Thanksgiving in Hill Country

img_8966_edited

Despite the fact that my phone fell from a tall bed Wednesday night finally finishing it off along with most of my recent photos, as well as the fact that half of my visiting family (and I) were varying degrees of sick all throughout the weekend, Thanksgiving 2016 went by smoothly. The perfect weather lured us outside each day to hike, stargaze, and walk beneath trees of twinkling Christmas light-lit oaks.

By popular demand: the link to the recipe for the “Rosemary Corn Cake with a Honey and Brown Butter Buttercream” is further down, along with some of my own notes.

About a five-minute walk from my apartment on South Flores in San Antonio is the 1851 Guenther House. Known for brunch and being home to the Pioneer Brand baking mixes, I usually see a lot of people coming and going around noon when I walk by. Yet before this weekend, I had not visited myself.

Maybe it was the menu or maybe the clientele, but we ended up dubbing it “fancy Cracker Barrel” complete with outdoor heaters and afghans for the mild autumn chill. Unfortunately my pictures of the grounds along the river and replica gingerbread house in the museum were lost when my phone bit the dust later that evening.

img_8933

Keeping with the theme of outdoor fancy heated seating, we visited Hotel Emma at the Pearl while on a mission to get the sea salt dark chocolate ice cream from Lick that my sister had fallen in love with during her stay in the summer  (though it cost as much as the five paletas we bought at El Paraiso for lunch). We also took time to visit the Japanese grocery store, the Japanese tea gardens, Southwest School of Art (to keep with theme of places established in 1851), and the Denman Estate Park pictured above.

Did I point out all the aforementioned activities went down on same day? (along with seeing the lights of “Light the Way” at University of the Incarnate Word and dining for supper at wood-fired all local Il Forno just past Southtown).

image-1_edited

As such, arriving at the peaceful 1851 Opa’s Haus in Kingsbury, Texas was the perfect foil to a full day on the town.

img_8956_edited

“The house was originally built by German immigrants who used ‘fachwerk’ (half timber) construction with which they were familiar in Germany. Some of these original walls have been exposed to show the structural beams held together with hand-whittled pegs instead of nails. Between the beams you can also see the handmade bricks.”

img_8995_edited

We heard a range of creatures during our stay – the cows that live in the field beyond this bathroom window, an owl, yipping foxes and definitely probably a few ghosts.

We did find that most (all but one) of the windows did not have full curtain coverings, maybe the German way?

Less than twenty minutes to Landa Park in New Braunfels, it was easy to stop by the Comal Springs, once home to the Natives who called it “Conaqueyadesta, meaning “where the river has its source”, for a little hike post Thursday’s dinner/brunch.

Not pictured is the very old Founder’s Oak, a tree with its on webpage.

image-2_edited

Because we had our turkey dinner while watching “Christmas Vacation” at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Thursday evening, even featuring Aunt Janet-style green bean casserole and pecan pie – Thursday morning was host to a lunch/brunch centered around ham and hashbrown casserole.

image

You can find the recipe for dessert at The Bees’ Knees. The batter makes a three layers rather the two pictured, and personally would recommend halving that recipe. Furthermore, I found the buttercream to be a bit grittier than I prefer, but I did mix it by hand. Browning the butter is wonderful idea however, and brown butter could incorporated into any buttercream recipe I believe.

An #optoutside hike on Enchanted Rock and a drive through the Christmas-ready town of Fredericksburg to the soundtrack of live polka music in the square capped off our Friday in Hill Country. There were plenty of leftovers to be had at Opa’s Haus for the meals that day.

img_8971_edited

Needless to say, I slept 15 hours straight Saturday night – almost as long as drive for my family returning to Arkansas.

Going Green – and Orange, and Black and Purple

My success with gardening has not always been success. I like to experiment, I don’t tend to follow planting seasons and spacing directions, and I just in general have always had more of an affinity for native and wild plants over the curated garden.

IMG_9183_edited.jpg

img_9173_edited
Tower of the Americas stands in the distance.

The seasons of South Texas – all two of them, are something I’m still getting used to. It may officially be Fall all across the Northern Hemisphere as of tonight, but here in San Antonio it still feels like the middle of Summer.

img_9158_edited

I could say the confusing and unfamiliar climate and new planting zone (going from 6b with my most recent garden in Fayetteville, Arkansas to 9a here) are excuses for my experiments like starting a summer crop (watermelon) in September but in actuality I just want to experiment and see what happens.

img_9179_edited
You can see the shell of the watermelon seed.

That’s not to say I don’t have some logical plants going as well. Chard, a few fall herbs, some cucumbers and gourds, a sunflower and broccoli are the ones I hope will thrive like they should when planted this time of year.

img_9156_edited
Looking towards South Flores.

However, most likely I will kill them – and I have accepted that. But if nothing else the little urban balcony garden has given me an excuse to buy an infinite number of Halloween candy buckets, which are much cheaper than traditional planters and obviously more aesthetically pleasing. The purple ones even have glitter.

img_9165_edited
Local marigold seeds I harvested at Urban Farm Camp and organic heirloom broccoli.

Only time will tell whether I can manage to not just identify, but actually grow plants. If I never do a follow-up post, well, you can guess what happened.

Transitions & Updates

Two weeks(ish) may be the longest I’ve gone in between writing posts. I’ve tried to find space between the transitions but even now I’m really not as caught up as I would prefer. I’m not even unpacked all the way – thus the strategic angles of my photos in the apartment.

IMG_7728

Mi Casa es Mi Casa is probably the most clicked-on Bexar Life post after What I Learned at Urban Farm Camp is…. The stats change depending on the week, but in general the entry on my loft set-up is popular. But as fun and funky as warehouse life can be, it had me missing outdoor space hard. Not having a place to use my green-thumb creates the ultimate claustrophobia. I love urban life, but need the green balance.

Tossing bird seed out the window to entice the local grackle, finch and occasional mammoth pigeon population was a part of my daily routine at Blue Star, as well as tending the plants in the window. But ultimately I missed the kind of balcony space we had back at Eco Modern Flats (Platinum LEED certified + rainwater saving + prairie restoration beds + my stamp of approval) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. So in early August we moved a half mile from Blue Star west to South Flores.

13712777_1741081802835937_1023162287_n
Pioneer Factory as seen from the River Authority heading to Blue Star.
13722149_1162204733801430_1361830157_n
Pioneer Factory as seen from our bedroom looking towards Blue Star.

It’s literally a ten minute walk from the new apartment to the old, same zip, same buses. So it is a transition, but then again it isn’t.

Minnesota in 79 hours (making even the airport count)

(Note this post is not about San Antonio or the surrounding areas, the blog header is a lie. I know I almost tricked y’all.)

How much can you do in Minnesota in 79 hours without a car?

IMG_6612_edited
Birch at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Plan well and you can actually do a lot. Plan little and you can still actually do a lot. I know this – I started planning for our Thursday departure on the Wednesday night before. Admittedly, having wedding festivities laid out on the first two days of the trip made Thursday and Friday’s itineraries just a tad easier. Did I mention that was why we were traveling? Some guy I know was getting married.

Love ya’ Jordan – though you don’t read my blog anyway.

13725571_985958814835790_1971605602_n
Minneapolis city stylin’ outfit brought to you by Elf Sack, Free People, and Rachel Roy.

Thursday – Hours 1-13

13714135_905045862951429_860885453_n
Maynard’s – Patio lunch by the lake in Excelsior, Minnesota.

Thursday night’s wedding rehearsal allowed a chance to get acquainted with the wedding venue residents at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista, Minnesota.

IMG_6234_edited
Tavern 4 & 5 Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Thursday night’s rehearsal dinner allowed a chance to get acquainted with dessert.

IMG_6232_edited2

And family, not pictured.

Friday – Hours 14-38

13707274_326109047722612_1500660336_n
Historic Fort Snelling, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul does charge admission – and that’s why there are no photos of the fort itselt. Still, the visitor center is open to the public free of charge with a small gallery of artifacts in a brutalist architecture-setting.

Above the Mississippi, bald eagles show off gliding on the air currents. Can you spy the eagle by the pillar?

IMG_6261_edited.jpg
Mississippi River with Minneapolis in the distance.

IMG_6328_edited

Following forts and patriotic birds, the main event back in Minnetrista.

13768347_636614956513562_272458109_n
Key lime, chocolate and strawberry cupcakes from Laurie’s Touch.
13651856_220719794995716_1290555857_n
Green and white hydrangeas seem to be Minnesota’s summer calling card.

Body heat, and body heat. No personal bubbles on the dance floor or off.

IMG_6306_edited_edited
The guest book/The Hobbit – complimenting the live quartet performance of Concerning Hobbits after the wedding ceremony.

IMG_2535_edited_edited

IMG_6353_edited.jpg

Thursday night was spent in Minnetonka, but a quick UBER ride and we were in the heart of downtown Minneapolis late Friday. I watched some of the buildings’ spotlights shut down around 2:00 a.m.

Saturday – Hours 39-63

13707312_280882445612976_236506843_n
A woman arranges produce the Mill City Farmers Market.

Overshadowed by Gold Medal Flour’s former digs, the location for the Mill City Farmers Market is not without irony. Organic foods and seasonal vegetables as well as small business goods sold beneath the heritage of preservatives, industry and pollution. Happily, the space is probably greener now than it has been for a century.

13702958_251633708563560_1240144449_n
Summer Squash pizza from Northern Fires Pizza.

Pizza is a food I will pass up in favor of cereal or dirt. Unless it’s really really good. Then pizza is one of my favorite foods. Northern Fires Pizza makes really really really good pizza. It’s about tied with the kids’ creations at Urban Farm Camp a couple of weeks back. (It was actually much better, but don’t tell them. They had no chance anyway because I am all about squash in the summertime).

13679886_10210606386574532_6332096585609316703_o13743437_1797189810526382_565382636_n

Gold Medal’s former factory now lives on as the Mill City Museum. The little movie they showed on the history of Minneapolis answered several of my questions on the city such as:

Is Minnesota considered a part of the Midwest? Yes

Why are there so few old buildings downtown? Bad urban planning in the 50s and 60s demolishing buildings in order to create lots that sat empty for decades.

IMG_2555_edited

The “Flour Tower” elevator movie/tour thing was also transparent about the good and bad effects that flour milling left on the community and beyond.

Dough islands floating down the Mississippi = bad, the museum preserving the history of dough islands so it is not repeated = good.

IMG_2585_edited_edited
Hilton Minneapolis is a quick walk from the park and museum.

13649370_225766314487306_1023938017_n

Saturday ended with Kramarczuk Sausage Company, a Polish counter-service restaurant, bakery and deli going strong for 62 years. The nalasnyky was delicious even if I butchered the pronunciation enough to make make the counter-guy laugh.

Sunday – Hours 40-79

13741395_1045007422244265_219702251_n
The Midtown Exchange Building, once a Sears and Roebucks – now the home of Midtown Global Market.

Like the Mill City Museum, the Midtown Global Market is an adaptive reuse project. The 1920s Art Deco former Sears building is now home to residential spaces and a varied food and goods market representing vendors from most continents. (I can’t say for certain if Australia/Oceania was repped, but a pretty solid no on Antarctica).

13743319_621666371344048_1881368755_n

Though we did take UBER  to the market, there was a the option of Minnesota’s bike share Nice Ride right outside. All of which is in close proximity to the Midtown Greenway Bike Trail.

IMG_2593(1)_edited_edited

IMG_6563_edited

Ten minutes by bike away is the always free if the doors are open, Minneapolis Institute of Art.

IMG_2626(1)_edited

IMG_2632(1)_edited
A collection of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture with a view of downtown.
IMG_6577_edited
Austin Swearengin

The Walker Arts Center was on the original agenda, but on a tight schedule, we chose MIA as to not feel like we didn’t get our money’s worth if we rushed.

Those dollars turned out to be well-saved upon finding Surdyk’s at the airport.

13744147_1663389340649717_1787110034_n
Not pictured: extra pretzel we bought later because wow, so much cheese.

Surdyk’s is the only airport dining-option I’ve ever seen receive 5 stars on Yelp. With 82 years of history, the proof is in the pudding. But seriously, wonderful cheese. Continue reading

Gifts from the Sister City

The name Denman Estate doesn’t exactly conjure up images of The Land of the Morning Calm (I googled nicknames for Korea). But it should.

In 2018 San Antonio will be celebrating its tricentennial as a city. In terms of the United States, a tricentennial seems like a fairly long time – especially when the U.S. has yet to hit this milestone as a nation. (Albeit the native Payaya people were around long before the land that is now San Antonio was given its current name, or before the British even crossed the pond).IMG_0869_edited.jpg

But 300 years old loses its impression when compared to Gwangju, South Korea’s 2,075th birthday occurring the same year. Yet despite the age gap, the cities are siblings. And in the spirit of sisterly city love, Gwangju shared a gift with her younger relative.

IMG_6259_edited

The Korean Pavilion at Denman Estate is only one of the parks’s several inviting features. The grounds also include a historic estate house, a labyrinth, a large pound, grassy lawn, picnic tables, walking paths as well as large twisting old oaks. But the pavilion is uncontested as the crown jewel. Not yet a decade old, the structure was built by skilled Korean craftsmen who traveled to Texas in order to construct the gift usually traditional building methods.

IMG_0875_edited

The craftsman-work is deserves a picture more than words.

Denman Estate Park is best described as tranquil. With the soft reflection of the pavilion shining on the placid water, the shady oak trees, and meditational labyrinth, the park is respite from the busy Med Center not far from her borders.

Continue reading

What I learned at Urban Farm Camp is…

IMG_5089.JPG

(more backstory on Urban Farm Camp as told by me at the Rivard Report)

..snack time is sacred. When your group of campers are needing a little inspiration to finish harvesting the amaranth, spreading the marigold seed, or watering the ancestral garden bed – the promise of chilled fresh melons, raspas, paletas and fresh pressed juice shines like a beacon that rivals the summer Texas sun.

Put on by Lorie Solis of the Renewable Republic, food is the heart and soul of Urban Farm Camp. Captured in more obvious activities like pickling cucumbers and preparing lunch, the theme of food and the cycle of food is also found in changing the goat’s hay, starting seedlings, using an Eloo (dehydrating toilet) and feeding scraps to the soldier flies.

IMG_5250_edited_edited

IMG_5427_edited.jpg

Complementing the theme of food, awareness was also emphasized. We did sit spots each morning to hone our senses in on our surroundings. Plenty of farm camp sounds like birds and wind in the trees, and smells like tomato vines and a fish pond were present. But so were the noises of the urban world we sat in the middle of. Trains, sirens, cars passing by. We noted the contrast of life inside and outside the perimeter fence.

I was fascinated by how quickly things changed in a few short days, such as the budding, opening and closing of blooms on the lotus plant. But what also changed were some attitudes.

IMG_5161

IMG_2454IMG_5458IMG_5282_editedIMG_5290_edited

13739427_1733354566924976_224219954_nIMG_5453

It wouldn’t be truthful to say there wasn’t any resistance to the smell of old cheese and meat products in the bin where the soldier flies live – and there was plenty of discussion over the unfamiliar experience of sharing bathroom quarters with a few grandaddy-longlegs. But for many of the campers, even the “gross” stuff started to feel normal and even fun as they grew more comfortable with “roughing it” as the week went on.

However one of the larger issues we explored with some early resistance was the responsibility associated with meat. Death to allow life.

IMG_5450.JPG

Chef Micheal Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn joined us for Thursday’s “fish kill” day. Along with instructing our fish cleaning, Chef Sohocki lead instruction on making scratch corn tortillas and a garden-fresh cucumber onion slaw. Continue reading

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.

IMG_2789_edited_edited

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.

IMG_2787_edited

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.

IMG_2791_edited

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