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

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:'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.