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



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday 12.31.2014

Store window, Fredericksburg Texas
I was captivated by these words on the store window. As I stared at them I wondered what their significance was and if they were original or a quote.  I know that they caught my attention because  the advice of the words were what I needed to see.  I know it is time to start something new.

A little checking and I found that they are attributed to Eckhart von Hochheim (1259-1327) who was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic. He was referred to as Meister Eckhart, having the academic title for the Magister in theologia he earned in Paris. He would be tried as a heretic, but is thought to have died before the verdict was announced. I find myself wanting to know more about this man who lived so long ago, yet speaks to me now.

As we come to this last day of 2014, dear readers, I find his words to also be appropriate advice for the coming new year.  New Years day isn't anything really special, there really isn't anything new about it.  But it is a time to mentally reflect on the past year, anticipate the new year and plan to live life as the best you can. Is it time to challenge yourself to try something new?

Strive for happiness and take satisfaction in all that you do.

Happy New Year and
May you experience the magic of beginnings!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The In-Betwen Time

Right now we are in the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  The in-between time.  The race to Christmas is over, but the Christmas spirit still lingers.  The decorations are still up and I'm still playing Christmas music, but we have another celebration to look forward to and the holiday atmosphere is still here. I almost think of Christmas as a week long celebration that goes from Christmas Eve through New Years Day.

This week has always been just as pleasant to me as the days before Christmas and I suspect that this goes back into my childhood.  Most years we were at my grandparents and this week was spent enjoying Christmas presents, visiting with relatives, going for drives in the country and, weather permitting, taking a winter walk through the pasture or nearby woods.  One holiday was over and another was to come before we had to head home and declare an end to that year's Christmas season.

This week is when people begin making their New Years resolutions.  Time to end one year and start the next with good intentions of new habits.  I've never seriously made New Year's resolutions; although I usually do think of a few things that I should do like organize all those paper pictures stored in random boxes and finish some UFO's in the quilting room. But strangely, this year I've had several experiences that are making me aware that I do need to make one resolution and keep it.

The first event was my inability to concentrate and plan a simple breakfast. I had signed up to provide the buffet-style breakfast for my Sunday School class on the Sunday before Christmas.  I had estimated we would have about 40 people that Sunday (and I was right) and needed to plan for juice, fruit, and then two other items.  I've known about this for weeks, but every  time I started to think about the menu I just drew a blank.  I just couldn't organize my thoughts and make any decisions.  I even looked for some new recipes thinking that would help.  But nothing, nada.  Even in the grocery store I was wandering around for quite a while, picking up items for one dish and then putting them back.  I just couldn't seem to focus, but finally got it together and the breakfast turned out well.  The end result was that I realized that I needed to de-clutter my mind; I just had too many thoughts going too many different ways which was keeping me from focusing.  I resolved to sit down after Christmas and spend some quiet time trying to re-group.  Maybe sit outside with a cup of tea and a notebook, clearing out the mind.

The next event was on Christmas Eve day.  I was to make dessert for our family gathering.  After much debating I decided to make Red Velvet cupcakes, but wasn't sure about what else to make.  So, the result of my indecision was that I ended up going to the grocery store early on Christmas Eve morning to get the things I needed for the cupcakes as well a few other items.  I had decided the night before that if they had a suitable pre-made pie or dessert that I would just buy it. After all, I had not wrapped any gifts and I knew that my time was short. That turned out to be a wise decision and I brought home a lovely (and delicious) pumpkin pie.  But the problem was that in addition to the store being crowded the shelves were pretty empty in some places.  Including the aisle where the baking goods and the necessary red food coloring would be.  I stood there in disbelief looking at the empty shelf.  What, I screamed out to myself, no red food coloring?  Don't they know this is Christmas?  Good grief.....oh, wait.  Really, are you surprised?  What were you thinking, did you really expect to come in here at the last minute and find a much sought after item like red food coloring?  Come on, it is Christmas and red is the color of the season! So I had to re -group and fortunately found a package mix that worked well.  Still in a state of disbelief as I finished the shopping I reminded myself that I had no one to blame but myself for waiting until the very last minute to shop.

As I drove home I continued my conversation with myself and had the clear thought that it is time to get myself organized again and quit living 5 minutes into the future; I have to start planning ahead. Not a bad resolution, is it? It is definitely time to sit down with the tea and a clean page in the notebook and start thinking ahead.  As 2014 comes to a close and I enjoy this in-between week I am finishing up some of those unfinished items on the to do list and getting them out of the way.  I feel like I'm clearing the path in my mind to get back into an organized life.  I'll probably fall off the track and when I do I'm just going to remind myself about the red food coloring episode!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

And now...

And now...it's Christmas Eve.  A quiet seems to be settling over the world.  Stores are closed and the streets are not so busy. People seem to have retreated, each into their own world.  I've always thought of Christmas Eve as such a peaceful time and, in many ways, I enjoy Christmas Eve day as much as I do Christmas Day.  It is a day of preparation, one final day before the actual Christmas celebration. A day of anticipation followed by a peaceful evening leading into the big day.

Every thing is done. The desserts for tomorrow's lunch are made.  I've been to Christmas Eve services at church.  I've eaten my tamales.  Now, it is time to sit quietly with a glass of wine, Christmas carols are playing and I'm ready to watch the rapidly twinkling lights on my tree (Jaydon set them that way and I've gotten used to their cheery blinking so I've left them alone). So, now it is time to reflect a little, maybe think about past Christmas Eve's and Christmas celebrations. Time to just enjoy the moment.

I finished wrapping presents this afternoon.  As I piled them safely up on the top of the piano I thought that the children will tear these gleefully open in just a few minutes!  But I also remembered that the reason for the season is God's amazing gift to humans, Jesus Christ. The Son of God was born in the lowliest of places, a stable. Shepherds, the lowliest of people, were visited by an angel and a heavenly entourage and told of the baby's birth.  But He came for all peoples.  Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14   

May your Christmas be blessed with peace and joy.  And may you experience God's love as you celebrate His gift to us.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa, I still believe

This Santa stands perpetually in front of a candy store in Fredericksburg, Texas on a year round basis, greeting passerby's with his jolly presence. 

I've always loved the story of Santa Claus and I still do.  I find myself admiring Santa's in many art forms.  I love the Coca-Cola Santas, but find others just as charming. On Saturday while in Fredericksburg a real Santa was sitting inside one of the stores.  As I passed by I smiled and waved and said " Hi Santa!".  He smiled and waved back.  How dear he is!

As soon as I learned to write I remember copying, or attempting to copy, the words to "The Night Before Christmas". I still have the very tattered, scribbled in copy of that storybook that I copied from.  Christmas mornings were always so exciting to wake up and find my stocking filled with an apple, orange and candy cane and toys under the tree.  We never had lavish, excessive gifts, but what was there was still magical to me - it was brought by Santa! When my children were small they and their cousins humored me every Christmas Eve by letting me read the story to them.  I think its beauty was lost on them, but I enjoyed the story.  (Just to note the cousins didn't believe in Santa, so they weren't too excited about the whole idea!)

I find myself still believing in Santa even though I know that a rather round man in a red suit doesn't fly all over the world in one night jumping down chimneys and delivering a bag of toys at each house. No, he isn't real, but I do find joy in the story of Santa and I believe in that concept of doing good and bringing happiness, where possible, to the world. Santa is a happy character that brings smiles to faces of all ages. The endearing man in the red suit does not replace the baby in the manger, but portrays the idea of generosity and giving to bring joy to others.  Indeed, the story and Santa himself seem to bring joy everywhere.

Santa, dear, I still believe!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Time for a Me Day

I love Christmas and all that goes with the season.  I look forward to it all year, and when Labor Day is over I am already looking to Thanksgiving and then into Christmas.  However, I don't go to a lot of parties and I don't stress myself into a crazy mode.  Years ago I gave up serious cookie baking after I realized that the cookies were either eaten before I got the baking sheets washed or they were thrown out around New Years because no one liked them. 

And, while this year isn't extremely busy I did decide last week that Saturday was going to be a "Me Day".  Have you ever needed one of those?  I made my plans and thought about it all week; I wanted to go to Fredericksburg and wander around and enjoy the holiday spirit in that little town.  Saturday was the day, it was for me.  Several times I almost backed out on myself when I started thinking about all that I had to do.  Even Saturday morning as I sat outside with the dogs enjoying a cup of coffee I wondered if I should postpone my plans for a week. 


After I finally got on the road I realized that I had done the right thing - get out of the house, get out of town, get on the road. I don't know what it is about getting on the road that is so soothing to me. My thoughts just melt away into almost nothing; it is like a cleansing of the mind.  Sometimes my thoughts do wander around and I think that is some kind of sorting process that my brain does. Just to note here that I right now I'm driving 60 miles round trip every day for work - that is a commute and it does not have the same effect that a road trip does!

I decided to take Bentley along with me and he gave me a laugh because he was not a happy camper when I strapped him into a doggie harness in the passenger seat for the first time ever.  He has always ridden in my lap or in a crate in the back with the other dogs and he was not pleased with me at all!  Every time I looked over at him he had this " Mom, how could you do this to me.  I'm so insulted!" look on his face! We drove along, Bentley very unhappy, me listening to Christmas music and letting my thoughts go.
The eyes say it all:  I'M NOT HAPPY OVER HERE!

Taking a dog along made everything a little different.  Since I wasn't sure if there would be any dog friendly place to eat I had made a brown bag lunch.  I also realized that I needed a potty break and after a little consideration decided to just take Bentley along with me into the Visitor's Center restroom.  No problems there and he got a few laughs from women who walked in while we were there!  As always when I have a dog with me people will stop us and we will chat while they pet the dog; I like talking dogs with people and it makes the day friendly. 

But it was a different experience going into little shops with him. I had the doggie stroller and he went into it a few times, but he really doesn't like it.  He tolerates it.  After years of maneuvering a baby stroller it was nothing to roll the doggie stroller through doors and even up and down a few steps.  Every time I did go through a door someone would always help hold the door for us, and I did appreciate the assistance.  However, I avoided several shops as I knew they were small and also I knew they might be crowded.  And, I had to skip the kitchen shop that I enjoy shopping in:  there were three steep steps up with a metal hand rail that divided them and then two very narrow doors to go through.  I looked around for an alternate entrance and there was none.  But all in all I enjoyed having the dog along and it was fun.

Our first stop was at the Dogologie store.  It was busy and there were several large dogs visiting at the same time, so I did put Bentley in the stroller.  We left with a large shopping bag full of good doggie things and Bentley wearing a new jacket (hey, it was just barely 50 degrees with a nice little breeze blowing!).
So what else did we do besides wander in the little shops? 
We spent time in the Marketplatz enjoying the Christmas pyramid and the giant tree.
We ate lunch while sitting on the low wall around the Vereins-Kirche.  The sun had come out but the wind was sharp, so we enjoyed the protection of the building while we ate (Bentley had a handful of treats, if you are wondering what he ate). It was a pleasant, relaxing time and we sat there enjoying the warmth of the sun and watching other visitors enjoy themselves.  Fredericksburg always enchants me and I always find myself wondering what it is like to live there.  The local people are friendly and are passionate about their German heritage. I like the fact that they have done an excellent job of preserving their heritage and are being very progressive in promoting their town as a destination spot. 

After visiting a few more spots I decided to come on home and cut the me day short.  After all, I had left a mountain of laundry, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning. presents to be wrapped, cards to be addressed, unfinished gift projects, and much of life's debris in my house.  Plus, I needed to make a buffet type breakfast to serve 40 people on Sunday morning. I didn't mind coming on home earlier than I planned.  After all, I had had my Me Day and had spent several hours enjoying the festive Christmas spirit in Fredericksburg.  Now I am ready for Christmas!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday 12.17.2014

Don't you love the smiles on these faces? What a happy group!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Another learning lesson

The fifth grader never ceases to amaze me!  When I picked him up this afternoon for our usual Friday night "Gammy-Night" he was working on a little project that involved a shoe box, popsicle sticks, glue, moss, stones, and other assorted things.  We had this conversation:

ME:  What is this? Is it a school project?
J:       It's a Hooverville.
ME:  A what? (I knew what a Hooverville is, but was stunned at this point)
J:       A Hooverville.  Have you ever heard of a president named Herbert Hoover?
ME:   Yes
J:       Well, a lot of people had to live in little communities called Hooverville's while he was president because of the Great Depression. People didn't have much money because there were no jobs. I'm reading a book about this and doing this project.

I'm stunned at this point, really I am.  But what surprised me was the conversation that we launched into.  I asked him about the Great Depression; he knew a lot.  I reminded him about our visit to Mission San Jose(remember Learning a little history) and the fact that the Mission was almost gone and we had discussed the New Deal that created the jobs for the men who worked on rebuilding the walls and the buildings.  We had camped at Bastrop State Park one time and I shared with him that it had been built as part of a program to create jobs so people could work again. And, I shared that the River Walk that we love so much was a part of that program.

As we got in the car I told him about my parents and how frugal they were all their lives because they were children during the Depression.  Really, he asked.  Your parents were children then? So I told him a few stories and as we talked I realized that from his studies and his reading he knew how poor everyone was and how hard life was during that time.  We also talked about the lecture I attended at the Quilt Festival about Making Do, Surviving the Great Depression and how my parents never threw anything away that might possibly be reusable.

Tonight I've pulled up some pictures of Hooverville dwellings and showed him so he would have a better understanding of what he is replicating in his project.  However, I was well pleased that he has such a realistic understanding of that time in history.  I was also pleased that his teacher is covering a subject that is sometimes overlooked or under studied.  And, I'm glad that I can share my love of history and historic buildings with him.  Perhaps someday he, too, will share his love of the past with someone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday 12.10.2014

Weihnachtspyramide
(German Christmas pyramid)
Fredericksburg, Texas

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More tamales

After my recent post on tamales and the comments (thank you, dear ladies) I felt I needed to say a few more words about tamales.  I live in the Tex-Mex capital of the world, or at least I think so, where tamales are made with masa and usually either a pork or beef filling.  They are wrapped in corn shucks that are folded under and then steamed.  Each family (or commercial shop) has their own recipe for seasoning the meat and, as I mentioned before, it is common for the women of the family to gather in December to make many dozens of tamales.  Usually the oldest woman will season the meat mixture.

Many civilizations and cultures have had a form of the tamale that was a part of their diet.  There are many documented variations and names, but always it was some form of dough wrapped around a filling made with locally available ingredients .  Several sources I looked at stated that the tamale was easily portable making it an ideal food for traveling or when there was a need for a portable food source (such as working in a far field).

I grew up eating what my parents referred to as "hot tamales".  We were military with strong ties to Mississippi and for the early part of my life still clung to that great Southern food and hot tamales were occasionally part of our meal plan.  However, I have to note that we did not have access to restaurants or tamale stores.  Our hot tamales came out of....a can.  Yes, we ate canned tamales as we moved around this earth and this picky little eater loved them.  I know I was fascinated with the paper wrappers and the red sauce that came with the little tamales, but I also liked the way they tasted!  I never even thought it odd to be eating tamales out of a can, it was just the way it was.

My family was introduced to Mexican food while we lived in Southern California, and continued to expand our Mexican fare after we moved back to San Antonio.  Even so, we still ate hot tamales out of a can.  I wouldn't taste a real, fresh tamale until a club had a tamale sale after school when I was in high school.  They were warm and delicious and I was a tamale addict!

So how was it that my parents were familiar with hot tamales?  Well, they are common in Mississippi and only recently did I discover this. Greenville bills itself as "The Hot Tamale Capital of the World" and offers a hot tamale festival. Hot tamales are as common as fried chicken and gravy! Usually they are made and sold by individual vendors who often make them in their own kitchens and then sell them from a cart or small building (we refer to them as shacks, but that sounds crude to the unaccustomed ear so just think of them as small buildings). 

The recipes are as varied in the Delta as they are in the Southwest; everyone has their own formula. The difference is that the hot tamales are made with corn meal and are simmered.  Ok, so what is the difference between masa and corn meal?  Masa is a Spanish word for dough and its full title is masa harina or dough flour, in case you are wondering.  It is a finely ground flour-type product. From what I could find both masa and cornmeal are products of maize that has been processed into hominy, but are processed and then ground very differently.  The end result is that they are very different and produce a very different product.

I found several theories as to how tamales came to the Delta.  Most attribute their introduction to the Hispanic migrant farm workers who taught the African-American workers how to make them.  Another theory is that the many men who went to Mexico to fight in the Mexican American War brought the recipes and technique back to their homes and adapted them to use cornmeal.  At any rate another version of the tamale appeared and thrives today.  One final item to share:  in Spanish the singular form is tamal, plural is tamales.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Sadly, I have no nandina berries this year.  Not a one. So I have to enjoy the pictures from last year.  This one was made late in January as the berries were beginning to fade.
Happy Thanksgiving!  I have much to be thankful for this year, I am blessed.  I find myself being thankful for many things and have realized this week that I don't think I truly realize some of the things in my life that I should appreciate and recognize as blessings.  There are just so many things to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

One of the things I give thanks for is the gift of writing and these blogs.  The writing has always been there, it just didn't really come to a realization until I had the idea that evening when I saw the tiny mum under the dead leaves that I needed to start writing a blog to capture my thoughts.  Indeed, writing these blogs has fulfilled a creative need in me.  Sometimes the words just seem to flow from my fingers, straight from my thoughts and into words.  Thank you for reading, dear readers, I am thankful for each of you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I have no shame...

Really, I'm not ashamed that by myself I have eaten a dozen tamales today.   Yes, the whole dozen!  And, they were good!
Tamales are available in San Antonio year round, in restaurants, grocery stores, and tamale stores.  But at Christmas is when they become a hot commodity.  Everyone wants tamales! Eating tamales on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many families, and became a tradition that we followed for many years.  We've also had them on Christmas day.  I've had co-workers stand in line for an hour, early in the morning, to pick up fresh, hot tamales to bring back to the office for our breakfast (yes, we eat them for breakfast!).

Many Hispanic families will gather to make tamales, dozens and dozens, that they will eat during the Christmas season.  It is an art to hand make tamales.  The seasonings have to be just right, the masa has to be made just right and then rolled to the right consistency before filling and wrapping with the corn shuck. Many of the little tamale shops also make theirs by hand and the workers are very skilled and quickly assemble perfect tamales.

They come in different flavors.  Beef,  pork, chicken, turkey, beans, spicy with jalapenos, or sweet with raisins.  When I passed a lady in the grocery store giving samples of warm beef tamales today I was hungry.  As I put the dozen hot tamales in my basket I told her that hopefully I would make it to my car before I started eating them!

I ate the first dozen plain, snack style.  But they are good smothered in chili and topped with queso and salsa. Rice and beans are optional as the tamales are all you need.  I ate 6 for lunch and then opted to forgo the leftovers and eat the other 6 with a little shredded cheese and salsa for my supper.  I have no shame; they were good and I'll do it again soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday 11.19.2014



I saw this quilt just as I was preparing to leave the quilt festival.  After I read the caption I was captivated and now wish I had gone back to see how much the purchase price was!  (I made these pictures with the less-than-desirable cell phone because I was too lazy to pull out a real camera). I'm not part of the sandwich generation, but I can still relate to the frantic mode this quilt portrays.  Sometimes....life is just downright cray-zee!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday 11.12.2014

The re-located and restored train depot in Tomball, Texas.  All Aboard!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Making Do...Surviving the Great Depression

I've found that one of the best values at the International Quilt Festival are the lectures.  They only last an hour, cost $8 (you can pay at the door), and are led by well-known quilters and experts in their fields.  I usually learn just as much in that hour as I would in a half or whole day class. 

Saturday morning I attended a lecture titled Making Do...Surviving the Great Depression.  By the title you can probably figure out why I choose this lecture! It was taught by Kathy Kansier who is a teacher, quilt judge and a certified quilt appraiser with many accomplishments in each field. Her lecture offered an excellent glimpse into life during the depression as well as the years before and after.

The lecture started with a simple, easy to understand explanation of the economic and political factors that led to the nation slipping into what we now refer to as the Great Depression.  She discussed the three presidents who served in the 1920's, 30's and 40's (Coolidge, Hoover, and FDR)and their different attitudes toward government involvement in the economy.  She also explained that there was a unequal distribution of wealth during the 1920's that had led to lavish lifestyles for the rich (remember how Gatsby lived?); the poor had little opportunity to ever achieve that American Dream. Banks were lending money that they did not really have at an incredible pace. Investors were buying stocks on margin while consumers bought everything on credit.  It was a bubble that had to burst.

She showed many pictures that I had never seen.  A small bank, boarded up and abandoned reminded me of the story my great-aunt would entertain me with about the day the banks all closed and she and my great-uncle had $14 between them.  Fourteen dollars was a lot of money for that time, but to loose everything and that was all you had was a scary idea, still is today! 

There were pictures of soup lines where grimy looking men were standing to get a cup of soup and piece of bread. Hoovervilles where more grimy, grim looking people lived in cardboard shelters with sheets and anything they could find to make do.  The pictures told the story of their desperation to survive.  I remembered many of the family stories I've heard about how hard times were and how poor my grandparents were.  I also remembered with irritation a college instructor who many years ago had told my history class that his parents had told him that the depression wasn't really as bas as it was portrayed to be.  I seethed through that class and still hissed a little at him as I saw the pictures in the lecture!

More pictures showed the heartbreak of farmers when the Dust Bowl drought hit.  One that was particularly poignant was of a field that had been plowed and planted and the crop had sprouted, but had dried up quickly.  The farmer was squatting in the field with a hand on the ground, heartbreak on his face as he accepted the fact there would be no crop that year.

The next set of pictures answered the question, what did people do to entertain themselves during the depression?  They went to church, movies, and dances.  They played cards in their homes and they had quilting bees!  The popular music of the time reflected the daily hardships and struggles; the most popular song of 1932 was "Brother, can you spare a dime?".  And yes, she did discuss in simple format the role of the New Deal programs in getting people employed.

The next part of the lecture discussed the different fabrics and patterns of quilts during the years of the 1920's, 30's and 40's.  She showed pictures of the quilts that came out of the depression.  One of Sunbonnet Sue reminded me of the quilt that my great-grandmother made for my aunt; she made one of appliqued butterflies for my father that I treasure today.  Both were made in the late 1930's right in the midst of the depression.

I smiled when she showed clippings from the newspaper for quilt patterns.  I remember my mother and grandmother clipping those ads for patterns for dresses, crocheted items and quilt patterns.  I, too, clipped a few as a teenager and young woman.  Quilting had become intensely popular during the depression, partly out of necessity for bed covers, but also as an affordable hobby.  Patterns were shared among friends, bags of scraps and old clothes were put to use, and it gave women a reason to create. The Chicago World's Fair offered a quilt contest in 1933; 25,000 quilts were entered.

The lecture concluded with a section on the theme that was so common in the depression, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!". Several slides showed little booklets that encouraged women to go through their closet and mend and re-do their existing clothes.  Simple, frugal advice to me. I remembered that one of the WPA programs here in San Antonio (and probably elsewhere) focused on showing people how to make furniture and other household items from discarded items.  There were also sewing rooms that put women to work making clothes that were distributed to qualified recipients.  Another program that I've seen pictures of locally put men to work repairing school desks and other furniture. 

Would we repair school desks or re-cycle old barrels today?  Could America survive a Great Depression?  Could we make do or do without?  I've thought about that a lot since I went to this lecture.  I wish kids and young adults today could hear this lecture and learn from it.  At the least, I wish they could have heard the stories that I grew up with and have those images in their minds.  My parents were very frugal.  We had a nice house and a nice car, but we did not have a lavish lifestyle either.  My mother made my clothes, she was a perfectionist with her sewing and they were beautiful.  My father mowed our lawn and changed the oil in our cars.  I often thought they were cheap and somewhat stingy and they were to a certain extent.  But they also grew up in the depression and they knew a lifestyle that involved "using it up and making do". Could we do that today?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Crazy Christmas Purse

I only signed up to take 2 half day classes this year.  I've found that I just loose my momentum after the lunch break with the all day classes.  Plus I always get frustrated because you are working in a small space and there are always the speedy gals who are already running their machines wide open while I'm just getting everything sorted out and that frustrates me.  The half day classes are perfect unless they dim the lights and try to do a Power Point presentation and then I go to sleep.  Boo!

Today's class was perfect, although after I started the project I thought it would be boring.  We made these little bags in the style of a crazy quilt, something I've admired but never thought to do.  It was fun, especially because most of it was done with glue!  Yeah, glue!  I exercised a little creativity with the project and it was fun to watch it emerge.  I still need to sew on the handle on one side and then it is ready to go.  I see some more future crazy quilt projects.  What a great way to use up all those scraps of fabric and trims that I just can't seem to make myself throw away.  It would also be easy to embellish with a few beads and embroidery stitches.
Here's a detail of some of the red quilts on display.

Lana, I appreciate your comment as there are a lot of times I just want to close my eyes and find myself where I need to be!  Houston's traffic can be wild, but I've found that my main problem is just not knowing where I'm going and what lane to be in at the right time! Although my sister has lived here since 1991 (her hubby is a local guy and knows where everything is) and I've been coming to the Festival for a number of years this is the first year I've felt comfortable with the driving.  I think part of my confidence has come from driving in San Antonio during the past few years - we have the worst traffic in the universe and I've learned to deal with it! Traffic - UGH!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Houston, I have landed.

It's here, it's here!  The one event I dream of all year - the International Quilt Festival - and once again, by the grace of God, I'm here! Woo-hoo!
This year the Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary - its Ruby Anniversary.  There are red and white quilts everywhere.  Although I never really cared for the plain red and white quilts by themselves, I am charmed by the collection together!  I love red (and most other colors, too) and it is giving a startling effect to the Festival this year.

One of my favorite thing to do while here is get downtown early, get a cup of coffee and go to one of the second floor patios of the convention center.  I have watched the skyline of Houston change over the years that I've been coming to the Festival.  I've watched buildings go up as well as the implementation of the Discovery Green just across the street.  The trees in the green are now well grown and provide cool shade and greenery to the downtown landscape. 
Hurricane Ike went through just weeks before the Festival in 2008, but the show would go on.  I remember sitting on the patio marveling at the broken windows and damaged buildings where work was already quickly underway to make repairs.  I've watched new hotels and condominiums be built.  This year a new Marriott is going up where years ago I remember older homes, maybe from the late 1800's, that were gently worn yet still elegant.  Now they are gone and newness continues.
Many years ago I worked just down the street for a week; I stayed in the hotel on the left.  Even then I was fascinated with downtown Houston; it continues today.  This morning while enjoying the morning realized what an old citySan Antonio is - the Europeans came in 1690 and the missions were established in the early 1700's.  We are a city of adobe buildings and many cultures.  Houston was formed in 1836, but today it is the city of newness, of oil and glass towers.  I love them both.
I always want to walk down toward Minute Maid Park and check out this church surrounded by a modern building.  It reminds me of St. Joseph's church in San Antonio that is surrounded by River Center Mall.  I think my feet will be too tired again this trip, but I'm thinking that maybe just a weekend trip when there is no Festival to keep me distracted from exploring would be most rewarding.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Musings 10.27.2014

Scary Fellow!
Jaydon carved this Jack-O-Lantern on Saturday morning for use in Sunday afternoon's Harvest Festival at church.  He did it entirely on his own - the only thing I did was spread out the newspapers on the table and give him a trash bag.  He's done this every year and looks forward to it.  Good job!

Now for the musings. Some time ago I had the realization that I could either have
1) a beautifully decorated, immaculately clean, perfectly organized home,
2) a beautiful, well-landscaped yard that is perfectly maintained, or
3) I could pursue interests such as making quilts, knitting and other needlework, reading, writing, researching places and then travelling to them, grooming and training my dogs, preparing food for friends who are sick or bereaved, taking friends who need a bit of cheering to lunch, and other activities that bring me pleasure and are worthwhile endeavors.

But I cannot have all three.  I cannot have two; neither can I successfully balance all three.  Even though I know this fact I still attempt to try to balance the three because I cannot choose which one to pursue.  It will not work; I cannot have them all.  I know this to be a fact.

I had a Halloween wall hanging that I started early in the fall that I wanted to use for the Harvest Festival.  I managed to make myself work on it every night when I was home.  Each day I set a goal to piece a certain part, quilt a certain part, to get x amount done that night; I had reasonable goals and I met them.  Did I finish the wall hanging?  Almost, I basted the binding (no one ever knew) and I also plan to re-do some of the embellishments before next year. 

I was successful with this project by focusing on it to get it done.  I think this approach works good sometimes; however, the trade off is that I now have a nice layer of dust on the furniture (no, I can't blame not dusting on the weekend trip to see my sister), there are animal fur samples in corners and on the back of the sofa, and the yard looks just about like it did before the sewing project fired up.  Books are still stacked up, waiting to be read.  Pictures and notes await creation into blog posts.  I have only sporadically walked the dogs (and myself). I have managed to keep groceries stocked and feed myself.  Basically, life will go on.  But the musings of this blog post will end because I think, dear readers, you know what I'm saying - you can't have it all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday 10.22.2014

Covered Bridge
Woodstock, Vermont

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Little Visit to the King Ranch

When I wrote the post on Cowboy Church I mentioned that I was on a trip to the King Ranch.  I've decided that I would be remiss if I didn't mention this trip and the King Ranch in a post.  It was an enjoyable day and I am planning to visit again and do some historical sleuthing in Kingsville while there. 

Visitors are not allowed to drive onto the ranch since it is a working ranch; all tours are either on one of their busses or a group motor coach. They tour you through a small area of the ranch, but you do get to see several buildings including the Big House and the large covered pavilion where horse auctions were once held.

I didn't get too many pictures from the tour as making pictures through the window of a motor coach has its serious faults.  At the visitor center 2 longhorns were in a adjacent field, and as our tour guide told us, their longhorn cattle is on another part of the ranch so they have these there because non-Texas visitors always expect to see a longhorn while visiting the ranch!


In preparation for the trip I had started reading Petra's Legacy. Petra Vela Kenedy was the wife of Mifflin Kenedy who was a business partner and close friend of Richard King.  While it is not an actual biography of her life, it is a compilation of the events that would have involved her and her family.  Little is actually known about her, but through letters, court documents and newspaper articles the authors compiled a book that offers a glimpse into the struggles that these early ranchers and their families encountered as they tried to tame the Wild Horse Dessert.  Many years ago, in what now seems like another life, I had spent time in South Texas and was familiar with the harshness of this land.  As I read the book I could understand the trials that they went through to exist and to establish these ranches.  Life was not easy and often they were dealing with human threats in addition to the unpredictably of natural events.


This area had had several inches of rain the week before our visit; they were over-joyed and everything was very green.  The last few years have been very dry for South Texas.
 
Our tour guide was ecstatic that there was water in this creek!  It had been dry until the rain came.  I don't remember the name of the creek, but the guide told us that Richard King had camped along this creek when he first came to the ranch, known then as the Santa Gertrudis Ranch, and had fallen in love with this rough country.
 
The King Ranch web site offers a good summary of the ranch and its history:
 
The Ranch now covers 825,000 acres—more land than the state of Rhode Island. Over the course of 150 years, King Ranch has led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest quarter horses, and produced champion thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand.

Today’s King Ranch has diversified into a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching and feedlot operations, farming (citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turfgrass), pecan processing and sales, commodity marketing and processing, luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
 
I was surprised to learn that the King Ranch had been a key player in developing the American Quarter horse.  At one time the ranch had several thousand horses, today they only have a few and they are used exclusively on the ranch and are only bred to replenish their stock.  The horses we saw were fine looking horses and we even got to see a foal at the brood mare barn! The Triple Crown winner in 1946 was Assault, bred and born right here on the King Ranch.
 

The Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle were developed on the ranch.  Our guide was quick to point out which was which as we passed different pastures, but I can't remember for sure in this picture.  I think the lighter cow on the left is a Santa Cruz. The tags in the ear have codes that trace the lineage of each animal as well as information about the marbling to be found in their meat.
 
 
Our final stop before heading home was the King Ranch Saddle Shop.  I enjoyed browsing in the beautiful store, but was more taken with the building and this entryway tile! 
 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy 60th Anniversary!

Just married!
 
This almost slipped my mind, but today would have been my parents' 60th wedding anniversary.  Earlier I had been reminiscing about their 50th anniversary celebration and wondered why it had popped into my thoughts; finally, the date connected with me and I realized that this was their 60th.

The wedding was simple, held in my grandparents' home.  A friend played the piano and sang and the refreshments were cake and punch.  I remember my mother saying that after paying for everything for the wedding she had twenty-cents in her wallet when she and Daddy pulled out of the driveway to leave for their new life together!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday, 10.08.2014

Fall tomatoes
 
I had such good luck with cherry tomatoes in this pot during the spring and summer that I decided to try it again for the fall.  I think this is one of the nicest tomato plants I've ever had and was surprised when it quickly began to bloom and set fruit! If I can just keep it watered enough I'm hoping to have a nice supply of cherry tomatoes for a few months. I also bought a lettuce plant and was delighted to discover that an empty pot now has little green onions popping up!  All I need now is cilantro and another parsley plant to replace the one that didn't survive the summer heat.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday 10.01.2014

 prickly pear cactus blossom

Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain Hook makes an appearance

Several weeks ago Cameron asked me if I would make him a Captain Hook costume, just for play.  He is five and likes to dress up in costumes.  He showed me several that he found online and since one of the patterns actually used a child's shirt I told him I would accommodate his wish, after all that's what Gammy's do!

I briefly thought about getting a pattern and fabric and sewing the costume up, but only briefly.  I remembered the solemn vow I made to myself as I made that last prom dress and set in that endless zipper up the back:  I will never make a garment again, ever. 

I found the t-shirt at JoAnn's for around $3 and came home to put this together.  In spite of the fact that I have a hoard of trims and ribbons I didn't have anything that I needed for this project.  So back to JoAnn's for trim, nothing expensive and the extra went into the hoard.  I also got a yard of $3.99 fabric for the cape.
We told him to make a scary face, so he did!
And, I found the hat there on the second trip.  Although it wasn't on sale I did have a coupon so I picked it up for a few dollars; I knew I had to get it to complete the costume.

This was the easiest costume I ever put together. Cut off the sleeves of the shirt, slit it up the middle. A little glue and a little sewing was all it took.  He loved it!
His only request was for me to add a piece of Velcro at the neckline to hold it together as it kept falling off.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Into the Fall

The first day of fall officially came and went this week.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, I say!  As I walked into the grocery store this afternoon (in a wonderful light rain) I saw the familiar fall mums clustered on display in front of the store.  I found myself remembering fondly my last trip to New England almost 3 years ago and how I reveled in the rainy days and the sight of pumpkins and mums on every doorstep.
The days of waiting for fall are over, it is here.  The month of August is long, hot and dry, but to me August is a sort of necessary prelude to the fall; we have to have those days in order to have September.  Finally, it is Labor Day which really signals the start of fall to me.  The days begin to cool down a bit and the daylight hours begin to shorten. 

The sighting of pumpkin displays becomes more common and it is time to start thinking about a visit to the pumpkin patch for the perfect pumpkin to go on the front porch.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday 09.24.2014

All Singers have a serial number that you can look up to determine their manufacture date.  I was surprised to learn that this lovely lady was made in 1904.  She either belonged to my maternal grandmother or her sister; at some unfortunate time the machines got switched.  My grandparents married in 1925 and didn't have much money; I'm sure this machine was bought used regardless of who it belonged to. If this was my grandmother's, then it is the machine I learned to sew on since my grandmother gave me my first lessons.

The top of the cabinet has been abused by some thoughtless relative that put a can of paint on top of it, but I keep it covered with a quilted table runner.  The belt for the treadle is broken, but if it was fixed this machine would still sew.  The light still comes on when you plug it in!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cowboy Church

This morning I was headed south, but not by myself.  This road trip was a day trip and I was on a nice motor coach with 35 other people with the destination of the King Ranch.  My companions were people (and friends of those people) who are members of my Sunday School class; one of our members just happens to be a tour guide and she put this day trip together for us.  She started our trip playing Willie singing "On the Road Again" and were all singing along!  I was especially glad because it just didn't work out for me to take a fall road trip this year, so this was a nice substitute. 

We were scheduled to make a rest stop along the way.  Our guide had let me in on a little secret about our first stop, so I knew we weren't stopping at the rest area.  We were going to Brush Country Cowboy Church

This church is for cowboys and cowgirls and welcomes city slickers, too!  The pastor had prepared coffee (regular and decaf), had juice, fruit, apple fritters from a local bakery, plus a tray of muffins and pastries to welcome us.
Pastor Pat talked to us for a few minutes about the history of the church and then he gave us a little sermon.  Just from listening to him for a few minutes I knew that he was a man of God who is passionate about his faith.  He was wearing jeans, boots, hat and a work shirt; I am sure that he can rope a calf, drive a tractor, and handle any ranch chore.  After I got home when I looked at their web site there was a picture of him on a horse, he's a cowboy and a pastor! Our guide has brought groups here before and even attended a service recently, so she knew him very well.  She explained later that when she brings non-church groups that he can't preach since they have to be mindful of different beliefs (sad, right?).

The stage was ready for the Cowboy Band to play.  Music stands, microphones and sound equipment were all there.  At the front of the steps was this tractor seat stool, boots, rope and saddle.
A metal building with a commercial garage door, walls of plywood, a place to worship.
The adjoining building appears to be their fellowship hall and classroom space.  My church has golf carts to transport people around, they had a John Deere tractor sitting out front. As we were leaving I looked back and behind the playground visible just on the left was a nice arena with lots of stadium seats.
What do country people love?  God, family, and country! The American flag and the Texas flag were displayed on either side of the front wall of the church.  Pastor Pat had just returned from saying goodbye to his son who was deploying to Afghanistan.

As much as I love the stained glass windows, pipe organ, and the traditional worship of my church I found myself thinking that this is my kind of church, too. 

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:
http://www.uiw.edu/sanantonio/JoskesBrothersStore.html
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dhjqn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joske's
http://www.expressnews.com/business/local/article/Interior-renovations-at-old-Joske-s-site-begin-4965822.php#/0 (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