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.)

The World Keeps On Turning, But Step Back and Enjoy a Great Springtime Dish–Wilted Lettuce

Freshly made wilted lettuce, ready to be placed in the salad bowls

With the time change adding an extra hour of sunlight after I get home on work days and all the tending to yard and garden on the weekend, posting on here hasn’t been something that I’ve had much time for recently.

There have been topics, on which I might have commented:  the tragedy of the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan, the Middle East protests and struggles, the Republican-majority legislatures in a number of states trying to take away workers’ rights and block gay rights even more, and also the sad death of  Elizabeth Taylor, whom I respected and thought of as my favorite actor, (but I did comment here in a previous post).  However, there’s a therapeutic effect that comes from working in the dirt and cutting tree limbs and grass that has seemed to assuage the necessity to voice much of my opinion on these topics.

With spring leaf lettuce abundant in the garden, I cut enough for a salad every day.  Usually, I add store-bought cucumber, tomotoes, or peppers to the daily pickings to the freshly washed green leaves, but when I have a bit more time, I like to make wilted lettuce.

We often had wilted lettuce in the spring and early summer when I was growing up on the farm.  I learned to make it “Mom’s way”, which still is quite tasty, but always the one to experiment in the kitchen, I’ve changed it, I’d never say improved it.

Wilted Lettuce

  • 1/2 slice bacon cut into 3/8 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon finely slivered or diced onion
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • leaf lettuce or fresh spinach, about a good handful or two for each person (you’ll have a better idea about the amount of lettuce needed after you’ve made this one time)

(Mom’s version uses just the lettuce, bacon, water, sugar and vinegar)

Heat a medium-sized non-still skillet, and add the bacon and onion, frying until not the pieces are cooked, but not quite crispy.  Add the wine and stir to de-glaze the skillet.  When the liquid it almost cooked away, stir in the sugar.  Add the water and let cook until the liquid is once again almost cooked away.  Then add the vinegar, and turn off the heat.

At this point, there are two choices of ways to dress the lettuce.  One way is to already have the lettuce leaves placed in a bowl (on the farm making wilted lettuce in the wooden bowl was obligatory), and then pour the hot dressing over the lettuce and toss quickly to wilt the leaves.  If the lettuce doesn’t wilt enough, strain off the liquid and reheat in the skillet and add to the lettuce a second time.

If you are making this salad for just one or two people and are not using so much lettuce, you can do the wilting right in the skillet.  Just add the greens into the hot dressing and toss right in the skillet.  I like this method the best because the lettuce gets very wilted.  Use tongs to put the lettuce into salad bowls and pour the remaining dressing over the top.

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?

Finally Someone Has the Cojones To Stand Up to the Crazies at Town Hall Health Care Meetings

This topic hasn’t been one I’ve written much about before, but when I see them on TV, I just wonder what country I am living in. How did so many get so crazy and so uninformed that they will say anything, especially the completely disrespectful slogans and images about the President.

Even though many Americans disagreed with Bush’s policies and, in particular, going to war in Iraq and its continuance thereafter, GWB was never treated in such a disrespectful way. I’ve heard conservative pundits and blog writers say the liberals did that to Bush, but I’ve been paying close attention to politics for quite awhile, and if someone can give evidence that Bush was treated in such a way, I’d like to see it.

These people have been angry and now egged on by conservative lobbyist groups, as well as Republicans in Congress, have become more emboldened, even carrying guns to these meetings and protests.

They keep crying out all of the nasty Nazi stuff, but what I see is that they are acting more like some in Germany did pre-World War II, spewing out hatred and vile slogans.

What gets me is how did so many people in this country get to be so dumb and uninformed? If they would just read a bit, they would know that the claims they are making about what the health care bill would do (i.e. promoting euthanasia) are completely beyond the pale.

And when they do go to these town hall meetings, they don’t seem to want really ask questions to find out what the program would do, they just want to be vile and nasty. Some Republicans and other conservatives are praising this, saying that these people are exercising their right to free speech.

It looks to me, though, that these people have been taking lessons from Fred Phelps and his family in being mean and nasty.

I think there are very few people in this country who can look at all this nastiness, and say, “Oh, they make me proud to be an American.”

Proud, no–embarrassed for my country is more like it.

Finally, though, Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts did and said what others should have been doing all along, and many of us have wondered why it hasn’t been done before.

All I can say is, “You tell ’em, Barney!’

Watch it:

New Gallup Poll Just Out Shows a Preference for Blue Over Red When It Comes to Political Party Choices

GallupAn interesting surprise from tonight’s Rachel Maddow Show is a new poll out from Gallup, which is based on people from each state and their political party identification. I’m not going to paraphrase or quote, because if you’re really interested in the relatively short article explaining the poll and its results, just click over to it here at the Gallup site.

There are some results which do surprise me though:

  • The results from this poll are very similar to those of last year.
  • Texas, where I’ve lived for so long, and Kansas, my home state, both of which are traditionally conservative and vote Republican, now show a competitive balance in party association.
  • Oklahoma, which had no (yes, that’s zero) county give a majority of its votes to President Obama in the 2008 election is shown as leaning Democrat.
  • Only five states are shown as strong Republican or leaning Republican.

One thing to note is that according to the article, the survey was taken of adults 18 or older, not necessarily voters.

If you like politics and demographics, take a look and check out where your state and the country stands politically, at least, based on this survey.

And What Will the Conservative Republicans Say Now about Sancti-MOAN-ious Sanford’s Revelations and the Sanctity of Marriage? Come’on Now, We’re All Waiting with Bated Breath

Mr. A-List (that’s A for Adultery), Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina was forthcoming with even more revelations about his relationship with Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentinian woman with whom he has been having an affair. It seems, though, that his current mistress is not the only woman he has been involved with during his marriage to his wife, Jenny. “Oh, what a tangled web . . .” If you’re into the details the South Carolinian newspaper, The State has the most.

Actually, I’m not that interested in what Sanford or other straight people do in bed; it’s just that when so many of them give out this “holier than thou” attitude, laying it on thick about the sanctity of marriage and how gay marriage and homosexuality are just about the worst thing that anyone could be part of, you want to sit there and say, “Hey, Sluggo, maybe you might want to re-think your position on love and who can love whom, and maybe your love isn’t really any different than anybody else’s love.” (Wow, that was a long sentence; I got to take a breath myself.)

Anyway, ya gotta dig these cartoons:

First Church of GOPDevout Christian

And So It Goes–Another “Moral” Republican, Presidential-Hopeful “Goes Down” . . . So To Speak . . . All the Way to Argentina

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, another of the "A-List" Republicans

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, another one of the "A-List" Republicans

“Lost” Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina has come back to the States from Argentina, and upon his return admitted to having an affair with an Argentinian woman whom he had met some eight years ago.  This is the same Republican governor who made such a big fuss over the stimulus package and didn’t want to take money for his state, which in the end the state legislature accepted.

We probably should start making some tick marks on the calendar to see how many weeks in a row, these Republican big-wigs are going to “come out” admitting to breaking some biblical rule.  It was just last week that U.S. Senator John Ensign admitted to having had an affair with an employee, who was also the wife of one of his top aides.

These types are the same ones who rail against gay marriage and espouse the “sanctity of marriage”.

Just once I’d like to hear from any of the bible-beaters and have them show where that book says there is anything wrong with love, either gay or straight.  What I don’t understand is where they get all so quiet and seem like the shyest little girl in the corner, when one of these conservative Republicans breaks one of the 10 commandants from their own holy book.  I mean, one of the 10 commandments; that should be like really a big deal, but they’d rather go on harping, campaigning, and spending money trying to tear down gay people based on a few debatable verses.