Making the Best of Thanksgiving Dinner Overseas in the USAF Barracks in Japan Circa 1978

Created Monday, 22 November 2010 03:12

Thanksgiving Sides

By Julia Hayden aka Sgt Mom at The Daily Brief

Yea on many (well, not actually that many) years ago when I was living in the female enlisted dorm at an Air Force base in Japan, another resident and friend had been gifted by a relative with a years’ subscription to Gourmet Magazine. Possibly this relative hoped that my friend would come to appreciate fine up-scale dining, complicated recipes for exotic cuts of meat and rare vintages . . . or possibly even learn to cook. I can’t with confidence say that this ever happened – we were twenty-somethings, living in a military dorm with a small basic kitchen overrun with cockroaches; nuking a Stouffers’ frozen dinner of lobster Newburg and opening a bottle of Riunite was about as upscale as most of us were inclined to get.

Anyway, my friend, upon departing at the end of her tour, gifted me with all of the back issues of Gourmet, and I took up a subscription myself . . . and never threw away an issue. From one of the holiday issues came three recipes which I served as a side dish at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can’t find the original issue, or even recall what it looked like – probably had a roast turkey on the cover – but I had copied them out into my own little collection of favorite recipes. The cranberry chutney is complex and tasty, and the corn relish is a wonderful counterpoint to all the heavy baked or boiled root vegetables. The honey-pear conserve is just plain wonderful.

#1: Cranberry Chutney:

Combine in a large saucepan: ½ cup cider vinegar, 2 ¼ cup brown sugar, ¾ tsp curry powder, ½ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cloves, ¼ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ginger, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1 ½ cups water.

Bring to a boil, then while stirring simmering mixture, add: 2 lemons, rind grated finely, pith discarded and lemon sectioned and chopped, 2 oranges, (ditto), 1 apple finely chopped, 3 cups cranberries, ½ cup golden raisins, and ½ cup chopped dried apricots. Simmer gently for 40 minutes, until mixture is thickened.

Add: 2 additional cups cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add: 1 cup cranberries and ½ cup chopped walnuts, stirring until the last cup of cranberries are just cooked. The variously cooked cranberries give it a lot of cranberry texture, and a very fresh flavor.

#2: Honey Pear Conserve:

Combine in a large saucepan: 4 lbs Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut unto chunks, ¾ cup lemon juice, 1 cup honey, ½ tsp cloves, 2 tsp cinnamon and ½ cup dried currents.
Simmer until thickened and pears are cooked through.

#3: Pepper-Corn Relish

Combine and simmer in a large saucepan until vegetables are tender-crisp: 5 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 finely chopped green pepper, 1 finely chopped red pepper, 1 medium-sized finely chopped onion, 2 whole carrots, finely chopped, 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 tsp dry mustard, ½ tsp celery seeds, ¼ tsp turmeric and 1 ½ cup cider vinegar.

Enjoy! And don’t eat too much – next week I will have a lovely recipe for turkey-pot pie made with leftovers.


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Christmas Time Pretty Crafty – Shop local San Antonio and reinvest your money locally

Created Thursday, 11 November 2010 02:40

Christmas Time Pretty Crafty

Shop local San Antonio and reinvest your money locally

Shopping locally fuels the economy and is the best return on investment in local businesses. For every dollar you spend in a local business, estimates are that 3-5 times as much money will be reinvested in the community than if you spent the same dollar at a faceless big box national chain store.

Getting to be that time of year again – time to start looking around for Christmas presents for friends and family alike. Being that I am a working freelance writer, my income stream is sufficient but erratic. Jobs and paychecks arrive without much warning, so finding that perfect gift is a little more complicated for me than just popping down to the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving and giving the credit card a work-out. Even duplicating the process at Walmart or Target isn’t much of a satisfactory solution because I’m not all that keen on loading up the family and loved ones with cheap Chinese-manufactured junk.

Americans need jobs too – and this year I’d especially like to support local micro-businesses, hobbyists and artists, who make neat, tasteful, pleasingly-designed stuff and retail their wares at shows, fairs, market-days and craft shows. Starting about this time of year, there’ll be any number of week-end Christmas markets and fairs in and around San Antonio. Who needs to get up in the wee hours of the day after Thanksgiving and shuffle off to the ginormous Big Box store in your sweat-pants and slippers just to stand in line with a couple of dozen other early risers, waiting for the doors to open. Instead, check out some of the local market days and Christmas fairs scheduled over the next four or five weekends.

New Braunfels starts off the shopping season with their Weihnachtsmarkt, or German Christmas Market at the New Braunfels Civic Center, over the weekend of November 19-21. This extravaganza benefits the Sophienburg Museum. Advanced admission tickets for one day or for the duration of the Christmas Market are available at the museum itself and a handful of other locations.


Fredericksburg also has a Christmas fair, the St. Nikolausmarkt, which runs for two days; this year it will be December 3-4, on the Market Square around the reconstructed Vereinskirche: food, shopping, Christmas lights and gluhwein – spiced hot wine to take the chill off. Admission is charged for the St. Nicolausmarkt. St. Nikolausmarkt – A Traditional German Christmas Market at the Marktplatz in Fredericksburg Texas. Friday, December 3, 2010 2:00pm-9:00pm & Saturday, December 4, 2010 10:00am-7:00pm

Even tiny Gruene gets into the act: it may be mellowing gently since the last century, but they have a Christmas Market also: again, the first weekend in December. Gruene is sweet at any time of the year – but Christmas is something special.

Check out Christmas on the Square, in Goliad: it’s also set for the first Saturday in December, December 4th. The square around the old courthouse is filled with booths and tables, with regional crafters selling everything from jewelry to BBQ tools with hand-turned antler handles. We were there last year, in time for the doggie costume contest, and Santa arriving, proudly mounted in the saddle of a “rein-steer.”

Boerne does it one better than Fredericksburg, Gruene and Goliad – out there, they will have two weekends of Christmas shopping, December 10th to the 12th – that’s the Holiday Christmas Market, and then the Cowboy Christmas Market on the following weekend, the 17th to the 19th. Boerne’s market is held on the town square – an open space anchored by a bandstand and edged with tall pecan trees.

And if driving out of town on weekends is just not your cuppa gluhwein – there’s plenty going on over the holidays in San Antonio!


Give the big box places a rest: support your local San Antonio businesses and artists!

Christmas Shopping for a San Antonio Home?


Family Fun and Community Celebration

Created Thursday, 11 November 2010 02:01

Family Fun

So, off to Wurstfest in New Braunfels last weekend: an all out community celebration of suds and sausage-onna-stick, along with culinary explorations of deep-fried-anything . . . like Oreo cookies. (Seriously. I tasted one . . . not bad, really, but just because something can be done – doesn’t mean that it ought to.) Although Wurstfest after dark on weekend evenings probably does get a little rowdy – in the daytime it still is very much a family-oriented, family friendly event. The music and the fairground rides, the face-painting and the funny hats appeal to all ages, and what is more – can all be enjoyed by all generations together.

After the fairground rides at Wurstfest, I thought the most popular part for children at Landa Park was either the stone walk alongside the Comal River or the long sloping lawn between the Wurstfest grounds and the riverbank. There were a handful of children amusing themselves by collecting pecans fallen from the trees, or lying down on the grass and rolling down the slope.

One of childhood’s simple and basic pleasures, that is. (The only way to improve upon it would have been to ride a skateboard or a wagon down that slope . . . but since the slope terminated in a metal fence a little above the riverbank . . . perhaps best not.) Anyway, Halloween trick-or-treating at La Villita and good community fun at Wurstfest provided excellent family fun for next to nothing, save the effort of actually getting there.

What other upcoming events and venues are there, which offer similar scope for family fun? Well, there are the seasonal waterparks, like the Schlitterbahn (also in New Braunfels) and the year-round delights of Sea World in San Antonio . . . but there are lower-key and more old-fashioned establishments like the San Antonio Botanical garden, and the Science Treehouse at the Witte Museum. And the Witte also currently has an exhibition marking the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, too.

And we’re coming up on Christmas; over the next two months there will be Christmas parades, visits by Santa or the Three Kings to every possible venue. New Braunfels will have their Christmas market, and so will Goliad, with their Christmas on the Square. Santa will arrive on fire-trucks and tame long-horns, and communities all across the Hill Country and San Antonio will ornament themselves with miles of Christmas lights and tableaus. And it will all be fantastic!




Mission Realty

San Antonio City Lights and Tourists

Created Friday, 05 November 2010 22:19

City Lights

by Julia Hayden

It’s axiomatic that if you actually live in a place that is storied, or famous, or a destination for out-of-town visitors, you can actually get kind of snobbish about those places that draw the tourists. Even stranger – you might actually spend years living in a city and never setting food in the places that people specifically come to visit. Well, you know – real life, having to earn a living, mow the lawn and walk the dog. All of those necessary activities will interfere with touristic appreciation of the high points of your particular metropolis. And . . . ugh . . . that’s just for the tourists, Mac – WE actually live here! This possibly explains why my father and his parents lived down the street from a historic and fairly famous Southern California mission for decades . . . and never once set foot in the place.

I’ve actually gone both ways, in previous locations: when we lived in Athens – that is, Athens, Greece, courtesy of the USAF – we were heading downtown to the Akropolis and the old Plaka, the original village clustered around the bottom of the hill that it sat on – all the time. Loved living there, loved the classical ruins, shopping along the narrow streets and in the tiny stores in the old part of town. And by old part of town, in Athens that meant late medieval to the 19th century. But after a year spent in Seoul, ROK – again, courtesy of the USAF – all my Korean friends laughed at me, for I had never gone to any of the tourist spots in Seoul. I had traveled by them, or seen them from the street, or gone through the subway stop nearest them on my way to a job. But actually stop and visit . . . er, no. Places to go, studios to record an English sound-track in . . .

In San Antonio, I think we’ve pretty much struck the happy medium . . . I mean, we’ve gone downtown to Alamo Plaza fairly frequently – and not just because we have friends visiting from out of town who want to see the Riverwalk, or La Villita, or the Alamo itself. No – there are other reasons; either for research purposes, for political events, or just to take our neighbors’ grandson to La Villita for trick-or-treat, and to the Riverwalk for the Halloween boat parade last weekend.

It reminded me again, of what a terribly pleasant place the Riverwalk is – and how very, very nice our fellow-citizens can be. We waited for the Halloween boat parade with a couple from Illinois, who were absolutely ecstatic about the mild weather – and how very pleasant the Riverwalk is, especially those reaches which are not yet wall to wall restaurants – but beautifully landscaped riverbank parks. Early evening is when the Riverwalk is at it’s best. Twilight comes a little earlier, among the tall trees and down below street-level. The strings of lights twinkle on, among the leaves and reflect off the water, birds take shelter here and there, and people are heading in to dinner. There are days and times when I would not mind living in a place that overlooks the Riverwalk, of having that view for myself, every evening.

So if that makes me as much of a tourist as that nice couple from Illinois . . . I can deal with it.

Julia Hayden, who writes professionally as Celia Hayes, spent twenty years as a military broadcaster in the Air Force before retiring. She contributes to a variety of online magazines and websites, and is also on the board of the Independent Authors Guild, a non-profit association of writers published by small or regional boutique publishers. She is the author of four novels set on the 19th century American frontier. Julia currently lives in San Antonio with her daughter and an assortment of dogs and cats, Her literary website is at


South Texas Veterans Health Care System to hold Drive By Flu Shot Clinic

Created Friday, 05 November 2010 13:41

VA Hospital Holds Drive-by Flu Clinic for Enrolled Veterans

Saturday, November 6, 2010 – 0800-1500
Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital
San Antonio, Texas

If you are a Veteran enrolled as a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patient, you can get your annual flu shot at the main drive of the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio.

The drive by flu shot clinic will be held from Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 0800 until 1500. Get protected against the flu. Please bring your VA ID card for verification.

For more information please visit the South Texas Veterans Health Cars System website. Check below to find a non-VA Flu Shot clinic:

Check above to find a non-VA Flu Shot clinic:{source}


Oceans of Beer, Continents of Sausage at Wurstfest 2010 New Braunfels, Texas

Created Thursday, 04 November 2010 03:47 Wurstfest October 29th thru November 7, 2010

New Braunfels, Texas

Oh gosh – since Halloween was just this last weekend, then it means that New Braunfels’ annual celebration of sausage and meat-onna-stick in every form imaginable and sudsy, tasty adult beverages must be in full swing. Landa Park, all this week until Sunday. Just drive north on IH-35, exit at New Braunfels and look for the lederhosen, dirndls and very strange hats. Seriously, follow them to Landa Park, to the permanent Wurstfest grounds by the old municipal waterworks, where Texas and Germany collide head-on, with fascinating and flavorful results.

Image a German beer garden blended with a regional mid-west county fair, lightly sprinkled with your favorite Texas BBQ pit – the kind of place with a huge BBQ pit out in back, and everything served with home-made sauce – that’s Wurstfest. Really, you haven’t lived until you’ve listened to a Teutonic umpah band play “America the Beautiful.” You might have, but you still would have missed a lot of the fun of it. We went last year, and will go again, of course; it’s a couth and family-friendly excursion and only a short hop from San Antonio.

It’s another one of those things about South Texas that visitors from other states might not know – that there was historically a strong German element which settled in this part of Texas. The very name ‘New Braunfels’ ought to be a dead giveaway; the town was founded by a German nobleman, Prince Karl of Solms-Braunfels, who named it after his home castle.

Alas, the prince – while having a nice eye for location, location, location – had first been taken in by a couple of shady dealers who essentially landed him and his backers in Germany, sight unseen, with what they thought was a huge and much more promising tract. Which happened to be in the middle of the southern Comanche tribe’s hunting grounds, so settlement there would not be possible – or even survivable for another twenty-five years or so. Prince Karl and the settlers that he and his organization brought from Germany settled down in the Hill Country, and around San Antonio, where some of them established an inordinate number of still-existing concerns, like the Menger Hotel, the Pioneer Flour Mills and the Y.O. Ranch.

And while you’re at Wurstfest, don’t miss the Spass Haus, with one of the worlds largest collections of beer bottles on tap. It’s either a bottle museum with a bar in the middle, or a bar decorated with 17,000 historic beer bottles of all nations.