Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mood music

I'm watching the rain pour down the windows and hoping I don't get stuck at work overnight.

Sing it, brother Stevie!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Weather delay

If you've been watching the news, you've probably heard about our little rain event. About a foot and a half of water fell Sunday night/Monday morning. The bayous filled, then overflowed and the streets flooded.

This is hardly the worst I've been through, not even close. That would be Tropical Storm Alison (2001) where 36 inches of rain fell overnight. The entire city shut down for the better part of a week.

Yesterday's little deluge wasn't even a named storm. Rita (2005, the same year as the infamous hurricane Katrina) knocked out my power for a week, knocked massive limestone tiles off the concert hall and resulted in massive gridlock as people tried to evacuate. I mostly remember being grateful that I'm not a coffee drinker. Everyone in my apartment complex was growling about coffee (which they couldn't make because the power was out.)

If you want to see if someone is truly a Southerner, ask them about hurricanes - they will be able to tell you the storms by name, and that the current storm is nothing compared to that storm. My parents still talk about Hurricane Alicia (1983).

They will also tell you about hurricane activities - I remember playing cards with my parents by the light of a Coleman lantern. After Hurricane Ike (2008) the power was out for 10 days.  I was out of town, but my mother said there was a barbecue every night, because everyone's freezer was thawing out.

This time around I was lucky, my major inconvenience was not being able to get to work because all the roads were flooded. My neighborhood didn't experience high water, so I spent Monday playing with the cats and reading.

Stay dry out there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bento Boxes

Long time readers of this blog (if any) will remember that a few years ago I resolved to start bringing my lunch to work every day, and I did. It is probably my most successful New Year's resolution.
But, it's not the best looking thing I do. It's usually a random selection of Tupperware, plastic bags, etc. and on occasion, the plastic-wrapped paper plate. It was just so. . . ugly. I know this comes under what Louis CK would call "White People Problems", but it bothered me.
So I was looking at lunch boxes, and most of them were either:
  • Tupperware in a neoprene bag (what I was doing already, just with a better bag)
  • Designed for children (cartoon characters anyone?)
  • Huge (seriously, some of them were bigger than my purse - and I don't carry a small purse)
 And then I stumbled on bento boxes.

Bento are Japanese lunchboxes. They come in a wide variety, from fancy triple-layered lacquer ware, the open kind used in restaurants, to simple bamboo containers. I bought a basic two layer box, with a fetching design of a lucky cat on top. (I can always use more luck.)
At first I was concerned about the size. Put together, my bento is about the size of a Coke can. But once you figure out how to properly pack it (no empty space) it holds a lot of food.

Chicken, carrot kinpira, and sliced veggies. On the left you can see the edge of the orange I brought for dessert.
Sliced lamb, radishes and cherry tomatoes, with a side of cabbage salad.
Bento are not meant to be heated, so even though the boxes are plastic, they are not really microwave safe. If you must have a hot lunch, bento are not for you. (Though some companies are starting to make microwave safe bento, so keep your eyes open)

Don't bring anything too liquid. There is an inner lid, but it's not a tight seal. I found this out the hard way with marinated artichokes. You have been warned.

Because bento are packed from corner to corner, different foods will touch each other. I've been working with this by packing together foods that complement each other (olives packed with sliced beef, for instance) but if you really must have separation, there are mini-containers. I have also heard of people using lettuce leaves as dividers.

It's particularly good for portion control. High calorie foods go in the top (smaller) section, and low calorie foods the bottom.  And I haven't been hungry at all. If you are looking for something to enforce portion control that doesn't look institutional, this is a great way to do it.
It's also upped my creativity with lunch, because it's often easier to be creative when you have a few restrictions (aka guidelines) than when you have a completely blank slate. Also, it's made me think of leftovers in a whole new light. (Only two tablespoons left? That will go great in tomorrow's lunch!)
Have I mentioned they're pretty? I look forward to unpacking my bento, even though I already know what's in it. It looks so much more appetizing than random Tupperware. And that makes lunch just that little bit more enjoyable. 


If you are in Houston and interested in Japanese culture this weekend is the Japan Festival in Hermann Park!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Creative Destruction: Gardening

It's Spring and I've been out in the garden.  More specifically, I've been tearing large chunks of it out. The trash collectors have not been happy with me.

Someday, it will be nothing but flowers
That fence you see? There used to be a five foot hedge of ligustrum next to it. Gone. I've replaced it with two yellow jasmine plants, which are only about a foot high now, but they will eventually cover the fence with sweet-scented blossom.

In the front yard, I pulled out two scrubby azaleas (they went to a neighbor) and replaced them with rosemary because I love rosemary. It smells so good, and  rosemary planted by the front gate is supposed to keep harmful people away.  I don't know if it works, but it can't hurt.

Sweet broom - I've been assured it gets a lot bigger
I've planted sweet broom in an attempt to hide the air conditioner. When I was growing up, we had a holly hedge around the a/c unit, and it was literally a pain to get to and trim back. So I'm going with non-thorny plants around the a/c.

I've purchased citrus spikes for my orange tree, though "tree" is rather a grand term for a stick with leaves on it. No flowers this year, but I am getting new leaves.

My mother divided her agapanthus and gave me a bucketful so I planted a row of them across the front flower bed. They look like leeks with the tops chopped off, but given time, they should become big green plants with ball-shaped purple (or white, we're not sure which) flowers.

I've trimmed back the jasmine I planted when I first moved in, because it's huge and expanding towards the neighbor's yard. It's loaded with buds that are just beginning to open. The bees have already discovered it. By the end of the week, it should be glorious.

It doesn't look like 1600 pounds, does it?

In less glamorous news, I dumped 1600 pounds of dirt in the back corner of my yard (that's forty, 40-pound bags) because it was a gigantic mud puddle. (I've had some drainage issues.) This weekend I laid sod on top of it. At this point, all I ask of that section of the yard is that the grass grow.

I'm planning a tree to get some shade on my little patio, so my mother and I went to a tree nursery last weekend and wandered around for about an hour.  I'm currently torn between a fig and a crepe myrtle. I love the flowers and the shape of  crepe myrtles, but the fig tree would give me fruit, and would be a lot more interesting as a plant.

Any suggestions?