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Last Build Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2018 17:37:57 +0000


The Texas State Capital Building

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 09:09:56 +0000

The People’s House and Senate by Celia Hayes So – after a two-hour long stint in the Texas Author’s Association booth at the Texas Book Festival this last weekend, my daughter and I decided that we should explore the grounds of the state capitol building, which reared up at the top of the hill just outside the tent where the booth was. No kidding – the tent was at the intersection of North Congress and 11th, just in front of the gate to the grounds … which looked cool, green and inviting, after two hours in the hubble-bubble of commerce. We put the two tubs of books in the car, and walked back from the public parking structure on San Jacinto, past the state archives and the statue-topped obelisk monument to Hood’s brigade … that unit which was slaughtered almost wholesale at Gettysburg. In my Adelsverein Trilogy, one of the characters, Peter Vining, is a survivor of that, the only one of four brothers. Most Texans who joined up to serve the Confederate military actually never went east of the Mississippi, but Hood’s brigade and Terry’s Rangers did, and paid a very high price in blood for the privilege. I […]

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What to do With Gumbo

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 09:00:42 +0000

Tales of Gumbo by Celia Hayes I may be defeated in my ambitions this year to have bounteous crops of tomatoes and zucchini squash … but by way of comfort, the peppers of various sorts and the okra plants are multiplying and producing like champs. The encouraging thing about the okra plants is that I have been able to grow a fair number of plants from seeds left in the pods that I let go last year … and that the darned things do grow like weeks. However, the okra pods of the variety that I have propagated do have to be harvested before they get to be about three inches long; otherwise they are tough and woody to the point of inedibility. (But still good for gleaning seeds for the next crop.) I would actually consider planting a good-sized patch of okra in the front garden, for the flowers are actually rather attractive; they look a bit like a variety of hibiscus which has pale yellow flowers with a red spot in the center. Alas, in the eyes of non-gardeners and farmers, the leaves of okra bear an unfortunate resemblance to marijuana plants, and while I would like to […]

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Different Kind of Farming

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:18:24 +0000

Another Kind of Farmer’s Market by Celia Hayes As much as I try to wedge in useful vegetable crops into various parts of my tiny suburban back yard, there is just not enough cultivatable space to grow enough that our needs for seasonal vegetables can be satisfied from it, day in, day out, year in and year out. Oh, certainly, we have gotten good things from the garden – especially potatoes this year. Sing ye the glories of home-grown potatoes, so tender, so luxuriously velvety that we didn’t know whether to eat them, or slather them onto our hands like skin cream. I got one good squash, a fair number of okra pots, and all the fresh herbs I could use – ‘Twas ever thus; herbs in plenty – other edibles, not so much. There isn’t the custom in this country of garden allotments, as there are in England, Europe and Russia; small plots for personal cultivation on the outskirts of towns and cities, intended for the use of apartment and townhouse dwellers. I have often read that for most of the last half of the 20th century, ordinary Russians city-dwellers were almost entirely fed from what they could grow […]

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Good Stuff

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:59:49 +0000

Good Stuff by Celia Hayes My daughter and I did our foodstuff stocking up this last weekend, including a run out to Granzin’s in New Braunfels. Alas, we were disappointed in our intent to purchase a large quantity of beef bones to make home-made beef broth out of, and then to give to the dogs for their chewing pleasure. Their stock of bones in the back room was much reduced by demand, I guess. We should have gone up during the week, as we have on previous occasions. No good meaty beef bones this trip! But I still have a sufficient quantity of the last batch for my various cooking purposes, so … never mind. It’s all quite simple, actually; spread out the fresh bones in a single layer in a pan – or several, if necessary – with a quartered onion or two and roast in a 350° oven until the remaining meat and fat and the bones themselves are nicely brown. This should take a couple of hours – then put the bones and onions into a stock pot or Dutch oven with a tablespoon or two of whole peppercorns, cover with water – filtered or distilled if […]

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Autumn Cometh

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 08:23:30 +0000

Autumn Cometh by Celia Hayes We have already had one cool snap, and a couple of rounds of rain, all of which herald the end of summer in South Texas, and the advent of what I believe to be the fairest and most pleasant season. Spring has it’s moments of attraction, to be sure, but there is always the threat of the soon-to-be boiling-hot summer hanging over it, as the days draw out. Autumn has no other threat than perhaps a couple of days below freezing, and every two decades a promise of snow. We had our ration of show a couple of winters ago, so it will be a good line time before we get it again. Getting back to the joys of autumn, though – the main one is that one may fully enjoy hours spent in the open air without running the risk of heat-stroke or dehydration – and this particular part of Texas is thick with weekend markets, festivals and shows. The very first Friday of every month is art appreciation time in Southtown and King William; artists and vendors and galleries like those at the Blue Star Arts Complex put on special exhibits. October’s First […]

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Autum Garden Stuff

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:20:33 +0000

In the Autumn Garden – September By Celia Hayes That blessed day – the day that we can turn off the AC and open the windows arrived this last weekend. Cool fall weather in South Texas arrived in tandem with the notice from the city regarding brush pickup, so the neighborhood has been serenaded with the sounds of chain saws all this week. Receipt of the brush pickup notice meant for us that it was time to call the tree guy to come and take out two many-stemmed laurel-cherry trees, which had begun as a self-planted small saplings, grew into a hedge-like thing which screened my back yard from my next-door neighbors and offered a small touch of shade, and finally one of the two into a towering behemoth which banished direct sunlight from half the yard. Nemesis arrived promptly at midday on Friday, and before 4 PM the trunk and branches and all were piled up on the curb. It is not quite the biggest pile in the neighborhood – but my daughter and I added some more to the top, by cleaning out some half-dead rosemary bushes in front, and pruning some particularly leggy roses. The big thing, […]

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Home Made Marinara Sauce

Thu, 11 Sep 2014 08:02:32 +0000

Marinara Since getting the new refrigerator, revamping the larder cupboard, getting the vacuum sealer and experimenting with canning, bottling and picking – we’ve been stocking up even more intensely. Well – now that we have the space, or the re-vamped space, and the technology – why not? Indeed, thanks to a fortunately-timed stop at the marked-down shelf at the local HEB a couple of weeks ago, I can report that our requirements for exotic vinegars, balsamic and otherwise, have been fulfilled for the foreseeable future. And one of our projects over last weekend was to clear out the deep-freezer in the garage. Yes, indeed – it is possible to lose track of what is on the rearmost shelves; we found a package of frozen chicken with a best if by date of 2008 on it, as well as some other stuff that was so old we didn’t even recognize it at all. Hence – our current insistence on labeling and dating items before consigning them to frozen storage. This weekend I had a new project – that of making an enormous batch of marinara sauce. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has a very simple and serviceable one on her website, […]

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The Culinary Frontier

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:48:24 +0000

Exploring the Culinary Frontier by Celia Hayes This last Friday, my daughter took it into her head to bake a deep-dish pizza for supper; she went rootling through the drawer under the oven, where the römertoph clay casseroles, the Spanish clay cazuelas and Dutch ovens are kept, looking for a cast-iron frying pan to bake pizza in – but she unearthed a particular small cooking implement, still in the original plastic wrap. I had forgotten about it entirely, and can’t recall when or where that I bought it; a heavy and well-made Pyrolux iron pan for doing aebleskivers, which are a nice and peculiarly Danish variant on pancakes. The little leaflet with it is in four languages, so that was no clue. I knew what it was, of course. When we were children and staying with our paternal grandparents, Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al, who lived in Camarillo, they would often take us on a drive to Solvang, which was just a hop, skip and a jump up Route 101 – a small town milking the absolute maximum touristic potential of having been founded and/or lived in by ethnic Danish. Abelskivers and sundry Scandinavian specialties were advertised everywhere. Granny Dodie […]

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Kitchen Pantry Shelf Redo

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 09:17:26 +0000

A Spot of Home Reorganization By Celia Hayes The kitchen pantry in my house is a misnomer. It a small kitchen closet, 25 ¼ inches wide by 27 ½ deep, extending all the way up to the ceiling-level. The builders installed shelves roughly fifteen inches apart. When I first moved in, I attached a pair of narrow wire shelf units to the inside of the door, seven shelves, each one just deep enough to hold a single can, small box or bottle. Later, I put in three wire shelves above the existing shelves. These needed a step-ladder to access. I put the little-used items on them … and then pretty much dropped doing anything more, except for when it was necessary to go spelunking to the back of the deep shelves looking for a box of lasagna noodles. A couple of years ago, my daughter put various appliances that we didn’t keep on the countertop, and a collection of French porcelain cooking dishes into the pantry, and put the foodstuffs into the little butcher-block topped kitchen island. Not much better; we still had crammed and disorganized shelves. We had often discussed the means of making the pantry more usable, but […]

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Tomato Ketchup Chronicles

Fri, 06 Jun 2014 11:28:55 +0000

Tomato Ketchup Chronicles by Celia Hayes I was inspired by an old blog and Facebook friend, Katie Barry, to have a go at making home-made ketchup this weekend. I had often intended to try it before, as this condiment is one that we (as Katie points out in her own housekeeping blog) all have in our condiment collection. I was put off some of the recipes for it in my own collection of canning books, because they called for simply awesome quantities of fresh tomatoes, and unless and until my garden starts producing tomatoes by the ton … well, I like fresh home-grown tomatoes too much to condiment them. But Katie’s recipe started with canned diced tomatoes, and I thought … oh, that is doable. One six-pound can of diced tomatoes from Sam’s Club, and I am in business. I took a recipe from one of the canning books, since I do want to can the resulting ketchup for later use … and I would also like to duplicate the splendid spicy Whataburger ketchup, too. Excellent stuff that is, but home-made might be even better. On consulting the listing of contents on the label of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup it seems […]

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