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Saturday, August 30, 2008

San Antonio Botanical Garden Report: Treehouses...

If you happened to pick up the San Antonio Express-News for Saturday the 30th of August, you may have seen the brief article on the opening of the Terrific Tree houses exhibit at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Well, just so happens that on Friday, my wife and I made a trip to Funston off Broadway, to see the exhibit for ourselves, but without the ruffles and flourishes required of an opening.

Let me cut quickly to the chase on two important items: First, my wife has been trying to get me to go to SABG for years and each time, I simply have balked at the idea because I figured it involved more goofy flowers than an HEB on Valentines Day, and second, I took more pictures in the hour or two that we wandered through this place than I have in any single location we have written about since starting this blog.

So to answer my first complaint, it isn't all goofy flowers. This is a place that you can go to enjoy a relaxing walk, get some incredible ideas for your own landscaping at home, and enjoy some nice art.

And on the issue of taking lots of pictures, I couldn't possibly narrate our entire visit through the park, but if you'd like to see the pictures I took (either to avoid the entrance fee, or just to check it out before you actually go), I offer you a rare glimpse of my Flickr page. Have at it.

I'm only going to hit the high points and I'll let you explore this beautiful place on your own. So, a few administrative items are in order. First, the adult admission is well worth the $7.00 but if you are military, a senior citizen or any number of other qualifying census data markers, you can get a discount. I paid $5.00, my wife had to pay $7.00. Ha Ha!

Also, we hit it on a weekday and the sky was overcast. I would bet that if you visited during a period of heavy traffic like during a school field trip, it would be noisy, and in the heat of the day, it would really suck. Enjoy the pictures.
When you enter through the Sullivan Carriage House, you will see a nice gift shop and restaurant. My daughter ad her husband have dined at the Carriage House and really enjoyed it, though pricey to them, but we skipped it for a later lunch treat.Once we entered the actual gardens, it was as if being transformed from the hustle and bustle of San Antonio and the harsh Alamo Heights traffic into a really peaceful, well, Botanical Garden. Okay, to be honest, at first I was underwhelmed. We went off into the Rose Garden. Coincidentally, I've been working in my own rose garden at the house, and though this place was 1,000 times better than mine, hell, at least my landscape timbers are in better shape. But it gets better.I really enjoyed the Fountain Plaza, though I was unable to get a good photo of it due to the extraneous people and pop-up canopies in place preparing for the opening on Saturday.We went in to the Japanese Garden and that was a real treat. I loved the rocks, the streams and the path. Oh, and stay off the grass!From there, we moved on to the Lucile Halsell Conservatory where there are several different pavillions containing different types of plants. If you have ever driven by the area and have seen the tall glass structures, this is where the plants are.In addition to the plants and trees and ferns and cacti, the entire SABG has various artistic designs and sculptures and such incorporated into the gardens. You don't have to do a school report on it after the fact, so go ahead and enjoy the beauty without all the associated anxiety of trying to guess what it means.I did really enjoy the fern grotto because the day was beginning to warm up and inside, the combination of the waterfall and some strategically placed fans and air vents, it was a cool respite from the humidity that was building up.I suppose each of the little enclosed areas is some sort of different gardening experiment. They control the climate inside to allow them to focus on different areas so you can go from a desert environment to a tropical garden from one building to the next. It really is enjoyable to see. And it isn't just rows and rows of plants like walking through a nursery; the gardens themselves are art.Atop a hill overlooking a beautiful lawn (I guess this is where they hold concerts), is an interesting structure. At times the place looks like a golf course, and at other times, you feel like you are in a Disney park with the really nice detail of landscaping and water features.And at the top of this Overlook, you can see the San Antonio skyline several miles away. It's interesting that, until I got to the top and saw beyond the boundaries of the gardens, I had completely lost myself in the place. You don't hear traffic and since we went a a day where no school field trips were in progress, we really didn't hear much of anything aside from birds and the occasional buzzing bee.Speaking of field trips and kids, we did walk by the Children's Vegetable Garden which is a program to teach kids how to, well, grow veggies. They apparently give each kid some plants, they farm them and then maybe later they eat them. Sounds like a hoot.In spite of all the beautiful flowers and plants and sculptures and things, my favorite place in the entire gardens was the East Texas Pineywoods setting surrounding a nice sized pond. The path is not made of cement or stepping stones, but instead it is the natuarl pine needles that cover the trail. And the pond is a thing of beauty, so quiet and really, calming. If I was a homeless guy, I'd sell some blood, pay my way into this place and just hang out here all day long. It really is incredible.If it wasn't just wonderful enough, we seemed to become the interest of this little herd of woodducklings, no doubt assuming we had a quarter's worth of feed from a dispenser on the other side of the pond.

Oh, I guess you'd like to see the treehouses. And this is the thing; the tree houses aren't exactly in trees - in fact a few of them weren't anywhere near trees. I guess they did this as a safety thing, because afterall, what kid on a field trip could resist climbing into a tree house so as to smoke a few cigarettes or take a quick hit from his pocket flask, and then all hell would break loose.
This one was really nice, called Inspirational Treehouse. I could see this in my back yard. Unitl it got windy.This one is called The Windcatcher. It seems to be made of PVC pipe hanging from the tree with little windmills attached to the pipes. They say that if you were to sit inside, you would here a nice humming sound from the breeze. I also get that at my house everytime I'm working in the yard and the Air Conditioner turns on. But this is prettier.This was my wife's favorite. The Re-Born treehouse is made of recycled materials. Of all the displays, this is the treehouse you would want if you were a kid.The Greek Revival Sandbox. Okay. Imagine the tree.Our Green Treehouse has a solar panel on the top of it. How green. I'm sure kids are cutting in line to hang out here.This one is called Bamboo Pavilion. And you can use it to change your clothes.

There were a few more treehouses on display that either didn't catch my fancy or they looked more like sculptures than treehouses that I didn't realize they were part of the show. Likewise, there are several other areas in the gardens, but in the interest of time I'm skipping over, but you can check out the pictures page or better yet, visit SABG for yourself. It really was a great time.

Lunch Report: Harmon's in Cibolo...

I know, you've probably been waiting for us to just get our act together, take the short drive over to Cibolo, and slip into Harmon's for some awesome barbecued vittles. And Friday, we did just that. And I was starving when we got there way past lunch time.If you aren't familiar with the Universal City - Shertz - Cibolo metroplex area, you'll want to make sure you have good directions, or just use the Garmin like we do. We rolled into town just after 2 in the afternoon, and saw the place, but with no cars parked out front, thought maybe it was closed. But turns out, there is parking in the back, along with the awesome smokey smell of the barbecue pit. When we walked in, we were the only customers and the staff was cleaning up from what was probably a pretty busy lunch. Important note: Harmon's is not midget freindly.* The counter and especially the soda fountain seem as though they were designed for tall people and no kids! Good move, I say.The restaraunt has three areas; a game room with a pool table and arcade games, the regular dining area, and then a larger dining area that can be used for parties and such. The owner told me that they have live music including a Blues night.Eager to eat becasue we were starving, my wife ordered the chicken and brisket combo. The first test for her is always, "Does the meat stand on its own without sauce." Yes and yes. This chicken is wonderful with or without the sauce. But go ahead and try the sauce. Between the two of us, we probably went through half of the squeeze bottle at our table.The brisket had an excellent flavor and again, I could easily eat it without the sauce, but didn't, just becasue Harmon's sauce was so delicious. And yea, we bought some to go.I paid $2.00 more and ordered the pork ribs and chicken for my combo. If you think that the chicken looks totally blackened, it is. But it was not burnt by any stretch. The chicken simply falls off the bones and seriously, between the two of us, a buzzard couldn't have licked a DNA sized morsel of chicken from the bones when we were done.

The ribs were fine. They had a nice taste to them but truth be told, I could name off two or three other places that I would have to rate a little higher, but by all means, if you stop by, give them a try. They certainily do not skimp, and when you order a plate from Harmon's, you won't go hungry.
In addition to the bread, pickles & onions that came with our combos, we ordered two sides each. Between the two of us, we ordered potato salad, green beans, ranch style beans and cole slaw.The potatoe salad is interesting - it has a nice mustardy taste to it and if I'm not mistaken, there were bits of green olives in it. The green beans were spiced up just a bit with onions. Certainly better than straight from the can like many places try to pass off. The Cole slaw was nice and creamy, and the beans were actually really good. I don't know if they were specially made by Harmon's or just some quality brand from a can being used. My wife was slightly disappointed that there was no creamed corn available, but we did hit the place just after lunch.To seal the deal, we ordered a cup of peach cobbler which my wife enjoyed.If you visit for lunch but only want to try one thing, go for the chicken and by all means, enjoy the sauce. That above all else warrants a big Tasty Treat for Harmon's in Cibolo.

* I'm just kidding. No Little People were harmed in the eating of our lunch.

See the rest of the pictures on Flickr.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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