Eternal Turkey Strong to Save

Created Saturday, 28 November 2009 14:49

Eternal Turkey Strong to Save

It was automatic, the family ritual for disposing of the post-Thanksgiving left-over turkey – and all the other dishes. On the day after, warmed-up everything. On the day after that, hot turkey sandwiches. On the day after that – when the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy had usually been completely consumed – then cold turkey sandwiches. Followed on subsequent evenings by turkey ala king, turkey loaf and turkey croquettes. Finally, when the turkey carcass had been substantially reduced to small scraps and bones, it all went into the stock-pot and we had turkey stew for another two weeks. Generally, by the time we polished off the Thanksgiving turkey, we would only have had a weeks’ grace before commencing on the Christmas turkey. These days, if I have prepared one for Thanksgiving (not a guarantee, actually – for some years I have been by myself and fixed something small and non-traditional) I have usually been so sick of leftover turkey that for Christmas we have fixed just about anything else as a main dish for Christmas dinner.

But leftovers, like the poor, and the Christmas shopping rush – will always be with us. This recipe, for a pot-pie with a cheddar-biscuit crust is especially tasty, for the chief reason that it doesn’t look, or taste like an obvious leftover. This is one of those recipes that I copied by hand from a magazine, or a newspaper, into my own little collection.

Turkey Pot-pie with a Cheddar Crust

  • Simmer until just tender in 3 cups water – 1 lb peeled, cubed butternut squash. Turn off heat, and add to hot water and cubed squash – 1 cup frozen lima beans. Allow to sit a moment, before draining and reserving cooked vegetables, and 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • In a large skillet, melt 3 Tbsp. butter, and make a roux with 2 Tbsp. flour. Wisk in the 1 cup cooking water from the vegetables and 1 cup chicken or turkey broth, with
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh sage, 5 oz. pealed pearl onions.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes and add 3 cups cubed cooked turkey, and the lima beans and squash. Pour into a 1 ½ quart shallow baking dish,
  • Combine in another bowl: 1 ¼ cup flour and 1 ½ tsp. baking powder. Stir in 1 Tbsp cold butter, 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar, 4 slices crisp and crumbled cooked bacon. Stir ½ to 2/3 cup cold milk to make a loose dough, and pipe around the edge of the baking dish.
  • Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. This will not appear anything like leftovers. Trust me.


Come all Ye Faithful

Created Wednesday, 23 December 2009 17:55
By Julia Hayden

Come all Ye Faithful

As of last weekend, we couldn’t put it off any longer. It was well past time to haul the tubs of ornaments out of the garage, and put up the Christmas tree. My own ornament collection is vast and eccentric. I’ve been celebrating the season on my own, more often than not, since 1977 – and have all the memories of where I acquired them.

For some reason, I had these two little yarn-doll ladies, with colorful crocheted skirts: they came from Denmark, through my Great-Aunt Nan. They are the oldest among my collection: second to them are about thirty Styrofoam balls, covered with velvet or felt, trimmed with lace, gilt ribbons, fake seed-pearls and jewels. I made them in 1977 to adorn the little plastic tree in my room in the barracks in Japan. They have proved fairly indestructible, being able to stand a drop to a hard floor.

During the 1980s, I bought a single box of ornaments from one of the high-end catalogue retailers every year. The paper-mache globes covered with red and green curlicues, the stuffed teddy-bears with little scarves, and the vintage wooden airplanes are from that period. The airplanes looked especially fine, hanging from the ends of the branches, as if they were whirling in some endless tree-shaped dog-fight. The terra-cotta ornaments from Portugal which look like ginger-cookies are from that time, and so are the wooden miniature musical instruments.

I have a handful of Anri flying angels, bought when we passed through Rome on our way to Spain; I drove a bright orange Volvo sedan onto the car-ferry from Patras to Brindisi, and wandered all across Europe, accompanied by my then-four year old daughter.

The dozens of traditional German wooden ornaments are from the 1990s. Santas on the backs of whales, or in the basket of a dirigible, angels and little sleds with piles of presents – those are from the six years that I was stationed in Spain, and TDY to Germany every January for a military broadcasting conference. The three little brass and glass lanterns – miniatures of a traditional Turkish lantern – came from the wives club Christmas bazaar, at Zaragoza AB.

So did the wooden ornaments cut out of flat scrap of wood and painted to look like a pineapple, the traditional Colonial American symbol of hospitality. All very traditional and conventional . . . and then until we get to the three Enterprise spaceships with their tiny blinking lights. I bought the first of those when we came back to the States, the very year they brought the Star Trek ornaments out. The little angel mouse with a dove in her hands is from Utah: craft shop in the local mall.

The various other Hallmark ornaments were picked up on sale, usually just after Christmas. The Noah’s Ark is one of my favorites, being so very intricate and elaborate, with two pairs of tiny animals, and a miniscule dove with an olive-branch in it’s beak, flying around and around. The little red handbag with a double string of beads for a handle – that was from a Christmas gift swap with the Red Hat ladies’s group.

Oh, it took all afternoon to set this all up, twine three strings of lights around it, set the poinsettia flowers in all the gaps left by the artificial branches, and hang the total accumulation. But I don’t mind – it’s more than a Christmas tree – it’s a family history, a history that only families know.


All the Tea in India

Created Wednesday, 23 December 2009 15:20

By Julia Hayden

All the Tea in India

Believe it or not, there are some food items that my family has a taste for, which just aren’t carried at the San Antonio HEB – bit of a shock to find that out, I know – but it’s true. Our very own local chain grocery store dynamo has a few of our personal food quirks left un-met. Some of those taste preferences were acquired through our eccentric family background and others through long service overseas, and so South Texas HEB can perhaps be forgiven for missing out. Since we have located a series of suitable subs – well, we won’t hold that against them.

The family legend has it that my very English Great-grandmother Alice carried around her own personal stock of tea – and when asking for hot tea in a restaurant, demanded that the staff supply her only with a tea-pot and a kettle of water – and said kettle had better still be bubbling when it was carried to her table. So, yes – tea is one of those absolutes. In my house, tea is made with bubble-boiling water, and loose tea leaves. As my Liverpudlian Granny Dodie used to say – it should be strong enough to trot a mouse over. (A completely unsanitary and perhaps revolting mental image – but still; a good cuppa must be strong, solid, powerful – the stuff that fueled the building of an empire. Tea bags are for sissies and people too lazy to bother with preparing a good pot of tea.)

And because we spent some wonderful years living in Greece, and my daughter had a TDY in Egypt – we like real yoghurt, that sort of yoghurt which is as sour and rich as sour cream, not adulterated with gelatin and disgustingly artificial fruit flavors. There were other foods that we had a yearning for – and even venues such as Sun Harvest Farms and Whole Foods just didn’t come close to meeting. Those yearnings were met, almost by accident, when we discovered an Asian grocery, in a cunning disguise.

From the outside, it looks like a completely ordinary gas station quickie-mart, on the corner of IH 35 East and Starcrest. It even has gas pumps outside, and a nearly defunct pay phone outside, adding to the illusion of being completely common-place, and even slightly sordid. A step inside – it still looks like a gas-station: cigarettes and lottery tickets, and all. But this is deceptive – farther inside, this is a cave of delights, stacked high with exotic good food of every sort; fresh or frozen, take-away, or in bulk; dairy, candy, dried, liquid . . . it’s all there, stacked up to the ceiling.

The only business establishment I have ever encountered with a better disguise was a money-exchange place in Itaewon, South Korea, which looked like a place selling exotic underwear. What I liked from the first moment I ventured inside the market, was how it smelled. It smelled pleasant and faintly perfumery; that would be the boxes of oriental incense.

All along the front windows are racks filled with twenty-pound sacks of rice, Jasmine and Basmanti rice, with it’s own faint sweet scent. And bags of black and herbal teas, of candy and spices, pastries, and frozen entrees and fresh vegetables . . . the owners and the regular staff are friendly and open, terribly helpful, happy to recommend this or that, explain what this spice is used in, or what brand is better than another. They recommended Wagh Bakri International blend tea – and sometime after Christmas I will get around to exploring some of their other food recommendations.


San Antonio Road Trip – Independence Trail

Created Friday, 18 December 2009 20:15

by Julia Hayden

Road Trip – Independence Trail

There are two ways to get from one place to another: if you just need to be at your destination, then of course you take the highway. It’s fast, efficient, usually direct . . . and rather dull. The other way is if the journey itself is the destination; a leisurely ramble along a back road, stopping at any place that takes your interest, watching the scenery of fields, and stands of trees, little creeks and big rivers, ranch houses and little towns that once were much bigger, appear before the windshield of your car like an endlessly unfolding Japanese scenic scroll.

The Texas Independence Trail is one of those – a circular ramble through that part of Texas lying roughly between San Antonio and Galveston, and inland from the coast as far as Lockhart, Bastrop and Brenham. This route describes that part of Texas which was settled in the early days, the days of entrepreneurial settlements, and the hard-fought war for an independent Republic of Texas, as well as those days when settlers from Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia came to fulfill their own dreams of possessing acres of land. Many of their descendents are still there; the names they gave to their towns still printed on the land: Runge, Panna Maria, Karnes City, Poth, and Seguin.

The road unrolls south from San Antonio like a narrow asphalt ribbon; traveling it at most times of the year, one can get a sense of what attracted settlers to the Texas frontier; mild weather, shallow rivers, many trickling creeks, meadows of wildflowers in spring. These roads are comparatively traffic-free, in between towns along the way. Side-streets invite you to turn off from the main road, and venture into interesting little towns, a good few of them . Some of them have changed for the worst, in the last fifty years; some are revived, and still lively. Goliad, about two hours south of San Antonio is a wonderful destination, and a jumping-off point for exploring other nearby communities, although a fair argument might be made for which town – Goliad or Cuero has the most fabulously ornate courthouse.

We stopped for late lunch in Goliad, on the day that we were there; everyone recommended the Hanging Tree Restaurant – in a historic building on the Square, just across the road from the locally famed Hanging Tree – a large oak-tree with a number of sturdy lower branches. In the early days, the tree it self sheltered the sitting court, and capital sentences were carried out immediately. There were a number of unsanctioned lynchings which also happened there, during the so-called ‘Cart War” in the late 1850s.

The Hanging Tree Restaurant itself was wonderfully atmospheric, being rather like a Victorian era dining room, adorned with a fine selection of game trophies. The specialty of the house is the chicken-fried rib-eye steak. My daughter sampled the regular chicken-friend steak and it was very good; the breading crust was crisp and light, not greasy at all. Otherwise, the food was about average, but the service from the staff was wonderful, and after a day out in the cold, it was a very restful place to sit and have a meal. Sometime in the spring, we’ll follow the Independence Trail a little farther – to Victoria, and farther east, but that was enough of it for now.


In Case You Missed It… California Should Copy Texas

Created Tuesday, 08 December 2009 20:54

In Case You Missed It… California Should Copy Texas

December 08, 2009

California Should Copy Texas

Investor’s Business Daily Editorial
Dec. 7, 2009

AUSTIN – The following Investor’s Business Daily editorial highlights the differences between Texas and California’s economic and energy policies, and why California should look to Texas as an example of strong, economically competitive principles:

California: While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worries about rising seas, his state sinks below the waves. Don’t mess with Texas, they say. But California and the nation could follow its lead.

Last Wednesday, Gov. Schwarzenegger released a new report based on research compiled by the California Energy Commission claiming that by 2100 San Francisco Bay would be more bay than San Francisco, with Fisherman’s Wharf and Treasure Island under the rising waters of climate change.

His show-and-tell, which included a new Google Earth application the commission spent $150,000 to help develop, goes a long way toward explaining the once-Golden State’s slide into an economic and budgetary abyss.

The governor and legislative Democrats in 2006 approved a new law requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020. This 2020 vision was myopic, and the state has been losing industry, jobs and people ever since. But the governor persists, warning Wednesday that “we must also be prepared if climate change continues to worsen.”

State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, is among those who have questioned the science behind such economic decisions, as others have done at the national level, particularly in the wake of the Climate-gate scandal involving Britain’s Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

“Combined with the $21 billion deficit we’re facing in the coming year, this shows we ought to be focusing our attention on more mundane things — like living within our means,” DeVore says. “To use this all-encompassing rubric of climate change as a power grab to usurp property rights is something we shouldn’t be doing.”

While the state focuses on windmills, solar panels and electric cars, vast offshore oil resources go undeveloped and nuclear power is ignored. An energy-starved California, according to a recent Milken Institute report, has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs.

Large areas of the state are being turned back into desert due to a man-made drought to save obscure species of fish such as the delta smelt in the San Joaquin Valley.

More than 450,000 acres have been allowed to go barren as farmers in an area that once fed the world line up at food pantries. Unemployment, at 17% across the Valley, reaches upward of 40% in towns such as Mendota (2006 population: 9,752).

It’s no surprise, then, that Californians have been voting with their feet, leaving the state in droves. Between 2005 and 2007, some 2.14 million fled to other states, while only 1.44 million moved in from other states. The state motto seems to be “Go East, Young Man.”

Texans are more fortunate. Gov. Rick Perry doesn’t offer human sacrifices to the earth goddess Gaia. He focuses on jobs and economic growth. Texas is growing, creating economic wealth and attracting entrepreneurs and workers.

An article in the October edition of Trends magazine, titled “America’s Future: California vs. Texas,” states rather starkly: “From the Great Depression on, California was a dream destination for Americans. Now it looks like a nightmare, taking on new debt at a rate of $25 million a day.”

Texas has encouraged alternative energy, as part of its all-of-the-above approach, but has not mandated it to the exclusion of everything else and not where the cost exceeds the benefit.

Once the oil capital of North America, Texas is rapidly turning into the capital of wind power. It has reached the point that more than 3% of its electricity, enough to supply power to 1 million homes, comes from wind turbines.

Texas has prospered, according to the article, due to an emphasis on laissez-faire markets and individual responsibility vs. California’s reliance on central planning and subsidizing a vast and growing social safety net.

The Lone Star State has created 70% of the new jobs in the entire U.S. since 2008 and has more Fortune 500 headquarters than any other place in the union. California has 51, New York 56 and Texas 64.

Maybe the jobs summit should have been held at the governor’s mansion in Austin.

The editorial can be also be seen here:

Key Points

  • Investor’s Business Daily editorial highlights differences between economic and energy policies in Texas and California
  • Texas continues to have one of the strongest economies in the nation


EPA Ruling on Carbon Dioxide

Created Tuesday, 08 December 2009 20:50

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry Regarding EPA Ruling on Carbon Dioxide

December 07, 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ruling on the danger of carbon dioxide:

“It is unconscionable that unelected bureaucrats at the EPA have declared carbon dioxide a public danger despite a lack of scientific evidence to support their ruling. This action should be of grave concern to all Americans, especially Texans, in light of the recent “Climategate” scandal, which uncovered data had been manipulated and destroyed in order to falsely show a preordained result.

“We have already seen a sweeping expansion of federal authority, federal takeovers and federal spending under the Obama Administration. Today’s ruling continues a pattern of aggressive federal encroachment into every farm, business, church and household in America.

“EPA’s own data shows that Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions have fallen more than any other state this decade due in large part to a regulatory environment that has encouraged the use of alternative sources of energy and cleaner power generation through flexible and science based permitting and monitoring. The federal government should be following Texas’ model of innovation and competition, not burdensome and costly mandates.”

Key Points

  • Gov. Perry issues statement regarding EPA ruling on danger of carbon dioxide
  • The ruling continues a pattern of aggressive federal encroachment into the lives of Americans
  • The federal government should follow Texas’ model of innovation and competition rather than costly mandates


Christmas in South Texas

Created Tuesday, 08 December 2009 16:02

How They Do Christmas in Texas

Of course they do it full-out all over South Texas; but especially for town celebrations like Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas, two hours drive south of San Antonio, on a clear cold morning with everything – including the windshield of the car white and furred-over with frost. It was glorious, though, to see the sun come up, and arrive in Goliad – which has to boast the most-exuberantly ornamented Beaux-Arts-style courthouse building around.

Christmas on the Square was two days of local artists and crafters, food-booths purveying everything from hand-cut home-made potato chips to gorditas, hamburgers and meat-onna-stick, live music, a dog costume contest, and of course . . . the arrival of Santa, mounted on a long-horn steer.

I was there because of my books; for they had a special table for local authors. What better venue to talk up a family saga, full of drama, bloody war, treachery, true love, adventure, Texas Rangers and Comanche Indians, and lots and lots of cows, than where it all began with a bang, short distance away at the old Presidio, where the survivors of Colonel Fannin’s company of Texians were led away and executed by Santa Anna’s soldiers, in 1836.

In between time, my daughter and I took turns, walking around the square admiring various wares, quite a lot of which were very fine, indeed. If I had sold more books, I most likely would have bought more than I did; even so I was seriously tempted, if not downright amused.

The Turn Works does barbeque tools – set with handles made of deer horn – forks, ladles, combination salt-and-pepper shakers. According to their card, they will also do your custom design. Alas, no website – but MC Enterprises does. They produce original jewelry; silver, set with shell, coral, semi-precious stones and mother of pearl. I liked their pieces very much, because they pulled off the neat trick of being original and of good quality without being flashy, and affordable without looking cheap.

Another vendor, Jimmey Luckey of Round Top also does sterling silver jewelry – but charms, fishing lures and accessories in perfect, working miniature. He has an e-Bay store, but I couldn’t afford the piece that I wanted – a tiny Colt revolver in silver with inset horn grips. Gaylon Harvey, of Blessing,

Texas had shelves of turned wood ornamental platters, boxes and vases, which were purely ingenious, when you think of how carefully slips and cubes of wood must be glued together, and then turned on a lathe. Baskets by Debi, and benches and stuff by Pee Wee’s Metal Art, of Bloomington, Texas, and painted gourds by R & R Creatives (who were from Goliad, and so didn’t have a long drive home afterwards!) I could have come home with several times what I did, although I had to warn my daughter off the Goliad Pet Adoption booth as there were a number of totally charming dogs and cats looking for likely humans.

The high point of the afternoon, after the arrival of Santa and the entourage, was the pet parade: yes, it’s that time of year to totally humiliate your dog by dressing them up as Mrs. Santa Claus, the Grinch who stole Christmas, or as a reindeer – but there were pet owners who chose the tasteful, minimalist approach. All in all, a wonderful and exhausting day; Goliad’s public Christmas festival may be over, by many towns and localities in easy driving distance will have activities, festivals, displays, and market days over the next two weekends. I can’t promise that any of them have Santa arriving on a long-horn steer, though.

Kerr County Market Days – December – Third Saturday of the month!

Wimberly, Texas Christmasschedule for December weekends

Full schedule of activities for Johnson City Christmas Activities


Decking the Halls the Rooftops and the Sidewalk of San Antonio

Created Thursday, 03 December 2009 00:00

Decking the Halls, the Rooftops and the Sidewalk, Too

It’s that time of year again – the weather has turned cool and perfect, the scraps of Thanksgiving dinner have been put away, and those of us who felt moved to get up at 4 AM on Black Friday to score an incredible deal at a big-box retailer have returned triumphant from the hunt – so now we move on to the next seasonal ritual . . . well, besides writing the standard Christmas letter and addressing the cards. It’s time to decorate the house. And the yard. And the trees . . . and the sidewalk.

Time bring out the tubs of figures, ornaments, and inflatables, to pasture the wire-form deer on the lawn, sort out the tangle of green heavy-duty extension cords, and unwind the strings of lights. And find the little packet of extra bulbs.

Time was, just a couple of strings of lights along the rooftop was the norm, although some people got a little ambitious and adorned the trees. Now it seems that there is a sort of neighborhood competition going on, over who can incorporate more seasonal adornments per square foot than anyone else. And this long weekend is when most of my neighbors have gotten started.

I walked around with the dogs on Sunday – already my next-door but one neighbor has strings of icicle lights uncoiled on the lawn, and a tall ladder leaning against the house. Farther down the block, another man pegs a series of giant candy canes along the edge of the lawn and walkway, linking them together with a string of lights; a stack of decorated wreaths here, another skein of lights being attached to the roof-edge by a woman on a ladder.

One of my other neighbors has a flock of penguins in felt caps, made from tall bleach bottles, who settle on his lawn around an igloo decorated with tinsel every year. Only a handful of my neighbors feel compelled to go the “full Griswald” – which is comforting, but even the normal run of decorating seems to be a lot more complicated than it used to be, and take much more time to install, and to break down again after New Years. Indeed, a resident in the next neighborhood over seems to have gone to the next extreme and just left everything up, year around. (Behold, a tiny portion of Ed Clark’s Christmas House!)

Still, I own to taking mild pleasure in the sight of it all, lighted up after twilight; and some neighborhood streets look very fine indeed, such as those in Windcrest, which makes a concerted effort every year. It’s just that I am one of those people, content to deck my own house with a minimalist string of lights and a holly wreath on the door.