:

Why, Oh, Why Did These Two Have To Die?

The news was not good today.  An article in this morning’s Houston Chronicle hit me hard.  At only 13 years old, Asher Brown, a middle school student in the Cy-Fair school district in which I live took his own life, probably as a result of his being bullied because he was thought to be gay.  Then only minutes later I see in a breaking news article that there is a shooter somewhere on the campus of UT-Austin.

What is it in a young boy that would cause him not to want to live?  What’s happened to schools?  His parents said they had been reporting the bullying to school officials and nothing had been done.  I looked up the district’s safety pledges for students, and they seem to be good ones.

From the Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D. Student Code of Conduct 2010-2011:

Secondary Safety Pledge
Recognizing that every student has the right to a safe environment where everyone is treated with respect:

  • I understand that I have an essential role in school safety and violence prevention.
  • I will immediately report any threats of violence, suicide, presence of weapons, explosives or drugs to school administrators, allowing them to investigate and determine the seriousness of the report.
  • I will do all I can to stop harassment of others.
  • I will promote the acceptance of individual differences, recognizing that diversity contributes to the strength of my school.

What the school did to prevent this situation, we don’t know.  What kind of home life this boy had we don’t know.  What we know is that this boy used a gun that he got from his step-father’s closet.

Then in Austin, we find out that the shooter, Colton Tooley, used an AK-47 to kill himself in one of the libraries on campus.

Why are guns so easily accessible to kids?  Why does any private person need a gun like an AK-47 or bigger?

I’m not against having guns.  But why do some people need so many guns?  Why does anyone except for the military or a S.W.A.T. team need large automatic or semi-automatic weapons?   Estimates say that “there are about 80 million gun owners in America with a combining total of 258 million guns.”   That means that the average gun owner has 3 guns, but I’m betting that many of these 80 million just have 1 gun, and about 25% have a lot more than 3 guns.  Our population is about 350 million people, so if there are 260 million private guns out there;  that’s still more than enough for each adult to have one if the guns were just divvied up.  (Make note that the powerful anti-gun control lobbying group, the NRA (National Rifle Association) has only 4.3 million members.)

I know you could never take guns away from gun owners, but what could be done is put a moratorium on the manufacture of guns for a couple of decades.  We really just don’t need any more guns being made.  There are enough.

What there aren’t enough of are details in either case to lay direct blame for these tragedies.  One thing is certain, though, when a 13-year old and a 19-year-old find reason to take their own lives and have such easy access to guns, it seems like we do not live in a very nice country.