EVERYTHING IS BEACHY KEEN

May 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

GALVESTON SEAWALL — We’ve been warned time and again, so we can’t go around yelling, “Why didn’t someone tell us?” To be fair most of us won’t be around to yell that or anything else, but our kids and grandkids will be around, all the while cursing us. Obviously we are discussing all this smelly seaweed piled up on the beach. No, we are talking about Galveston disappearing, Corpus Christi underwater and no more Gulf shrimp cocktails. True, we’ve all heard these sky-is-falling warnings from Nervous Nellys like scientists on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change who recently repeated their warning that global warming is for real and is mostly caused by humans.

On the other hand, presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose home state is on the hit list, said, “By golly, if Republican voters believe human activity has nothing to do with climate change, who am I to disagree?” It’s called “leadership.” We prefer to believe Rush Limbaugh who says global warming is a hoax. He believes that because he lives in a mansion facing the Florida beach.

Yet now comes another group of “experts” with doctorates in climatology and oceanography who work for something called “NASA” or one of those diploma mills called “Rice,” and “the University of California” with newer, exact and startling facts hitting close to home. This latest hand-wringer claims the Antarctic’s melting is now “unstoppable.” All that ice will turn into water and has only one place to go: into the oceans. The rising sea levels, in turn, will cause the loss of coastal communities which is “inevitable.” Well, if this disaster is “unstoppable” and “inevitable,” in the immortal words of one-time Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Claytie Williams, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” (It cost him the election.)

According to stories in the liberal-leaning Houston Chronicle, (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), “Sea level implications are the most important,” said John Anderson, professor of oceanography at Rice University. “We’re already seeing an unprecedented sea level rise acceleration (in the Gulf). It has increased five-fold in the last 200 years.” Conservative predictions put a rise at 2 feet by the end of this century, and Anderson said that could potentially double as the ice sheets melt. If the increase doubles to 4 feet, much of today’s Galveston Island would be under water. This would cause certain problems for beach bums, the city’s Mardi Gras and the government’s flood insurance program. Insurance adjusters would have to use glass-bottom boats. With no more Galveston, where would we go to see the BP oil spills float by? We’ve already lost the Balinese Room; what will happen to Tilman Fertitta’s fajitas? With the estuaries destroyed by sea water, there go my Gulf shrimp cocktails and crab cakes. And isn’t the South Pole Santa’s summer home?

There is a C&W song about selling beach front property in Arizona. That is ridiculous, then again, maybe not, because no one knows just how far inland the Gulf will surge. It is not just Galveston Island that will be flooded. Parts of Corpus Christi, Houston and other places along the Gulf Coast will be hit. Port Waco has a ring, as does the San Antonio Cruise Terminal. Get worried when animals at the Dallas zoo start lining up two by two. Much of New Orleans is already under sea level. “Bartender, make that a Bourbon Street and branch.” Incidentally, do you think the taxpayers of, say, Des Moines ever get tired of bailing out, almost literally, New Orleans and Galveston? Just a thought.

However, to quote “The “Life of Brian,” always look at the bright side of life. Galvestonians won’t have to leave home to be buried at sea. Maybe we could sue Antarctica. How do you like your penguin, fried or sautéed? With pinot grigio or chardonnay? Only part of the western sector of Antarctica is collapsing into the sea. That leaves the east for later. Another plus: just as some people cannot differentiate between stalactite and stalagmite, they are always getting Arctic and Antarctic mixed up. In a few years they won’t have that problem. Advantage us: Five judges of the Texas Supreme Court overturned laws going back to the Spanish — it’s even in the Texas Constitution — and ruled that west Galveston beaches are not public. The judges were Nathan Hecht, Don Willett, Dale Wainwright, Paul W. Green and Phil Johnson. Eventually there won’t be any Galveston beaches to fence off.

Back here on the Galveston seawall, we must recall that this latest gloom-and-doom scenario is nothing new to the BOI (Born On the Island) folks. Everyone knows about the 1900 storm which killed either 5,000, 6,000 or 8,000 people — I’ve read them all. But there have been countless other hurricanes, tropical storms and spring breaks, each leaving behind its own chaos and debris. The latest disaster (but it’s still early in the week) was Ike, whose losses are still being felt, both in property and people. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Galveston had the largest population of any city in Texas. Today it is not even the largest city in Galveston County. League City is bigger. The island almost lost its largest single employer, UTMB (The University of Texas Medical Branch). The med school was so damaged by Ike that there was a proposal to move the giant facility to Austin. Today you see markers on walls, such as at Rudy & Paco restaurant and the Galveston Island Railroad Museum, showing how high the tide surged during Ike.

That NASA report says the Texas shoreline has moved landward nearly 100 miles in the last 20,000 years, and the Antarctic ice sheets will be gone in the next two centuries. That doesn’t give us much time. But who are you going to believe, a panel of climatic and oceanographic scientists or Rush Limbaugh? It doesn’t matter; I suspect at 300 pounds of blubber he’d float.

 

Ashby is underwater at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARE WE HAVING FUNDS YET?

May 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

We have spent a lot of time recently discussing, reading and talking about all the money being raised for the upcoming Texas elections for governor, lite gov, etc. These millions are (pardon the cliche) chump change compared to what will be raised for the 2016 presidential primaries and campaigns, and the rush has already started. It’s all low-keyed right now, of course, but we’d better believe it is happening. This concerns us, and in a moment I shall explain why

First, some necessary background. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United a few years ago opened the door further for campaign financing, ruling that corporations are people. (Where did we hear that?) Now the Supremes have ordained that we can give as much as we want to any candidate and, if you work it right, nobody has to know. You can now pile stacks of $100 bills on the candidates’ desk with the ink still wet. We also have PACs and something called Super PACs which means you can’t directly back a candidate but can sort of hint: The Committee to Support a Former Florida Governor. Or maybe: Texans For a Woman President. Other groups just go with the generic: Americans for a Better America or Citizens Supporting Somebody. As of April 18 of this year,1,001 Super PACs reported total receipts of $157,839,777. Today, when it comes to campaign funding, everything is legal, as I was telling Tom DeLay.

That Citizens United ruling made the 2012 election season the most expensive in American history. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated spending totaled about $6 billion, topping the next most expensive election by $700 million. But the Federal Election Commission calculated dollars spent exceeded the number of people on this planet — about $7 billion by the candidates, their party and deep pockets. Remember the FEC is a toothless campaign watchdog slow to respond to violations. I hear Warren Harding is in hot water.

In that last presidential election, billionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave millions to Newt Gingrich’s GOP primary campaign. When that didn’t pan out, their money went to Mitt Romney. Between Newt and Mitt — now there’s a catchy ticket — the Adelsons gave $90 million (some say it was closer to $100 million) and didn’t have squat to show for it. Maybe owning a string of gambling casinos makes you think your luck will change, because recently a bunch of GOP potential presidential candidates went to Las Vegas to, in effect, be interviewed by the Adelsons, and kiss their rings. There are other big donors in the Republican donation ranks, like the Koch brothers, and many Texans. The Democrats have their own piggy banks — George Soros has given millions. It is impossible today to track who gave how much to whom, but every expert says this next presidential race will be mind-boggling expensive.

Hehehe. This is where you and I come in. We are concentrating our attention on all the money to be raised, but how about how much will be spent? All of it. When Hillary Clinton’s Dem nomination was “inevitable,” her staff reportedly ran up a $25,000 bill in Iowa for one breakfast. Can you flip pancakes? OK, a funny thing happened to Hillary on her way to the Oval Office, but she is back in the race, and well knows how to squeeze funds from Dem heavyweights who yearn for an ambassadorship to Monaco. Meanwhile, if the GOP candidates don’t form a circular firing squad again, their primaries may be less expensive, but still costly. Then comes the big show: the general election. The two candidates will need a leased airplane, tour bus, platforms (the wooden kind), well-stocked bar for the press, car caravans in every city, catering and bodyguards.

Start cozying up to the staffs of Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, or is it Paul Paul and Rand Ryan? Call the offices of other potential candidates like Chris Christie, Mario Rubio, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Warren Harding. That phone call might come in handy later. “We’re gonna stop at East Tumbleweed, Texas. Who was that guy who could get us overalls for Hillary?”

True, none of the candidates will campaign much in Texas because our Electoral College votes are already pledged to the Republican nominee, and everyone in national politics knows Texas is only their campaign’s ATM. They come here for funds, not votes. But why should some faceless Mad Men in Manhattan get all that money to formulate ads, bumper stickers and billboards? Cut in line. Just brainstorming here, but think catchy slogans. Let’s Go Cruz-ing, Eye of Newt, Jeb –The Smart Son, Super Marco, The Donald Can’t Be Trumped, Hillary — the Desperate Housewife. Chris Christie: The Fat Chance.

They call it “oppositional research.” We call a “slime hunt.” Hire on to dig up dirt on the opponents. Go back to their kindergartens, high school proms and genes. If you can’t  find anything sleazy, make it up. “My opponent likes to strangle kittens.” Or: “Ask her about her five ex-husbands.” Once the seed is planted, it’s hard to kill, because some people will believe anything. Can you spell WMD?

The best gig of all is the consultant — someone who borrows your watch, tells you the time and then charges you for the privilege. Since the Romney camp paid millions for advisers and strategists, and Mitt still got beaten by almost 5-million votes, their image is tarnished, and President Hillary’s wise advisers bombed; it’s time for new blood. Consultants can live anywhere, have any job. But when the campaign bell rings, here they come. Get your share. Your business card reads; “I’ve never lost a race.” Don’t mention that you never won one, either. OK, start lining up to line your pockets. Old buddy, there are billions of dollars to be spent starting in just a few months. Learn to flip pancakes.

 

Ashby campaigns for cash at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

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Garden Bounty Banquet, for One

It’s working! I have been breaking off pieces of corn tassels and spanking them against corn silks as they appear. Corn cobs have formed on several stalks.

Corn cobs

Corn cobs

On a lesser note, I went inside for two minutes to get my twins some water. When I came back out they were running around very excited, each holding a green tomato. Drats!

I’ve had many failures in my little plot, but now having some success. Jalapeno and Serrano peppers are in the refrigerator, along with six Bok Choys, a bag of radishes and a few ripe tomatoes (plus two very green ones). Onions are ready to pick and I’ve been pulling them up as needed; the herbs, growing in pots around the elevated garden, are absolutely beautiful. I pulled up four of my five unproductive broccoli plants and threw them into the compost barrel (a new purchase). I noticed the fifth had a crown about the size of a quarter, it has grown to egg size in the last couple of days. One of the two eggplants has a fruit and okra has sprouted and stands about three inches tall. Cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash are blooming and climbing the trellis I put along the back of the garden.

Garden 5/19/14

Garden 5/19/14

 

Flat leaf parsley

Flat leaf parsley

 

 

 

Sage

Sage

Basil

Basil

Mint

Mint

 

 

 

There are 10 pepper plants. So far the Serrano is the workhorse, pumping out nearly 20 peppers. Poblano, Anaheim, habanero and Thai peppers have lots of flowers, little to no fruit. Somehow I ended up with two dragon cayenne plants. One has eight peppers; the other just one. I’m hoping the non-producing plants are just waiting for the summer heat and will over perform in a month or so.

Meanwhile, I’m hungry. My wife is at an event, the boys are in bed; I’m dining solo. There is 1/2 of an uncooked rib-eye, some mushrooms and garden harvest in the fridge. Part of my writing job takes me all over the world, at most stops I meet with chefs who teach me their signature recipes, which I recreate for H Texas‘ Dinner Club section. I draw from lessons I received in Mexico and Tennessee for tonight’s dinner.

 

 

Seared Rib-eye with Bourbon Mushrooms

Ingredients

6-8 ounce steak (choose your favorite cut)

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/8 cup chopped onions

1/8 cup chopped fennel

1 large Serrano pepper- halved

1/2 cup red or white wine

1 shot of Tennessee whiskey

Salt

Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Preheat small, well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat. Season meat with an ample amount of salt and pepper, rub into the meat. Melt butter in skillet, add steak and sear for three minutes. Flip steak and put pan and all into the oven for 3-6 minutes (depending on thickness). remove beef, re-season with salt and pepper and set aside to rest. Put the pan back on high heat, scrape bottom with metal spatula to loosen all bits and juices, add whiskey and cook for 30 seconds. Add veggies and wine and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove lid, turn heat to high and cook until liquid evaporates. Top steak with veggies and enjoy with your favorite adult beverage.

Rib-eye, salt and pepper

Rib-eye, salt and pepper

Sauce Ingredients

Sauce Ingredients

Cook over high heat until liquid evaporates

Cook over high heat until liquid evaporates

THRUST AND PERRY

May 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

To: Gov. Rick Perry

From: Snoop & Peek, PI

Subject: Presidential campaign

Category: Classified!

 

Governor, as your confidential consultants and private investigators, we have drawn up several suggestions, warnings plus information on possible opponents to ensure your election as President. First, a brief look backwards, painful though it may be, at your previous attempt to occupy the Oval Office. You were the darling of the right, then the far right, then you moved to the right of Ted Cruz which put you to left of out. Most pundits say that your fall from lead dog to darker than a dark horse was due to your infamous “Oops” moment, but our research shows that other Americans simply don’t like Texans as President. Why? Blame your problems on George W. Bush. It works for Obama.

Your traveling around the nation and, indeed, around the world, is costing the taxpayers of Texas literally millions which could be squandered on silly things like, say, classroom teachers or mental health. If an opponent brings up this expense, reply: “My missions are top secret, and I cannot discuss them, especially my role in Zero Dark Thirty.” Then add with a wink and a grin: “Oh, me and my big mouth.”

How to handle the press: The last time you ran for governor you pulled a first by refusing to meet with newspaper editorial boards, fearing they knew a lot about state government and could ask embarrassing questions. You won in a landslide. With that in mind, and looking back at the Republicans’ disastrous 2012 presidential primary campaigns, next time the party should do away with all televised primary debates. You, more than any American politician, can appreciate that move. If voters complain about not getting to know the candidates’ positions by viewing them in debates, trot out that old chestnut: “You can’t trust the press.” Republicans love that line. There is an exception: Fox News. Before an interview with Fox, send them the questions you want asked, and then edit out any goofs before the show airs. When it comes to goofs, your comments about the Tea Party members being students at UT shows your Aggie allegiance, but Tea Sippers and Tea Party members are not quite the same. Still, we cannot overlook the importance of the Tea Party’s influence on the GOP, so make sure they don’t fall off the edge of the earth.

Continue to call global warming “a liberal-commie hoax,” except in Wichita Falls where they are so hot and dry they are recycling sewer water to drink. Blame the drought on Obamacare, speaking of hoaxes. Our surveys show Obamacare is very unpopular with most Americans until they get sick. Keep calling such programs “government interference in our private lives,” or, as a constituent told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC) at a town hall meeting: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Continue criticizing other federal operations such as these four: the IRS and NPR. Demand that the NSA stop eavesdropping on our phone calls. It’s government interference. If elected you will stop the EPA and OSHA from regulating how we live. On the other hand, keep up the fight for more government regulation of those most personal and intimate parts of people’s lives: abortions and gay rights. If anyone points out that this is blatant hypocrisy, call out your DPS bodyguards.

As for our oppositional research, thus far we have not been able to absolutely prove that Hillary was in the mob that stormed our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, but sources say a smoking gun points to her knowing about the attack beforehand and did nothing. Same with Monica Lewinsky, Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Experts in our top secret ode-cay oom-ray have discovered information which indicates Obama can’t run again, but we’re preparing dirt on Sasha and Malia.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we have to deal with your fellow Republican wannabes. We have hints that Rick Santorum’s real name was Sick Sanitarium, but changed it to run for office, just like Dan Patrick. Marco Rubio arrived here from Cuba as a first baseman for the Mets. Ted Cruz was born in Canada and held dual citizenship until he ran for the Senate, although the birthers say Cruz’s real name is Marco Rubio who’s from Laredo. We have the documents. Anyone from Arkansas named Huckabee should change his name. We’ve really got the goods on Mitt Romney. Reports say he lost and lost badly.

We have come up with a few campaign slogans: “Tricky Ricky.” “Honk if you love a second chance.” This next is a tough one considering our Bush problem: “We Need Another Texan in the White House.” Maybe: “Ask Me About Benghazi.” After several focus groups, polls and interviews, we want to go with: “Rick Perry for President.”

A few do’s and don’t’s: Considering what happened to your housing in Austin while you and your wife were on state business in Europe, do not mention “White House” and “fire” in the same sentence. Don’t mention your $40 million gift of taxpayers’ money to Toyota to move its U.S. headquarters to Texas, since Toyota, one of the world’s largest companies with a record $23 billion profit last fiscal year, said it would have moved here anyway. But kept the money. Do not mention the former name of a hunting camp leased by your father. Focus groups like your new glasses. They say it helps you focus. Your supporters are not “one percenters.” They are “job creators.” Hopefully they will create a job for you. As for the do’s, do compliment Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers constantly. In speeches and interviews, mention Benghazi at least once in every other sentence. Finally, at all costs avoid saying, “Oops.” Invoice to follow

 

Ashby advises at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Amazing!

Amazing things are happening in my 84-square foot patch of fun. I can literally watch cucumber vines climb the trellis; I’m picking peppers and tomatoes as corn stalks are blooming tassels.

Who wants salsa?

Who wants salsa?

If you’re into gardening, you know how addictive watching things grow can be. My 18-month old twin helpers are as caught up as I am. Yesterday one picked a mint leaf to chew on, and as he slowly negotiated the plant to mouth transition, noticed tomatoes growing on the vine just past the mint plant. He instantly reached; luckily, I was close enough to prevent the premature plucking.

The twins are constantly chewing on mint and parsley, and they love onion tops. They like to keep themselves busy around the garden fussing with dead and dying leaves; they are natural cullers. They also like to throw mulch and dirt on the deck. I think they like the texture of the wood mulch and temperature (and taste) of the dirt. In the past I’ve found ways of distracting them from unwanted actions, but they find throwing dirt and mulch beyond distraction and worthy of a good scolding. I’ve had to resort to old fashioned time out. I start their outside time with a visit to the garden and tell them they can play with the plants as long as they don’t throw dirt and mulch on the deck. When they violate this rule they are banished to another part of the yard for a few minutes. One has caught on; the other really likes dirt!

All my creepy vines are crawling. The speed in which their tentacles can wrap around the trellis, and corn stalks, is mind boggling. My cucumbers can get a couple of loops around the trellis in just a few minutes and be strangling  a corn plant by the end of a sunny day. If I had a few too many adult beverages and napped in the garden, I’m not sure I would make it out alive!

Cucumber plant grabbing trellis

Cucumber plant grabbing trellis

My squash and cantaloupes sprouted tentacles yesterday and I assume they’ll start to climb the trellis today.

I’m in a dilemma on fertilizing. Since I put down a heavy layer of mulch, as prescribed in Dr. Randall’s succinctly titled Year Round Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers for Metro Houston, A Natural Organic Approach Using Ecology, 12th Edition, its a major task to rake MicroLife fertilizer into the top few inches of soil. I have to rake up the mulch, fertilize then lay the mulch back down. The people at Wabash recommended a fish based liquid fertilizer; my wife was unhappy with the odor, “It smells like a bad day at the beach,” she told me as she escaped back into the house. Cousin Steve, who is no relation to me, says he gets great results with Miracle Gro liquid and holds a cold Budweiser in one hand as he sprays Miracle Gro on his garden with the other. The NASA rocket scientist and life long gardener has dropped by to give me some zucchini and crooked neck squash; says he’s picking about 20 per day. I barely have a bloom and he’s harvested nearly a hundred squash. This has my attention; I guess I’ll give the Miracle Gro a try.

I don’t have enough corn properly planted to ensure pollination. Evidently this a common problem for recreational farmers; I found plenty of instructional articles on line. I’m helping the birds and the bees by hand pollinating. Corn plants sprout tassels at the top of the plant that contain pollen. When enough corn is planted properly, wind blows the pollen onto silks sprouting along the sides of the plant. By cutting off part of a tassel and rubbing it on the silks, one can get pollen on the silks and hopefully cause a cob to grow. My research says to repeat the process several days in a row. My garden is a very loving environment.

Blooming corn plants

Blooming corn plants

Corn Silks

Corn Silks

Corn Tassels

Corn Tassels

Record-Breaking Year for the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair

May 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs

New dates in 2015 to add to future success of the festival

 

 The 11th Annual Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair (sugarlandwineandfoodaffair.com), recently celebrated on April 23-27, 2014, broke numerous records in efforts to support a permanent scholarship endowment at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.

 

Featured in renowned publications such as The New York Times, Food Republic, and Eater National, the five-day event experienced tremendous success in its eleventh year. With tickets sales increasing 30%, attendance was at an all-time high, welcoming over 10,000 guests to this year’s events. On the coattails of great success, the festival has announced that next year’s event will be held from April 8 to 12, 2015.

 

One of the most anticipated culinary events in Texas, the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair attracted local, national and international culinary luminaries along with guests from around the United States to make for an unforgettable affair. Hailing all the way from Mexico, three top chefs including Arturo García Mogollón of Mexico City; Yolanda Yanar of Puerto Vallarta; and Isaac Esparza of Rivera Maya brought their indigenous ingredients, diverse cuisine and culinary skills to Sugar Land. More notable stars included Randy Evans of Haven; Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar; Jean Phillipe Gaston of Cove at Haven; Kenneth Burke of Ibiza Food & Wine Bar; Manuel Pucha of Table on Post Oak; Neal Cox of Olivette at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; and Brian & Shanna O’Hea of Acadame at The Kennebunk Inn in Maine.

 

In addition to interactive seminars, this year’s affair was filled with even more food and drinks, tastings, bartender’s challenge, pop-up book spot, beer garden and much more. Throughout the festival, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Reyka Vodka, Don Julio, Herradura Tequila, and more distinguished brands took center stage in creating the delectable cocktails.

 

“This was a remarkable year for the affair,” said Krystal Peay, director of the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.  “We are so thankful for the overwhelming support from our sponsors, volunteers, chefs and special guests. The continued growth and effort in supporting the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston has been incredible.”

 

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has been deemed as the largest wine and food festival in Texas. Located in historic Sugar Land just minutes from Houston proper, its dinners, and seminar and tastings have gained a well-deserved reputation as a celebration for all that is good, gooey, sweet, savory, bubbly, hoppy and simply irresistible.

 

Begining to Reap

Things are looking up! I have plucked some early tomatoes from my Celebrity vine. The mocking birds have been watching them ripen; I beat the birds to the punch and moved the tomatoes to the inside windowsill when two thirds of the fruit were pink.

My first tomato

My first tomato

I count another 8-10 fruits and tons of blooms. I plan on letting some of these stay on the vine and note at what stage the birds attack; going forward I’ll start picking just before the birds are attracted. I’ve also got about a dozen Serrano peppers and half a dozen jalapenos that can be picked at anytime. I can combine my harvest and make garden fresh salsa.

I’ve overcome obstacles and garnered some mild success with radishes, Bok Choy, peppers and tomato.

The radish harvest

The radish harvest

I’ve kept the soil loose around the base of my onions and they have started getting fat at the bottom; I’m hopeful. I’ve had complete failures with Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower (planted too late) and cabbage (did not feed properly). I have two more failures looming. I starved my broccoli the first half of their young lives. I began aggressively feeding and they grew like crazy, but it looks like too little too late; I see no signs of florets after ninety days. My corn is also in jeopardy. I planted two rows, 8 stalks each. I have since found out I should have planted four rows of four to ensure the wind does its job during pollination. I’m trying to pollinate by hand, we’ll see how that works out.

Cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash are planted to crawl up a trellis I installed at the back of the garden. The cucumbers have already started the climb. I notice a couple of plants had latched on, so I propped a third cucumber up next to the trellis with a small stake, within thirty minutes it had grabbed hold. I put four okra plants and two eggplants in the ground and gave them a good feeding. Hopefully they will be feeding me soon.

 

CRESCENT ON A ROLL

May 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

ANTOINE’S — “”Who is your regular server, Sir?” the maitre de asks. Actually, my regular server is the voice behind the bulletproof glass at the drive-thru, but I simply smile my world-weary smile and say nothing. Later, after a dinner of crab with shrimp, and shrimp with crab, my waitress takes me on a backdoor tour of this 174 year-old establishment. “This private room is where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, also Bill Clinton, have their dinner.”

Ah, yes, New Orleans, the Crescent City, post-Katrina. You and I are going to eat and drink our way down Bourbon Street, and take in a little culture. No, we are not going to view the remains of the storm. As the sensitive Spiro Agnew once said, “If you’ve seen one slum you’ve seen them all.” Moving on, this is a small restaurant called Lilette in the Garden District. They have breaded and fried sardines. No thanks. Soft shell crab. Oysters any way you wish. Wonderful. A tourist tip: My hotel charges $35 a day to park my car, which I have to do since it is impossible to drive around town. Take a cab. They have four. Or take a streetcar. This route seems like a good one — it travels along the riverfront so I can view all the ships and riverboats on the Mississippi and chat with colorful dockside characters. All I see are walls and warehouses. But there is a colorful character: a mad man is sitting across from me who talks loudly and constantly.

Arnaud’s no longer serves lunch. “We tried it after Katrina but never could drum up enough business.” Hehehe. Another tip: Literally just around the corner from Arnaud’s is its offspring, Remoulade, at 309 Bourbon Street. (Arnaud’s is famous for its remoulade sauce.) Come here for lunch. It’s a more causal place and around half the price. Get the shrimp remoulade. Every Texan has visited New Orleans, which includes the French Market. You have never seen so much you can do without, but it is a wonderful place to people watch. Here is the famous Cafe duMonde. Taking in the local coffee and beignets is required. Oddly enough, in this most French of the French Quarter, the waitresses are Asian.

I first came to New Orleans as a small tad with my parents and have re-visited here many times since. The French Quarter always smelled of cigar butts, stale beer and vomit from Ole Miss fans celebrating Archie Manning’s latest triumph in the Sugar Bowl. Nice surprise: The town is clean, the French Quarter is clean, I am clean. Perhaps this is due to a change in mayorship — the former mayor has been convicted of bribery and is awaiting sentencing. It’s a tradition in Louisiana. Now we go to another restaurant, August. A few years ago my wife and I drove to NOLA (as the locals might call it), and were tired, dirty, wet and hungry. My wife recalled we had just wandered by some unknown eatery, so we ended up here looking like leftovers from the Last Supper. They let us in, first counting the silverware at our table. Great meal, and today, thanks to our recommendation, some critics say August is one of the top 10 restaurants in the nation.

I am sitting in an open air cafe sipping coffee and enjoying a splendid morning. The weather is perfect, which reminds me that New Orleans’ climate is about the same as Houston’s or Calcutta’s, so come before it gets too hot. Time for some couth. This is St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. It’s the church you see in all the postcards and travel brochures. A wonderful docent tells us the history of the church, the present structure is not really that old (1850), history of the city, and explains all the flags lining the rafters. She claims the Bonnie Blue Flag — solid blue with a white star in the middle — actually was designed by a Louisianan for Louisiana. Like she knows anything about Texas history.

Next door to this really magnificent church is the Presbytere (equal time for us Protestants), which is a two-part museum. Bottom floor is given way to Katrina. I just knew we couldn’t avoid it. Very well done, including lots of TV film. These clips remind me of FEMA explaining why it couldn’t get into NOLA because of high water, lack of power and flooded roads. Meanwhile we turned on our TV to see: “Brian, I am standing in five feet of water on Canal Street along with my cameraman, sound technicians, makeup artist and light crew. Our catering service is preparing….” The upper floor of the Presbytere is Mardi Gras — costumes, pictures, beads. I love a parade.

It’s been a full 30 minutes since we ate, so we are off to Galatoire’s. More gumbo and soft shell crab. Too much is not enough. NOLA (are you getting the hang of it?) is home to the National WWII Museum, and you shouldn’t skip it, even if you dodged the draft. “Have you ever been in the military?” the ticket lady asks. “Yes,” I say, and get a discount for both me and my wife. Good thing the ticket lady didn’t ask which side I was on. This museum is big, spit polished, full of everything there is about the Greatest Generation, although the Eastern Front seems to be given short shrift. Can’t trust the Ruskies.

Last stop. Casamento’s, a small mom-and-pop third generation out-of-the-way eatery, and worth the trip. No, it’s not Tex-Mex, it’s an Italian name with Gulf seafood. Start with crab bisque, then fried crab legs, fried shrimp. Cash only. I order a Dixie beer to be local. “Any good?” I ask the waitress. “It’s terrible.” Heineken goes great with anything. OK, campers, our trip through gourmet gulch is over and it’s time to drive back to Texas. Odd, but my seatbelt seems tighter.

 

Ashby is touring at ashby2@comcast.net

Crime Stoppers Houston’s Heroes Luncheon

May 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs

Crime Stoppers celebrated lunch today at the ZaZa with many heavy hitters in the room. The Housotn’ Heroes Awards Luncheon honored: Officer Ann Carrizales, The Houston Human Trafficking Task Force, Dr. Steven B. Schnee, Aramco Services and Tena Lundquist-Faust and Tama Lundquist. Dan Wolterman, CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System addressed the sold out room on the topic of outstanding health care and mental health. The room was shocked to hear 200,000 people die in hospitals each year from complications not related to the reason they were admitted. Memorial Hermann now has systems in place virtually reducing this number to zero. Special treats provided by Angie’s Cake.

I’m Home to See My Babies

I returned last night from a whirlwind trip to Ireland’s Ballyfin Demesne. The exclusive manor sits on 614 acres of orchards, gardens and rolling pastures.

Ireland shares the same latitude as my birth place, Edmonton, Alberta Canada. My parents claim it was 30 degrees below zero when I was born in March. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean hold some heat and protect Ireland from these frigid temperatures, but it’s safe to say the Emerald Isle has different growing seasons than the Bayou City. When I arrived on April 30th, they were planting cabbage, carrots and cauliflower, things we sow September – October. They rarely get temperatures hot enough to grow tomatoes or peppers (unless done in a greenhouse) and their harvest is completed by August; the gardens stay dormant until March when they sow onions and leeks. The gardeners at Ballyfin grow all they can in this limited season and can usually reap enough fruits and vegetables to feed resort guests nine months out of the year.

After nearly a week of sleeping in a castle, hobnobbing with Lords and Ladies and enjoying the Irish countryside, I’m ready to see my babies. My 18 month old twins are out for the night by the time I get home; it’s too dark to get a good look at the garden. My wife is still up; she tells me there is a problem with the boys and the garden. The twins really like the mulch I recently installed to retard weeds and prevent water evaporation. They want to play with it, throw it, chew on it and make a general mess. She suggests I put up a fence.

When I first planted, I tacked up some chicken wire around the garden to keep the boys from pulling up my seedlings. I left some established herbs I have growing in pots outside the little redneck fence and encouraged to them tear off leaves and taste the mint parsley, sage and rosemary. This was a decent distraction, but I soon realized they were far more interested in the colorful plastic identification spikes that came with the plants. They would reach over the fence, pull up the little markers and bring them to us as gifts, so we made a big game out of thanking them, then sneaking over and hiding the markers back amidst the plants. It’s like a never ending Easter egg hunt. They have so much fun with the plastic spikes they ignore the plants and I took down the little fence. However, the mulch is new and has too much texture to ignore.

the gardeners

the garden crew

I finally see the boys this morning. I steal a few minutes of playtime and cook them a healthy breakfast, then sneak out to look at the garden. Mulch is scattered all over the deck. Otherwise, the garden looks great. Plants have good color, some of the peppers have fruit more than two inches long, a couple of celebrity tomatoes are showing shades of red and my radishes have really taken off. The Sevin Dust got rid of whatever was dining on the cabbage, broccoli and Bok Choy. Everything has grown.

I’m a little concerned the garden is doing better because I was gone; my wife is certainly taking credit for the success. I plan to give it another good feeding. The cauliflower and the cabbage are failures; today I’ll rip them out and sow eggplants and okra in the space. I also need to devise a new strategy to keep my assistants out of the mulch.

Garden, May 5, 2014

Garden, May 5, 2014

IMG_0612

Healthy radishes with 4″ tall tops

TOUR DE FARCE

May 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

THE OPEN ROAD — Well, not exactly. Traffic is stacked up as far as the eye can see, which in some parts of Texas is not very far. On a clear day you can see your shoes. But “sumer is icumen in,” as they say in Uvalde, and we need to start making our vacation plans. Yes, the better spots are already booked solid, but that’s what happens when we procrastinate. I’ll take down my Christmas tree shortly. Let’s go on a car trip around Texas. We don’t need a pat-down by airport guards, no metal detectors, not even surly and overworked flight attendants ordering us to put out that cigar.

In no particular order, here are some suggestions for the less touristy, less crowded Texas vacation delights. Like Waco. Yes, Waco. Don’t you want to visit the town where Steve Martin was born? There’s a great Texas Rangers museum, although they seem to be short of bats and balls. Maybe it’s the other kind of Ranger. Visit the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, which probably has guns and badges. The first suspension bridge in the United States was the Waco Bridge. Built in 1870 and still in use today as a pedestrian crossing of the Brazos River.

Drive to Cisco where Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the Mobley. He later moved on to other West Texas towns. Hilton observed, “At Lubbock I found that Texas had no use for an imported French chef.” The Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is the world’s largest rose garden. It contains 38,000 rose bushes representing 500 varieties of roses set in a 22-acre garden. The city of Slaughter, Texas, has never had a homicide. Pass it on. Tired of driving? The world’s largest parking lot is located at D/FW Airport. The Dallas TV drama series ran from 1978 to 1991, and has been dubbed into 67 languages and broadcast into more than 90 countries. It was filmed on location at the Cloyce Box Ranch in Frisco, outside of Dallas. Go shoot JR. We’re in a drought, but from July 24 to 26, 1979, hurricane Claudette dropped 45 inches of rainfall near Alvin, which caused more than $60 in losses. (Old joke.) This volume of 43 inches is a record in the country in terms of precipitation spanning 24 hours.

You may want to visit Austin. There you must see the word’s first photograph. Just think, there have been billions of photographs taken, but one of them was the first. It was shot by Nicephore Niepce of France in 1826. The photo is now on the UT-Austin campus. You own it. Go see it. While on the 40 Acres, check out the Gutenberg Bible. Well, “check out” in the figurative sense, not the literal. Librarians are so possessive. Elsewhere around Austin, visit the usual spots like the State Capitol, but not during the day when gawking tourists come to visit their money. Do it at night.The dome of the building stands seven feet higher than that of the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. It’s beautiful. Texan Rogers Hornsby is buried at Hornsby Bend near Austin. He was the best batter in the history of baseball. In 1924 he hit .424 and had a lifetime average of .358. Both records still stand.

We have mentioned some of these places before, but you still haven’t visited them, so this is a reminder. Moving on, let’s say you want to visit some Texas battlefields. Start with the bloodiest battle in Texas. No, not San Jacinto nor the Alamo. The little-known battle of Medina was fought 20 miles south of San Antonio on Aug. 18, 1813, between 1,400 rebels made up of Americans, Tejanos, Indians and former royalists, against 1,830 Spanish army troopsincluding Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The rebels were massacred and their bodies left there for nine years. So bring a metal detector. If you’re outside Brownsville, visit the site of the Battle of Palmito Ranch. It was the last land battle of the Civil War, more than a month after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. The Confederates won.

El Paso: Debbie Reynolds and Justice Sandra Day O’Conner were born here. John Wesley Hardin was killed here. His grave isn’t much. While in West Texas, drop by Loving County, the least populated county in the nation. In January 2010, the census found only 40 people of voting age, but officials reported 105 registered voters. In the 2012 election, Romney received 54 votes to Obama’s nine. High Island: The grave of Charles Cronea, a cabin boy with Jean Lafitte’s pirates who stayed behind, as, reportedly, did much of the buried loot. Use that metal detector.

As you go zipping along the road, don’t forget to check out those red, white and blue interstate highway signs which are not only in Texas but all over the nation. They were designed by Richard Oliver, a traffic engineer with the (then) Texas Highway Department. The feds made one change: Oliver’s version was black and white. There are more than 70,000 miles of highway in Texas, of which 40,985 are paved farm and ranch roads. The unpaved roads are in Houston. TxDOT uses 1.6 million gallons of white and yellow paint each year to paint stripes along its highways.

Other stops to make: the city of Marble Falls, which was laid out by a blind man. Real County, where in 1924 Warren Pruett’s hardware store was hit by an airplane. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh. The oldest tree in Texas is a seaward evergreen oak tree situated close to Fulton. It’s thought to be more than 1,500 years old. Don’t carve your initials in it. So head out, with maps, native guide (me), ice chest and several CDs by Willie Nelson including “On the Road Again.” If it seems a long way from here to there, just remember Jeff Foxworthy’s observation: If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Texas.

 

Ashby travels at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

Houston Footlights Presents the Hilarious New Comedy

May 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

Murder at the Maner

Written by: Richard Williamson

Directed by: Ashley Wright & Nicholas Abrams

The members of the Upper Dorking Amateur Dramatic Society from England don’t shy away from a challenge, even though they probably should. The sheer scale of their ambition in producing ‘Murder at the Maner’ is matched only by their incompetence. Setting out on a worldwide tour they bring their acclaimed show (Two Stars from The Upper Dorking Women’s Gazette) to The Venue on West  34th Street, Houston on June 17‐21.

Set in England, 1927 and with preparations underway for the wedding of the decade, the groom is found dead. Was it suicide, or was it perhaps, murder! Could it have been his brother, the fiancee or the maid? Everyone has a motive and everyone is a suspect in a classic whodunnit farce. All will become clear (hopefully) as we welcome you to Houston Footlights hilarious new comedy, “Murder at the Maner“.

Venue: The Venure on West 34th Street

Dates: 17–21 June

Time: 20:00 (1h10)

Tickets: $15.00

Age Suitability: All ages

Box Office: Tickets can be purchased via the website www.houstonfootlights.com

Venue Address: 2317 W. 34th Street, Houston, Texas, 77018

Juicing Continues

May 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs

Flow Juice Bar recently opened in the Fourth Ward.

Flow Juice Bar recently opened in the Fourth Ward.

In my current editor’s letter in the print edition, I talk about the juicing trend. Just after we went to press, the nice folks at Flow Juice Bar stopped by. They have set up shop next to Max’s Wine Dive in Houston’s Fourth Ward.

Flow Juice Bar is the result of the owner’s pursuit toward a life filled with health and happiness, and their desire to share their thoughts and passion with guests and visitors alike.

The menu features a variety of juices, smoothies, cleanses and shots, as well as healthy snacks, which are made in-house daily and are 100% gluten-free and vegan.

#Juicing

214 Fairview St