Magic Johnson Buys San Antonio Multi-Family Property

Complex Purchased by Magic Johnson

Written by Randy Watson

Texas A&M Real Estate Center today reports that Magic Johnson has purchase a San Antonio apartment complex.

A 612 Unit apartment complex in San Antonio was purchased by Magic Johnson. The Signature Ridge apartment complex is a 27 building complex. Each building is a 3 story building at 3711 Medical Dr. near the Medical Center. The complex sits on about 27 acres.


From College Station – Government Spending with a Purpose


COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – The debate over government spending and taxing policies continues to dominate headlines. Real Estate Center Research Analyst Gerald Klassen offers his perspective on the Center’s blog.

“Government spending and taxing policies should have nothing to do with political ideology,” Klassen writes. “They should have everything to do with attracting talented people and investment capital to the United States, for it is smart people and risk capital that create jobs and increase wealth. Citizens of other countries understand this well because they are competing to steal U.S. talent and capital.”

Klassen’s blog entry is posted on the Center’s website.

Winging It Making Homemade Cheese

The Cheese Stands Alone

Ours doesn’t – in fact, the pile of home-made and ageing cheeses currently takes up about half of the bottom of the refrigerator: half a dozen waxed roundels, awaiting their time to be consumed. No, there’s quite a chummy little gathering, of farmhouse cheddar, of jack and Leicester, and one or two others, plus the gouda which still has another two weeks to air-dry, and a wheel of caraway cheddar which will come out of the cheese press this very afternoon, and join the gouda. Dunno what I am going to do about the furry little patches of mold growing on the surface of the gouda, though – probably scrape them off very carefully, baste with salt and wax . . . waxing the cheese sounds kind of suggestive, doesn’t it? My daughter has Karate Kid flashbacks: “Wax on . . . Wax off. Wax on . . . wax off.”

For myself, I have ambitions to make a four-pound wheel of parmesan – which will age for most of the rest of the year before being consumable, and my daughter, who deeply loves and adores brie can hardly wait to start brewing up a wheel of it herself, now that she has gotten the hang of fresh mozzarella. See, we have elevated tastes in our household, and can’t often afford the good stuff; making it ourselves has been our family’s first fall-back position since practically forever.

And it is not really that hard, nor is it particularly expensive . . . well, the 4-pound cheese heavy food-grade plastic cheese mold was a bit on the pricy side. But that was my mad impulse, after being paid generously for some freelance work. And I made up for it by fabricating a functional cheese press out of two lengths of pine plank and some hardware for about $10 – so, it all comes out in the wash, as my English gran used to say.

My daughter started it first – she bought a cheese-making kit, to make mozzarella and ricotta with – and then I got ambitions and bought a book of recipes, and so every two weeks or so, we buy two or four gallons of milk, over and above household needs, and do a batch of cheese. There are some special requirements for basic cheese – special cheese salt, a jug of distilled water, starter and rennet tablets – and making a four-pound wheel requires doing two batches, and then combining the curds, once the whey is drained away, but if you can follow a recipe, it is not rocket science or brain surgery.

I think my favorite moment is when the rennet has set – and two gallons of milk has congealed into a kind of custard, just waiting for the touch of a balloon whisk (my suitable sub for a curd-cutter) to slice up the mass into ribbons and shreds, for the clear yellowish whey to separate out from the white milk solids. It’s almost a fun as scooping the drained and salted curds into the cheese-cloth lined mould, and tightening down the press so that even more whey drains away, and the whole mass is compacted into a solid, heavy wheel. And you know what? The uncured green cheese . . . it really does look like the moon.

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The San Antonio Art Scene

Art Scene

by Julia Hayden

So a couple of weeks ago, my daughter dragged me – only protesting faintly – away from my home comforts and the computer, and my customary Friday evening comforts to go to an art gallery. Yes indeedy – I have a connection to the San Antonio art scene, through the person of my daughter’s high school classmate, Edith Ann Tankink. Blondie and Edith have kept in touch since graduation from St. Francis Academy. This was back when St. Francis an all-girls’s Catholic college-prep high school located conveniently close to Kelly AFB, run by the School Sisters of St. Francis. This provided my daughter with an excellent, old-fashioned education, encouraged Edith to polish her artistic skills (which are considerable, if I say so myself) but left both of them with a life-long aversion to box-pleated plaid skirts.

The Spring Fling at Armonic Arts was Edith’s first-ever gallery showing, so of course we simply had to go, my daughter insisted.

We had missed just about every other first in Edith’s life, including wedding and births of children, so there we were, driving through a funky little neighborhood off of Sunset in Alamo Heights, looking for something that looked like a gallery, in a neighborhood of tiny half-century old cottages, and dusty yards of half-dead grass. And there it was – couldn’t miss for all the cars parked in front and along the side-walkless streets, in front of a charming old house with a long back-yard, and a flower-bed planted with teacups and saucers mounted on long rods. No, a little off the beaten art-gallery track – but a splendidly personal, funky little gallery, spread out in the rooms of a sort-of-private home. Edith’s paintings were in what I guess would have been the front bedroom, and the rest of the show was grouped in other rooms: even the hallways were pressed into service for their wall-space: one was adorned with rows and rows of framed and hand-painted Tarot cards, and the other with paintings by the most-established artist at the Spring Fling, Charles Ingram.

There was a table moved into the back corner of the living room – er- the main gallery space, covered with refreshments: wine and beer and soft drinks, with cheese and crackers and most delicious home-made hummus and dips, and even with that inducement, I wouldn’t have thought I would have stayed for very long, after admiring Edith’s paintings . . . but that I struck up a conversation with Charles Ingram, who turned out to be a passionate local history enthusiast. He had his twenty-something aged son with him at the showing, for pretty much the same reasons that I drag my daughter to my book things – for assistance at least as much as moral support – so Blondie and young Mr. Ingram had a wry and companionable chuckle over that.

We wound up having a very nice talk, ranging through some aspects of local history, the Civil War in Texas, and the roots of Texas rebellion against governance for Mexico. I had a good time, although on reflection, this probably kept other art-lovers from getting in a word edgeways.

Oh, well – there is always First Friday. And Edith has another showing coming up, soon.


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San Antonio Local Color

Local Color

by Julia Hayden

In a job that I had, several jobs ago, my immediate boss was a transplant from North Carolina, and one of the things that he often noted was how deep was the Hispanic influence on just about everything in this part of Texas. It is, after all, the Borderlands, where two different cultures mix and meld so thoroughly and have done so for so long that those of us accustomed to it. Of course we should dine on breakfast tacos, and the supermarket carry every imaginable variety of salsa, and listen to conjunto music, and have in our vocabulary a smattering or more of Spanish. It’s just the way that things are . . . and sometimes it takes a recent transplant, like my old boss, to notice it in a significant way.

For me – since I grew up in another Borderland (southern California) – I was already pretty comfortable with the California version of such elements: Spanish and old missions, cilantro and cumin, and home-made tamales, steamed in Mom’s tall stock-pot, Olvera Street on a grade-school field trip. The one thing I did notice almost at once, though – was how exuberantly colorful buildings tended to be, especially those with a South-of-the-Border influence. Almost the first local ruckus-du-jour that I remember reading about in the Express News was the long and drawn out affair of Sandra Cisnero’s Purple House. For those with short memories, this was and is a cute little Victorian cottage on the edge of the King William Historical District, and she chose to paint it an eye-popping periwinkle purple, which put a selection of neighbors up in arms as being just a titch too vivid for a historical district. I think the color eventually faded to something a little more genteel – or everyone got over it . . . anyway, it was the ruckus-du-jour for a while.

I got more of a personal introduction to this when my elderly (and admittedly half-blind) neighbor had her nephew repaint the outside of her house, and I didn’t realize it until the day after we went onto (or off of) Daylight Savings Time, and for the first time in months I was arriving home in daylight. Came around the corner and had to cover my eyes, the shock of it was that intense; a tiny little garden cottage, painted the exact color of Pepto Bismol. It did make it easy to give directions, though – I would tell everyone to look for the house painted the color of Pepto Bismol – I’d be in the house just next door.

There was at about the same time – if memory serves, another color-oriented ruckus about the color of the new Central Library in San Antonio; a collection of artistically shaped and arranged slabs of concrete painted a brilliant shade of paprika red. Like my next-door neighbors’ house, it certainly made it easy for strangers to find it, and know indeed and without a doubt that it was the Central Library. There certainly wasn’t another one like it anywhere within a hundred miles.

After a while, though, one gets used to the brighter palette of colors. Eventually almost every other place looks bland, blah, beige and boring.

As the Topsy Turvy Tomatoes Continue to Revive the Garden

Continuing to Revive the Garden

In spite of the continuing drought – only broken last week by a sudden but very welcome thunderstorm – the progress in reviving my garden is advancing at a good rate. Not the entire thing, though. Small as it is, I can’t afford to restock completely with new plantings all at once. There are still some parts of the back yard which remain every bit as wrecked as they were when the pair of boxer-mixish pups that my daughter took pity on last fall got finished wreaking a path of destruction, and then three or four days of well-below-zero temperatures finished off everything that had managed to escape.

The plants that I bought, here and there – at the monthly market in Wimberley, at the Antique Rose Emporium and at the friendly neighborhood HEB, to replace the lost ones are mostly thriving, although something that has a taste for nibbling on the roots of the airplane plants has eaten one of them down to the sprouts. I don’t know what it is, but it has sharp teeth, and can apparently rappel down a metal hanger to the baskets where I had split up a huge pot-bound one into three different plants. I suspect something like an opossum. Fortunately, it left the other two alone.

The basil is thriving gloriously – there is nothing like fresh basil in the summer. The best and most simple summer salad is a dish of sliced fresh tomatoes and rounds of soft mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with fresh-cut leaves of basil and a dash of olive oil. With luck, we may be able to have all that, from out of our garden and our own cheese-making vat, although I fear it will be decades – if ever – before we can generate cold-pressed olive oil from the little olive tree planted out in front.

The tomato plants – six of the poor spindly things, rescued from the marked-down shelves at Walmart and just about dead at that – were carefully planted in the topsy-turvy tomato planters that my daughter also scored from the marked-down shelf at the HEB. They grew down, and then up again, astonishingly bushy – just as the exhuberantly glowing advertisement material which came with the topsy-turvy claimed. Over the last week, they have been putting forth little yellow blossoms, which is a promising thing and farther than I had ever gotten previously with trying to grow tomatoes in my yard here. Perhaps the personal tomato curse on me is indeed broken. My daughter looked up the breed of tomato plant – nothing special, really – just a generic garden tomato, renown for ease of care and in being prolifically productive.

My daughter also found a hanging pepper planter on the HEB marked-down shelf; the pepper plants grow out of the sides of the planter, rather than the bottom. A couple of weeks ago, we planted that with four bell peppers and three cayenne pepper plants: they also are going great guns. A couple of them had small peppers on them when we got them, but the rest are blooming away. The planters hang from the edge of the back porch – and I have arranged a number of smaller plants in pots on the ground below, so that the water dribbling out of the planters will refresh the plants below.

And that’s where my garden stands this week – what about yours?

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Veladi Mansion in Karnes County

The Fabled White Elephant Mansion of Karnes City

Written By Randy Watson

The famous, fabulous, and fantastic Veladi mansion sits on a hill, among acres of mown green pasture, along Route 181, as it passes by Karnes City. This classical southern-style mansion – for which the word ‘palatial’ is perhaps a bit of an understatement – was built in 1994, reportedly at a cost of 8 million dollars. It was modeled after an even larger historic – and now long-gone Southern mansion, Windsor Castle, in Port Gibson, Mississippi. The original model for the Veladi mansion served as a Union hospital during the Civil War, and burned to the ground at the end of the 19th century, leaving only the trademark ground-to-roofline columns remain.

In recreating an ante-bellum mansion in South Texas, no expense was spared; 29,000 square feet of living, entertaining and recreational space, verandas that surround all sides on two floors, 34 rooms, including eleven bedrooms, a disco and a ballet practice space  . . . and a kitchen the size of the average vacation condo. Inlaid floors of wood and marble, fireplaces, 28 ornate Corinthian columns and a cupola that lights the interior stair hall  . . .  landscaped grounds, to include a fountains, gardens pool and cabanas, a tennis court, stables, a private fishing pond, staff quarters and support facilities – everything that the average multi-billionaire needs to live in simple and elegant splendor  . . .  but it was only lived in for barely four years.

The original owner, Arturo Torres, who made a fortune through Pizza Hut franchises and the Veladi Steak House chain sold it at auction in 1998; too far from San Antonio, he said in newspaper interviews at the time, and his three daughters – Veronica, Laura and Elaine – were all going to different schools. The house is a good fifty miles from San Antonio, in the middle of cattle country and far, far, from any other establishments of similar size or luxury. At that first auction, the mansion went to football franchise owner Woody Kern  . . .  Now it is called Southwind Ranch, and it has now gone on the market again, which is a sad state of affairs for such a lovely and well-appointed house, and much admired for the architectural details, and the sheer lavish luxury of it all – incongruously placed at the edge of a blue-collar and working class small country town. Karnes County is green and attractive as that part of South Texas gets, but certainly no one has ever compared it to the Berkshires or to Beverly Hills, where a mansion of equal quality would pass without remark among so many others.

It is listed with the Texas Film Commission as a potential film location, so there might be a chance for the splendid house by the side of US Highway 181 to be known for something more than being perennially on the market. The Southwind Ranch is currently listed for sale by Hoffman International Properties for $7.9 million.

Photos courtesy of Hoffman International Properties by Vanessa Andrews, a Texas Real Estate Agent.


A Day on the Beach At Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake

by Julia Hayden

Upon moving to San Antonio fifteen years ago, I had always wondered – in a perfunctory and mildly curious way – why there would be so many boats and wave-runners around. Such watercraft would be parked on a trailer in the street, or in a driveway, or moving purposefully down the road behind a pick-up truck – and I would be wondering where they were going, actually. We are too far from the coast, and as charming as the various local rivers are, unless they are in 100-year flood, there’s no scope for floating anything larger than an inner-tube on them. And slightly later, I realized that – that damming of various upstream and down from San Antonio had produced lakes sufficient for recreational boating purposes – and that’s were all these people with boats and wave-runners were headed, every holiday and three-day weekend. They were going to Medina Lake, Calvaras Lake, Braunig Lake, to Canyon Lake, and Lake McQueeney, and if they were really ambitious, all the way past Austin to Lake Travis.

So, my darling daughter decided that she wanted to celebrate this last 4th of July in the water, or close to the water’s edge, and being that the price of gas and a hotel room had pretty well removed an excursion to the Gulf Coast from the equation. She decided on Canyon Lake, to spend the day there at the day-beach at Canyon Park – and that we would take the dog. Alas, once we got there, we discovered that the day beach was absolutely closed-verboten-no-exceptions-whatsoever to dogs. So, we had to drive around to the campgrounds, and take a campsite for the day, at a slightly higher price, where leashed dogs were permitted. The only disadvantage to that location was that it was really not a comfortable beach – just an agglomeration of rock – and that there was absolutely no shade. The entire stretch of shoreline had no shade, other than metal canopies over the picnic tables at the various sites. There hadn’t been any shade at the beach, either, or so we had observed – most picnickers had brought their own beach umbrellas or pop-up canopies. They were most desperately needed, in any case, for there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – although there was an occasional light breeze, being on a height elevated somewhat above the water.

We thought the party next to us – a large group of friends and family also spending the whole day there, rather than camping – had the most clever idea of putting up one of their pop-up canopies in the shallow water, and parking a couple of lawn chairs underneath: in the water, which was barely cool, and in the shade, while they played around with inflatable floats, and a pair of wave-runners. We were rebels to the point of letting the dog swim, off her leash, although I am not sure she enjoyed it all that much, and was reluctant to go into the water at all, unless both of us were already in. And I turned my ankle, negotiating the rocks – so I wasn’t so much keen on risking breaking anything else. But we had folding chairs and a bit of shade, cool water and plenty of sun-screen, so in all – much more pleasant a day than at the beach, and having to drive home afterwards with sand in your bathing suit.

Next hot weekend though? I think we’ll tube the river; the shade is more substantial, and I will remember to bring my Crocs . . .


Tomato Experiment While Reviving the Backyard Garden

Reviving the Garden – Tomatoes

by Julia Hayden

So, round two of reviving the garden has been undertaken, thanks to my daughter finding several of those Topsy-Turvy suspended tomato-pot gadgets at the severely marked-down shelf at the local HEB. You know, those things that are actually a heavy insulated plastic bag, with the tomato growing out of the bottom? Theoretically, it spares having to park them in cages, and the warmth of the sun and the water all get to the roots of the tomato plant, with the result that you have just oodles and oodles of ginormous fresh tomatoes hanging from the branches of the tomato plant hanging out the bottom of the suspended tomato-pot thingy. So, we bought some marked down tomato plants and a bag of extra-nice potting soil, filled them all up, and now there are three of them, hanging from the edge of the back porch.

My daughter anticipates a tomato-bounty, but I am not holding my breath. I despair of growing tomatoes here – in the ground, in a pot, in a box, with a fox . . . the magic of a tomato bounty has eluded me every year. It’s horribly frustrating for me, as I grew them in Utah, in the backyard garden plot! Tons of them . . . well, not tons of them, but a fair number, enough to justify the time, trouble and flat of 2-inch pots of seedling plants. And there is nothing on earth better than a fresh-picked, perfectly ripe home-grown tomato, warm from the sun, just-pulled from the vine, coming away easily into your hand. It’s as if some malignant power has put a curse on my garden here. Other people grow tomatoes: a friend in Alamo Heights grows sweet little cherub tomatoes on bushes that are small shrubs, so many that she gives them away, right and left. Once, when I had occasion to speak to a professor of agronomy at Texas A&M, I plaintively asked him right out, if there was a reason why I can’t grow tomatoes here in San Antonio, and he answered that yes, there was – but he’d have to charge me tuition before he could tell me what it was.

Peppers I can grow here – quite easily. There was actually a seasonal jalapeno pepper plant that happened to take root in a fortunate, south-facing and sheltered place, and thrived for three years. It grew into a fairly large shrub, covered with red and green peppers – in fact, I still have a zip-lock baggie full of them in the deep-freeze. Small lemon and lime trees in pots – they’ve been thriving for years. I’ve had pots of parsley and chive what have gone on steadily, winter and summer, also for years . . . but nothing works with tomatoes. The flowers don’t set, and start producing tomatoes, or the whole plant just ups and withers . . . really, I despair, sometimes. It’s almost less trouble to buy a box from Ernie, the veggie guy who sells produce out the back of his SUV, parked under a tree on the corner of Stahl and Higgens – straight up from the Valley.

But my daughter says that everyone who has tried to grow tomatoes with the Topsy-turvys has been thrilled no end. Sigh. One more time . . .


Scenic Drive to Wimberly – Peace like a River

Peace Like a River

by Julia Hayden

We went to Wimberly last weekend, first for the Market Days, and then to try and find the place where I had taken some particularly beautiful pictures along the Blanco River some years ago. I am getting ready to publish a all-in-one hardback version of the Adelsverein Trilogy, and I thought that a nice rural view of the hills, river, trees and wildflowers would be just the ticket for the cover. Alas, no luck with the wildflowers this year, and we couldn’t find the road that we had gone driving down, which paralleled the river and offered a wonderful vista around every bend . . . never mind – we still got some lovely pictures, I got some plants to begin reviving my poor dog-and-frost destroyed garden again, and my daughter scored some major finds as far as her pressed glass collection goes. Oh, but it was hot. We carried along bottled water, with plenty of ice, drank of it every time we began to feel thirsty, and still came home limp with exhaustion.

We took the back way, from New Braunfels – too much traffic on the highway . . . and anyway, I wanted to look for scenic bits of the Hill Country anyway. We took the exit for Farm to Market 306 as if going to Canyon Lake, turned right on Purgatory Road and went all the way to Ranch to Market 32. Turn east, towards the direction of San Marcos, and then north on Ranch Road 12, into Wimberley. It seemed to be a very short and direct drive, rather than up to San Marcos on the highway, and then over to Wimberley – and it was much more restful a drive – little traffic, once past the turn-off for Canyon Lake.

So – Wimberley; a sweet little town, halfway between Austin and San Antonio, well-grown with oak and cypress trees, and stocked with cute little places selling artistic tchotchkes, kitchenware, antiques and the like. It still has a small-town feel about it – it is not laid out in straight lines and squares like the older parts of Fredericksburg, or Boerne or New Braunfels – it’s more like the original city planners dropped pieces of cooked spaghetti on the floor and took the resulting tangle as a viable plan. Still – considerable charm, even when everyone is heading to Market Days, or decides do go for lunch in downtown Wimberley afterwards.

We took our lunch at Marcos’ Italian, right on the town square; which was a perfect place to sit and recover after the heat. They make their own rolls, as I discovered, when having an Italian sausage roll for lunch – and the same dough is used to make little rolls to dip into spiced olive-oil. We completely missed the turn-off for the River Road, which is where we wanted to go, as I discovered when checking the map again. Instead, we blundered off into the entirely opposite direction – still, it was scenic enough: a cool green river, with cypress trees lining the riverbank, and tiny green feathers of cypress seedlings coming up from the mud. My daughter waded in the water, to cool off – she promises that next time, we’ll bring some inflatable pool toys and float around a bit on the river.

So, that was our Saturday excursion – what about yours?

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