It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cooking the perfect round steak

After those last two posts, I need something a little lighter (and a little shorter).  Food is always a good topic and I'm celebrating a little cooking success, so it's time to share!

My mother was an excellent cook and she cooked almost every night since eating out was a treat and only done occasionally.  I was a picky eater, very picky, and to be truthful my mother cooked a lot of stuff when I was young that I would not eat even today.  I will not elaborate on what was on the menu in those days, but things did get better as I grew older.  By the time we moved to San Antonio in 1969 she had added tacos to her recipe box; they were something I experienced in the public schools of Southern California and brought home to her.  She had also picked up her excellent spaghetti sauce recipe while we lived there; it came from the wife of one of Daddy's flight school buddies who just happened to be stationed at the same base. 

The recipe box increased when we joined a small Presbyterian church that had Sunday night church fellowship dinners several times a year.  The ladies of the church were fabulous cooks and knew how to spread out the food, oh yes!  My sister and I still reminisce about those meals and the many dishes that were offered.  King Ranch Chicken and Chicken Tetrazinni plus many other casseroles as well as salads and desserts became family favorites, even today they are favs.  My sister and I have also reminisced about how wonderful it was to come home from school and walk in the door to the heavenly smells that came from the kitchen where our evening meal was being prepared.

One of the best smelling things Mama made was a pan fried round steak. She didn't make it real often, but I was always glad to come home and find that we were having round steak for supper.  As a novice cook I asked her for the recipe; the answer was that she didn't have one.  She told me to just brown it and let it simmer.  No matter what I did mine never came out like I remembered hers.

Last Saturday while in the meat section of the grocery store I saw a small package with three pieces of tenderized round steak.  It looked so good, and of course, I instantly thought of Mama's round steak.  After contemplating the package of meat I decided to give it another try, I just couldn't pass it up.  After I got home I kept thinking about how hers looked and running through what I know about cooking now.  So here's what I did:

Lightly seasoned flour with salt and pepper, dipped each piece lightly in the flour mixture just to coat it.  Then I browned it in Crisco oil (not the solid) over medium heat, flipping it several times.  I covered the pan and turned down the heat after it was fairly brown.  I let it simmer for over 45 minutes, turning occasionally and adding a little water.  Toward the end I decided to add some green bell pepper and white onion (Mama didn't add these, but I like sautéed vegetables so decided to add them in).  The result:  delicious, just like Mama's!  I probably could have simmered it a little longer as it was tender, but could have used just a little more tenderizing.

Why did it turn out like hers?  Well, I think part of the success was in just using a light coating of flour and in using the oil rather than the solid shortening to fry it in. But I think the main reason lies in the pan that I used - it was one of my mother's and I honestly think that made the difference.  She cooked with copper bottomed Revere ware pots and pans, so did I but mine were newer.  She had a round pan and a square pan; I seem to remember that she used the round one for the round steak, but the round pan is long gone.  I had brought the square pan home when we closed her house and use it frequently. In past attempts I had used my Revere ware pan as well as the much-loved iron skillet, but my steak had never turned out right until I used her square pan.  And, yes it does make a mess on the cooktop, but who cares when your steak is perfect!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Along the same line

After writing two posts moaning about the loss of the downtown Sears store I thought I was done with the subject, but it is not to be.  This time it is a different building, but this time it has a bittersweet end. 

This morning my memory was jogged by an article on the web site of the San Antonio Express News that the demolition of the downtown Joske's store was completed.  If you are from Texas and are a Baby Boomer then you know about Joske's.  Anytime anyone mentions the name "Joske's" everyone always sighs and stands quietly for a moment...I'm serious, no kidding.  The memory of Joske's is almost sacred around here especially the downtown store.

I will not go into the history of Joske's as I want to keep this short; I will attach some links at the end of the post for further reading if you are interested.  Julius Joske had come to San Antonio in 1869 and started a dry goods business.  He closed the business and returned to Germany in 1873 to bring his wife and children to America.  He re-opened his store, J. Joske Dry Goods on Alamo Plaza in 1874; it has been there ever since.  The family owned the business until 1929 and Joske's continued under different parent companies until 1987 when Dillard's bought the stores and changed the name to Dillard's. 

The downtown store that holds such special memories for local people had been expanded over the years to a size of 5 floors and over 500,000 square feet in size.  Joske's also offered 20 acres of parking, although I don't remember that!  What I do remember is that it was the ultimate department store offering everything you could want in a beautiful setting.  When I was 5 we lived here for a few months and my mother brought me down to see the Fantasy Land display that took up an entire floor; it was marvelous although I remember only bits and pieces.  When we returned to San Antonio 8 years later Joske's was often the first place to go to shop for those special outfits a teenage girl needed (the basement was their "Bargain Basement" and they had wonderful deals!).  My mother bought her Elna sewing machine from Joske's, too.  As a bride-to-be a gift box with "Joske's of Texas" meant that there was a treasure inside; I didn't register silver, china, and crystal patterns, but this was the place to register if you were a bride. Even as a young woman I remember coming downtown and shopping at Joske's with a toddler and baby in a stroller.  In the years of my tenure downtown I would often walk the ten or more blocks to Joske's and the mall to browse or shop; one time I hauled a twin size comforter set back to work with me in heels, business suit, in the Texas noon time heat sweating and swearing silently all the way. There were large display windows on three sides of the store that were always creatively and smartly decorated, how I missed those after Dillard's took over.  I'm sure there was more to the store that I never noticed, but I have enough treasured memories that I can sigh when the name is mentioned!

The original building at this site had been completed in 1888 and was designed by local architects James Wahrenberger and Albert Felix Beckman.  There would be numerous expansions as Joske's acquired surrounding properties.  Architects Alfred Giles and Henri Guindon would also contribute their designs to a subsequent expansion.  The current day façade had been part of the 1939 remodeling and is referred to as being in the Art Deco style although the Rose Window motifs are definitely not Art Deco to me. I have to remind myself that each time Joske's expanded they destroyed businesses and homes to do so and that the building was basically a completely modern building as a result of each renovation.

So, here's the bittersweet ending.  The downtown store has sat vacant for 6 years although it is attached to the modern Rivercenter Mall (Dillard's had only used 2 floors of the store).  After civic leaders (thankfully) nixed several plans to build a high-rise hotel on top of the store the plan was agreed upon to re-work the space into a more useable retail facility.  A while back the chain link fence went up around the building and work began; I cringed every time I went by.  The article this morning (click the link) has pictures of what they have done so far and I was amazed. They took off the roof and basically gutted the interior. 

I was a little sad, too, but overjoyed to read the caption under several pictures that stated, 

"Longleaf pine joists removed from the old Joske's construction site in Rivercenter Mall are set in piles on Thursday, July 17, 2014. The wood, harvested from near Lake Charles, La. in the early 1880s, will be used in (sic) as flooring in the Bexar County Courthouse renovation".

Another caption states that these joists were laid vertically in the floor construction. I had also read a while back that the doors and other features were being safeguarded, but no mention is made of them here. It will be interesting to see if the doors or anything else will make its way back into the new space. 

So, sadly, Joske's is gone and so is the old store as well as the store of my early years.  Progress comes and you have to move on.  I'm just thankful that there is an active preservation movement here so we are able to preserve many buildings, but darn it, I hate to loose this old friend.

This postcard depicts Joske's before the 1909 expansion.  At this time the store was known as Joske Brothers Department Store.  Note St. Joseph Church visible to the right, it is still a functioning church today, surrounded by the mall.
Further reading:'s (note that this link may not let you read the article, if so just Google "Joske's" and it will appear and you can access it)

references to Joske's can also be found in
Fisher, L. F. (1996). Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage. Texas Tech University Press.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More thoughts about "Enchilada Red"

Even though the last post was lengthy, I find I have the need to keep writing.  After I went to bed last night and again this morning I kept thinking about what I had written, thinking that something wasn't right.  After Suzassippi left her comment (thank you, S.) I realized what I had missed and what was wrong.

First, I wasn't practicing understanding and missed the diversity concept when I wrote the post.  I do like modern architecture and always marvel at how the lines come together.  In fact, I can't think of any form of architecture that doesn't appeal to me.  There is beauty in each style and details to examine on every building.  I think if the Enchilada Red library had been built on one of the numerous parking lots (or all too numerous abandoned car dealerships we have) I would find it interesting, if not humorous with its color.  I honestly think what irritates me all these years later is that they tore down the lovely old Sears store and told everyone that opposed that decision to get over it.  The truth is that the store was demolished and now we do have a very large repository for the main collections of our great public library.  The building is a landmark in one way or another!

Instead of cursing the darkness I need to light the candle (I love that expression!) and will communicate with the library about my problems finding anything as well as the lack of assistance.  All they need are a few signs and first-time visitors could easily direct themselves to the area they want to visit.  

Finally, the comment about the library being representative of the Hispanic heritage in San Antonio puzzles me, too.  It was made by Nelson Wolff who was our mayor at the time the library was built.  He was an excellent mayor and has served many years in various public servant positions and always exhibits sound leadership to our community; I have a lot of respect for him.  I'm not sure why he made that comment except in reference to the fact that Ricardo Legorreta was a Mexican citizen and the bright red color that was compared to the red tortilla that is a staple in Mexican food.  We do have many buildings that reflect the Hispanic heritage in our community.  As I mentioned there are many buildings that reflect the Spanish Colonial style of architecture as well as the Mission Revival style;  plus, many of the early buildings built using adobe bricks are still extant.  We certainly have a good representation of structures that reflect the Hispanic contribution to our city's culture.

So, to conclude this lengthy double post I do have to offer the following picture.  The bright enchilada red wall of the library is reflected in a door at the Southwest School of Art where most of the campus dates back to the 1850's.  Something old, something new.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enchilada Red

In San Antonio when you hear the expression "Enchilada Red" you know that the speaker is not referring to a delicious plate of enchiladas. 

This is what enchilada red refers to - this is our main library.  Yes, it is a library.  The main one that is known as Central Library.  This six-story building holds almost 600,000 volumes and is 240,000 square feet in size and it is known by its nickname "Enchilada Red".

Prior to the construction of this very unusual structure there was a two-story building on this site that was home to Sears.  I remember it being a simple building with nice lines that resembled buildings constructed in the early 1940's.  It was a classic Sears store and during the years that I worked downtown I went there for the things that one usually goes to Sears for; it also had a full service cafeteria that offered a nice, reasonably priced lunch and I would shop and then stop for lunch. 

Sad to say, they tore down the lovely old building and started building Enchilada Red in July 1993; I left downtown in late 1994 and had been unable to go anywhere near the construction site as I was genuinely peeved that they had opted to tear down the old store.  I wasn't the only one in the city; there was quite an outcry, but it was mostly heard with deaf ears.  Citizens were more or less told that they didn't know what was what when it came to making decisions and to let the all-knowing powers that be decide what this city needed. 

The San Antonio Public Library site states that this building "is a bold departure from traditional library design, and has changed the face of downtown San Antonio".  Yes, I have to agree with that statement - it is indeed bold and if you get turned around, just look for the big red building and you'll get your bearings.

I had never been inside this building until the day after Labor Day; the branch libraries had always served my needs, but I wanted to do some research in the newspaper archives. I probably didn't really give my first visit to this library a fair chance as I had almost overdone myself in the heat before I got there.   If you read Out and About then you know how I spent my morning of that day.  I took Bentley home and then headed out to eat lunch at the Southwest School of Art.  I had a great lunch, visited the new exhibit they have set up on the history of the Ursuline Convent that was the original occupant of the property, walked down to the river for a few minutes, walked over and across a bridge I wanted to photograph, and then came back and made pictures of the chapel at SSA.  It was very hot, probably already in the mid-90's.  By the time I walked across the street to the library I was very hot and not feeling too well (did I have water with me? No!).  Not the best way to enter the library on my first visit.

In addition to having a hard time finding the door into the building, I had a hard time inside the building finding the Texana collection where the archives are housed.  No maps, no sign, and the guy at the information desk was too busy checking out lap tops.  I saw a little sign by the elevator and determined that I needed the sixth floor.  Everything in this library was sleek and modern, from the furniture to the neon art on the walls it screamed MODERN.  The sixth floor had no directories either and I finally found someone to ask for directions to the Texana section.  A little more wandering and I was there, but couldn't find anyone to help direct me to the microfiche files.  Finally, a guy appeared and showed me where they were and got me started on a microfiche reader (he acted like I was a moron but at that point I didn't care).  The library was cool and I began to cool off, but it was also dark by the readers and I had a flash back to my early college days when I tried to use microfiche and usually had a headache and felt like I had been riding in the backseat of a car all day.  This time it was no different.  After 45 minutes I was feeling really bad and knew I had to leave.  Truthfully, I loved reading the old newspapers and had to force myself to keep moving through the articles to find what I hoped to find. I'm hoping on future visits to a) not walk around in the heat after eating a big meal before I go, b) not be irritated because I can't figure out where to go, and c) not be irritated at the décor of the library (the way it is is the way it is!).

This is turning out to be a long post, so back to the library itself.  In my search to find a picture of the old Sears building I did find an article in the San Antonio Express News that had a photograph of the store as well as information about the designer of the new library, Ricardo Legorreta.  If you click on the link above you will see the picture of the store and read the article.  It was written by someone that has to be very narrow minded and if I had read this when it was published I would definitely have been responding to his editor. I read it several times and decided that I was just taking it the wrong way because this building's design doesn't meet my idea of what the main library serving a large city should look like. Yes, it is designed to reflect the Hispanic heritage of our city (as the article states) and it does so very well.  Although truthfully, so does the tremendous quantity of Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the city.  This article seemed to knock down the idea of the traditional architecture in our city and label it as wrong; it also seemed to be slamming the critics without considering their viewpoint.

I consider myself an open minded person and embrace the fact that we are all different - diversity is a good thing to me.  I may not agree with you and I do not have to accept the way you think, but I will try to understand your viewpoint and I accept the fact that it is different. In seeking to understand others we become diverse.  This library is different and I really don't care for it, but the way it is is the way it is and that has to be accepted.  I do have to wonder if in 50 or 100 years they will look at it and say, "OMG, that awful old red building has to go"  or will they say "OMG, we have to save this for future generations". Tear it down versus save it has been at the heart of our city's preservation fight for a long time, as it is elsewhere, too.  I don't think it will be any different for Enchilada Red.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday 09.10.2014

Dragonfly made of thousands of Legos
San Antonio Botanical Garden

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Learning a little history

Jaydon is now 10 1/2, hard to believe as I don't know where the years have gone.  He has progressed from being happy to play on my driveway with his tricycle and the little blue pool to wanting to go somewhere and "do something".  I think I know that feeling because I also like to go places and have little adventures. 

I've always been aware that time spent with him is time creating memories, just like my grandparents unknowingly created for me. With that in mind and also knowing that soon he will have other interests and our time will become less and less I determined that I would do everything I could to make each of our visits special for us. 

This morning I combined a little history lesson with an adventure and threw in a little family history, too.  I didn't want him to be bored, but my worries were quickly eased.  By keeping everything on his level, and throwing in the promise of a gift shop, he enjoyed himself.  On the way to our destination he kept asking me questions about the place we were going.  I quizzed him on how much he had studied about local and Texas history, seems he knew a little about Texas.  Then he admitted to going to several history related museums, ones that I didn't know existed and now want to visit!  While we were driving I gave a simple, but complete, history of San Antonio that a fifth grader could easily follow.  The Spaniards who wanted to claim lands for the king, the soldiers who came to protect them, the native Indians, and the Canary Islanders who were sent to colonize.  But wait, he is descended from Canary Islanders on his grandfather's side of the family, so there was the family history lesson!   A little modern history was in the story when I explained the Great Depression, FDR, and the New Deal program.
I choose San Jose because I love to come here and because I knew he would enjoy walking around and exploring the grounds.  Plenty of room for him to run if he wanted to!  There were very few people so it was a perfect time to come.  We walked through the open gate after discussing how the walls and most of the mission had disappeared and the handful of women who rallied to save what was left.  Our first stop was the curved corner bastion used to defend the mission; he was intrigued by the gun holes and the large spider web over one of the portals!

There was no treasure in the well, but he did spend quite a bit of time looking at the diorama of a day in the life of the mission that is located in the granary.  It was hot in there, so we moved on into the chapel. I don't think he was quite prepared for the interior of the church!  He very quietly asked, "Is this a real church?" to which I replied yes and shared the story of being there one time as a bride was just about to walk down the aisle.  He stood before the altar for a while looking at the figures.
The promised gift shop did not disappoint him. I did wisely skip the short movie that they show in a little theater.  I looked at the nice selection of books while he selected a multi-tool thing with a flashlight, compass, magnifying glass and I forget what else that would hang around his neck (it was pretty nifty and I thought it a good selection).  We agreed on the way home that it was a good adventure and made plans to come back when the gristmill is open again. We discussed watching the movie and another purchase he wants to make in the gift shop!  Lesson learned:  you can learn about history and enjoy yourself while learning!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wednesday 09.03.2014

I can always count on a little help in the sewing room.  Shadow did her part to weigh down the pattern for the little Halloween wall hanging.

Friday, August 29, 2014


I went to therapy after work today.  It was great!  No, no, no, it was not that kind of therapy.  It was much was fabric therapy!  If you are not a fabric person, then this will not make sense.  If you are then you understand how good it feels to run your fingers over the fabric and imagine it running under the needle of that little Singer.  And you understand the state of mind that you enter as you wander around the shop with your arms loaded with bolts of fabric.  Not to mention the mental challenge and stimulation you get from imagining the fabrics you are looking at and seeing them in the finished project.  Even when this is frustrating, it is therapy! You feel so good afterwards!

Made in 1957, I love this little beauty!

I don't know when was the last time I went in a fabric shop, at least several months.  It  has been just as long since I even tried to go in the sewing room and actually sew.  I did recently order some fall flannels and a pattern to make pumpkins. When the fabric arrived oldest grandson was here and he pulled the package out of the mailbox, puzzled about what was in the fat, squishy envelope.   When I pulled the fabrics out he commented, "Why did you buy those?  You probably already have them somewhere in your stash"! LOL what a wise 10-year old.

I decided this week that it was time to get started with projects again.  I decided that a small applique Halloween wall hanging would be fun (I have a tight deadline, I know) and pulled out a pattern for a little cat on a pumpkin.  I really wanted to do another one, but have no idea where the pattern is and did not want to look for it. I also looked through the container of fall fabric to see what I had that I could use for this project (part of the therapy process, looking for scraps).  Due to the fact that I was tired that evening I decided that I did not want to dig through the scraps and then try to get everything to coordinate.  Nothing to do but just take the plunge and buy everything I needed.

After work today I hit one of the quilt shops on the way home.  It is a small shop and after browsing I saw nothing I wanted, so I moved onto the larger one nearer my house.  When I walked into the store I felt like I hit the Vegas jackpot as all the Halloween fabric was right by the front door!  I walked around the store a bit before I started collecting fabric (this is part of the therapy process).  I managed to stay focused on the project and did not even think about another one (also part of the therapy, very hard to do). Soon I had a lovely stack of an orange print for the pumpkin, black for the cat, green for their eyes, a purple, a gold, and a green plaid, plus the black print for the border.  So now it is ready, set, sew! Great therapy session, will probably need another one soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday 08.27.2014

Bench along the rock wall built by the WPA in front of the Witte Museum
San Antonio Texas

Monday, August 25, 2014

Affect vs Effect

(Before I start this post I have to say thank you to all the congratulation messages I've received after my last post.  Thanks for them all!  I realized on Friday that I did not have to spend my lunch hour doing school work and that I did not have to plan my weekend around doing school work; it was a strange but pleasant feeling!)

I've always struggled with when to use the word "affect" and when to use  "effect".  I would always have to look them up and even then would often be unsure if I was really using the correct word.  The dictionary always explained that one was a noun and the other verb.  While I understand the difference between a noun (person, place or thing) and a verb (action) I was still confused. 

While finishing up my last presentation for school I had the affect/effect dilemma and, as usual, wasn't sure which one was correct.  This time I searched on the internet for help and I found an answer that triggered an easy way for me to remember.  So easy that I wondered why this never clicked with me before, but then again we sometimes miss those easy things when we try to make it hard!

Here is the explanation:

Affect is the verb and it means to cause a change (also, to influence or to pretend).
Effect is the noun and it shows the result of something that happened.

Here is how to remember which one is correct:

Affect = cause

Effect = result

And that concludes this little grammar lesson!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm too numb to celebrate

I should be celebrating, but I'm just too numb.  For weeks I've been anticipating this night, and all day long I've been thinking, "this is it, tonight is it".  So, why am I numb?  I think the answer to that is because it has taken me 40 years to get to this night.  You see, 40 years ago this spring I graduated from high school and tonight I completed my undergraduate degree (yes, now you know my age, but that's okay).  I didn't do this the right way, but I know that this was the way God intended it to be for me.

I started out on the right track after graduation.  Two years at a junior college and one year at a major university, and then life got in the way.  I always wanted to go back to school, but it just wasn't meant to be.  And, then I found out about Concordia University's local campus that offered an Accelerated Degree Program one night a week.  Even then I think it took a year or two before I finally finished the application.  Three and half years ago, on a very cold February night I sat down in a classroom and started back to school. 

It has not been easy, but I stuck with it.  It was hard to work all day and then go to school until 10 p.m. knowing that after I got home and would get to bed that my alarm would be ringing all too soon to start me on another day.  It was hard to come home at night and spend my entire evening on homework.  It was hard to give up my weekends.  It was hard to abandon my sewing room, my books, and my yard.  It was hard and it took discipline.

College was different the second time around.  No lecture halls with lectures and final exams.  Now it was small classes and, in most cases, interactive learning.  I learned that I learned a lot from doing a final paper and presentation, much more than I would have if I had crammed for a final exam.  I learned a lot from classmates, too, in the discussions that we had in most classes.  There was no smoking in the hallways (thank heaven, I hated that), but we didn't have a cafeteria or coffee shop to congregate in either.  And, sadly, the bookstore was in Austin and they delivered our books to us, so no trips to the bookstore this time around (I loved the bookstores with books, supplies, t-shirts, big spiral notebooks, etc.).  The internet has changed college, too.  I had two online classes (very interesting and enjoyable to interact with students all over the US) and in most classes I submitted work online and/or took quizzes online. It was different, but not all bad either.  It worked for me anyway.

Tonight as I drove home I had a flood of emotions.  A little joy, a few tears, and a thankful heart.  Thankful for my dear Daddy who left me enough money to go to a small private university; how he valued education and I appreciate the fact that while he struggled to put himself through Ole Miss he put all of us through school, too. Thankful for family, friends, and school staff who supported me.  Thankful that God helped me through it and sent the little voice to remind me to "stay the course" whenever I got overwhelmed.

Tonight, on a very hot August night I walked out of school and knew that I did it, I did it.  I made it through and it only took me 40 years!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday, 08.20.2014

Along the Paseo del Alamo
San Antonio Texas