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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week while walking to school I noticed that chairs and tables had been added to the patio of a little blue house that sits facing South Alamo Street. I wasn’t caught completely off guard, in fact I’ve been anticipating Casa Azul de Andrea for a while. I first heard of the Mexican cafe through an article detailing how the city approved zoning for the restaurant on accident – not enough parking spaces for code.
Fortunately since it was the city’s mistake, the restaurant was still allowed to open sans parking. And since we live right outside the King William Cultural Arts District boundary where Casa Azul is located, we don’t need it anyway- we walked. (BCycle and bus stops are nearby as well).
Some restaurants take a little while to hit their stride. I won’t call out names, but one of my favorite San Antonio spots took a few months to really fine tune their eats. Casa Azul on the other hand opened exactly a week ago from today, and have already done everything right. That includes the wonderful cantaloupe agua fresca that we had both as an appetizer and then again as a dessert.
The naming of Casa Azul is obvious – it’s a blue house, literally a casa azul. But more than that, La Casa Azul is the home of Mexican artist and activist Frida Kahlo. Now preserved as a museum, La Casa Azul saw the birth of Frida, the life of her family and lovers, and is still celebrated for its architecture and garden.
The closest I’ve gotten to the house was at the New York Botanical Garden during the summer of 2015. The exhibit recreated the beautiful gardens of Casa Azul with explanations on how the colorful setting influenced Kahlo’s work.
San Antonio’s Casa Azul de Andrea plays homage to Frida throughout the restaurant. The menu itself is meant to be that of a simple sandwich shop you could find in Mexico City.
And like the aqua fresca, the food is perfect too. Hello mole fries!
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.
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.
Leia happy in the new place.
Matcha bath in the new apartment.
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.
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.
(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?
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.
Thursday – Hours 1-13
Thursday night’s wedding rehearsal allowed a chance to get acquainted with the wedding venue residents at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista, Minnesota.
Thursday night’s rehearsal dinner allowed a chance to get acquainted with dessert.
And family, not pictured.
Friday – Hours 14-38
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?
Following forts and patriotic birds, the main event back in Minnetrista.
Body heat, and body heat. No personal bubbles on the dance floor or off.
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
Multitasking cuties from Willful Goods.
Mill City Museum
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
It wasn’t our first time going to Niki’s Tokyo Inn. We thought we knew what to expect as last time we had dined at a table with chairs while wearing shoes on our feet. Had I known the situation ahead, perhaps I would have thrown on a glitzy toe-ring.
Based purely on observation, I think Niki’s main clientele consists of two main groups: locals who’s families have come to the restaurant since it opened and installed the funky houndstooth carpet decades ago, and those seeking the most Japanese “Japanese food” in San Antonio.
Essentially the antithesis of Yellowfish, the subject of this blog’s first and probably most poorly written post (I’m honest with myself, it’s all good – and Yellowfish is better than the writing).
Though not a bar, Niki’s Tokyo Inn is divey. There is no way around the word and there is no other word in English that describes the atmosphere more accurately. From the dim lighting accented by candlelight to the shades painted black to block out the sun and surroundings outside (or is it to conceal the activities within), there’s a hint of mystique that almost feels illegal. And that’s what makes it fun.
Going back to the subject of being caught with our shoes off: Niki’s has three seating options that I know of. I had no idea the “traditional room” even existed until our last visit so maybe there is also a secret bathhouse room and secret karaoke room or secret dance party room.
If there is seating available, you can sit at the main bar/sushi counter, a Western style table, or on cushions in either the main area’s traditional Japanese seating room or the one in the back – we were sat.
If there isn’t seating available and the place is packed, you’ll probably be asked if the traditional room is okay. As soon as you have agreed it’s time to leave your shoes by the door and walk on back Continue reading →
..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.
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.
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.
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 →
..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.
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.
The new VIVA bus routes do make visiting the Tea Gardens and other sites easier than ever. Continue reading →