On a Mission

It has been roughly a year since the San Antonio Missions received UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The four missions maintained by the National Park Service, as well as the Alamo (now managed by the state of Texas) all received this honor for their historical and cultural significance.

There is so much to do at the missions and around the missions, so many layers of history going back centuries, that I could write a whole guide book and still run out of room for suggestions. And I say that as a very non-expert on the subject.

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Mobile Om occasionally offers free yoga classes at Mission San José, bilingual Mariachi Mass is offered on Sundays, all the missions are bikable with your own ride or a rental from B-Cycle (which is releasing new sleeker bikes this weekend),  you can kayak or SUP down the river to make your stops at the missions, watch free movies at the Alamo, have a picnic, volunteer at the centuries old farm, do some architectural drawing, and so on. There is always something going on. And it’s almost always something free.

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Mission San José is largest of the missions in San Antonio and tends to elicit a wow-factor with its “Old World” European feel. I’ve visited four or five times now and noticed new details on each trip. Somehow I overlooked the grist mill the first couple of times, which is a shame because I would have liked for my guests to have seen the pre 1800s structure. But that is also a testament to how easy it is to keep discovering new things at the sites.

The restored mill operates today, moving water through an acequia that once would have irrigated farmland, brought water to livestock and of course powered the mill to grind grain.

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However it is the architecture that keeps bringing me back. The United States is a young country so our definition of old sometimes only goes back half of a century. Half of century does sound significant from an American perspective, but the missions in San Antonio were being constructed before George Washington and company ever made the great Brexit of 1776.

 

The oppositions of rustic raw materials in simple residences set next to intricately designed dome-topped churches allow for a sort of design inspiration you can’t find walking the streets of Manhattan or Chicago. Continue reading

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The rain has stopped..

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..the clouds have drifted away, and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.

                                                                                                        Ryokan Taigu

If there was just one piece of advice I could give in regards to visiting anything outdoors in San Antonio, it is that rain will kill the crowds. Even if the rain has been gone for five hours or isn’t expected for five hours, it will absolutely clear the dance floor. Furthermore, if you see San Antonians sitting on a patio during the rain – even well covered – it means there is not a single seat left in the restaurant. They are desperate if they are courting precipitation. Which could also (probably) indicate that the food is very good.

I was fortunate to visit San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden right after a nice shower. Parking is one of the main drawbacks of the garden, especially on a weekend. But even on a Sunday we were able to find more empty spots than filled ones.

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The new VIVA bus routes do make visiting the Tea Gardens and other sites easier than ever. Continue reading

Tea Party, Just Because (With Recipes)

Breakfast for dinner is a beloved classic, why not tea party for dinner? Zhi Tea is one of the first places I really fell in love with in Austin. My first encounter with Zhi Tea came from a pot of their “Austin Breakfast” blend black tea that accompanied a hearty English breakfast served at the quirky British cafe, Full English in Austin, Texas.IMG_20223_editedBut here in San Antonio, Zhi Tea is still accessible at Central Market or Rosella Company in loose leaf form. If you really don’t want to commit to a whole box, Bird Bakery in Alamo Heights serves Zhi Tea, including the Austin Breakfast blend, at their bakery and cafe. But you should just commit to a whole box.

I recently chose to try their version of Earl Grey. Unlike your guilty pleasure Bigelow tea bag variety, Zhi Tea’s blend is more floral like a rose or orange blossom than moody like bergamot of lavender. Bergamot admittedly is a type of orange, but it seems more wintery in most blends as opposed to Zhi Tea’s summery version. I’ve never tasted a fresh Bergamot orange so I cannot speak to which is more true to taste.

However, I chose to have my little tea party as an excuse to bake more than as a reason to make tea. IMG_20224_edited

Using only what was already in my pantry, the menu consisted of:

Lime scented Apple and Blueberry Corncakes

Lavender Blueberry Drop Biscuits

Flourless Coconut Shortbread Cookies

Tamago Sashimi drizzled with Yamasa Sashimi Soy Sauce

Kumato Tomato Sandwiches

Crackers with Goat Cream Cheese and Pepper Jelly, and Hummus

Fresh Watermelon and Cherries

The tamago, or egg omelet, sashimi and accompanying sauce were purchased at Minnano Japenese Grocery. It was probably the most eclectic menu choice and it’s the only one we finished in one sitting.

All of the crackers and dips came from Trader Joe’s, adorable napkins from IKEA, and fruit from Central Market.

Below are the three other recipes. Continue reading

Fishless Fish Sandwich

I’m not a vegan, not even a vegetarian. But I do eat at vegan and vegetarian places often. Earth Burger is officially San Antonio’s only vegan fast food joint, and San Antonio’s Earth Burger is the only Earth Burger. We are so special.IMG_1738

One should not visit Earth Burger with the intent of healthy-dining. There are some side salads and a hummus option but this is still a fast food experience. After all, vegan =/= healthy. If it did then Oreo/potato chip/Bacon Bits/Popsicle/cotton candy diet would be a lot more popular. Not that it isn’t already beloved by many crowds, just not as a health option.

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Hot fried tenders, fishless fish sandwich and the three salads Josh accidentally ordered.

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We tend to be drive-thru patrons but if you dine in the restaurant you can enjoy the veggie-like atmosphere that surrounds. Continue reading

Hike in the City

Yesterday was National Trails Day but that doesn’t mean you can’t “find your park” today. If you want to take a little hike in Texas Hill Country, there is no reason to leave San Antonio city limits. Friedrich Wilderness Park is one of the six “San Antonio Natural Areas”. Alone it is comprised of 280 acres containing 8 miles of trails. Unlike Government Canyon State Park nearby, there is no charge for admission.IMG_1762

Other than being home to my favorite heat friendly parking lot in the world, the park hosts two species of endangered birds, a bounty of wildflowers, both paved and strenuous trails, ephemeral streams and an unexpected basin of koi fish beneath a historic windmill.

Sunday morning seems to be the best time to visit if you’re looking to be greeted by every single person you encounter. Walmart and Baptist door greeters have nothing on the continuously smiled “good morning,” “hello good morning,” “good morning” Continue reading

Where to get the best matcha in the Alamo City

Pretend for a moment you’ve stepped into a quaint shop off the busy streets of Okinawa without ever leaving Texas at Minnano Japanese Grocery.

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Minnano does not claim the title of sole Japanese grocer in San Antonio but it had my absolute loyalty the first time I walked in. And while food is the cornerstone of the little shop, there is a sizable collection of stationary, bath products, cookware, books and home decor that makes it difficult to leave with just mochi and tamago.

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Matcha is a notoriously expensive item. When I worked making cafe drinks, matcha was consistently our priciest item to stock. I won’t claim to know much about the various qualities because I really don’t know. Like most Americans, I’m not using it for a traditional tea ceremony but rather for baking and green tea lattes. I can’t remember the rate for Minnano’s green tea powder off the top of my head but the last I bought of their store brand was 3.99 f0r 0.08 lbs. That will last me for a few weeks. Continue reading

IKEA Fan-Girl

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Austin, Dallas, Centennial, Kansas City, Seattle, Brooklyn. A few of the cities where I’ve graced IKEA’s presence. At this point I’m a connoisseur of the blue and yellow painted Swedish home store.

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Model of IKEA inside IKEA Centennial, Colorado

I’ve seen collections come and go. I still mourn the loss of the Husie Orange Karlstad slipcover and Far East nodding Trendig line. But I always go back.

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13257086_1539142586392808_1159229164_nThe “crayfish” smörgåsbord has been one of our highlight trips to IKEA with all you can eat crawdads and live Swedish music.

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When I lived in New York my roommate would make fun of me for trekking to the IKEA in Red Hook. From the tip of the Rockaway peninsula to IKEA it would take a little less than three hours of total travel time (if I were lucky). There’s many ways to get to IKEA New York style. For me it would start with a walk to the bus, followed by the bus to the subway, followed by a walk to the water taxi. Then there was the waiting in line to be ferried across the bay from Manhattan back to the big furniture store on the edge of Brooklyn. A couple of times I also took IKEA’s very own shuttle van from the store back to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where I would get back on the 2 or 5, ride to the end of the line at Brooklyn College, and then bus back to the peninsula.

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Water taxi taking off from Pier 11

Takeaway: I’m dedicated.

Continue reading