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Monday, November 30, 2009

And Just Like That...

... The kids were gone - our daughter back to do good things in New Jersey and our son off to adventures in Oklahoma City. We sent them off knowing that they were well fed, then promptly got back to the DVR load of shows requiring our immediate attention. If that sounds a little too easy, I should just let you know that we have settled into this empty-nesting business by now.

And, technically, they aren't all gone. My daughter left the little dog, Panda, with us and her and the big dog, Gracie are getting along famously.
Need proof? I don't know if it was a result of the moon out the other night, but I think our two doggies have synced up in their personalities.
I understand from smarter people than me, that dogs will often roll around in dead things in order to acquire the scent and blend in. So the other night, Panda and Gracie played under the moonlight, rolling in something, I still don't know what. There was no visible poop on the ground and I could not locate any bones or body parts.
But for some reason, they both needed to be in that single spot in the grass, soaking it all up.

So in the end, we were happy for the kids visit and surely look forward to the next, but I think we'll be entertained until then.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lunch Report: Smashburger at Bandera Pointe...

Regular reader and commenter, Maureen, tipped me off to the opening of our own Smashburger up near Bandera and 1604 on the Super Target side, and boy our we glad she did.
The place is your standard issue atmosphere with nothing really setting apart from any other place, aside from the huge painted smash, sizzle, savor on the walls. But it was clean, the managers were circulating the crowd asking if anyone needed anything and when you go, you will find like we did, that the burgers are great.

I have read a few complaints about the pricing scheme from others; $1.49 to add bacon, 99 cents for mushrooms and 49 cents for an extra slice of cheese. Basically, if you add on a bunch of stuff, the next thing you know, your burger is the price of a steak at Texas Road House. I have to admit, when I got the bill for five of us, it was about $53.00. Yikes! But I'm here to tell you, it was money well spent.
My son and his friend both had 1/2 pound Texas Smashburgers and one added guacamole. They both got the Smashfries which are tender and crispy fries tossed with rosemary, olive oil, garlic and other herbs for a great savory taste. They were fine, I suppose. More importantly, look at those burgers. It is clear that these are not frozen patties, and the "smash" part of the name is apparent. My son commented that he hadn't "had a burger this good in a long time."
My wife and daughter both went with the 1/3 pound BBQ, Bacon & Cheese which comes with apple wood bacon and topped with the haystack onions. Both of them were please with the choice. They also got the regular french fries. Smashburger doesn't have any honey mustard, but my wife did enjoy the BBQ sauce she used for dipping her fries in. Tastes like KC Masterpiece to me.
I went with the "Create your Own" plan, opting for a half pound burger on the multi-grain bun, American cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce, grilled onions, pickles and jalapenos. I also paid a $1.49 to add bacon. My burger was outstanding. I did have to immediately remove the jalapenos because I just assumed they would be either pickled or at least grilled. I seriously don't know anyone who eats jalapenos fresh and crispy like that, but apparently, there is a market for it. Aside from that little miscue, the burger was stunningly wonderful, and worth the price.
Along with the burger, I got a side of the haystack onions. The onions come with that same dipping sauce you get when your order a Bloomin' Onion or Awesome Blossom. My wife and daughter both commented that the haystack onions worked well on their burgers, but attempting to eat them as onion rings, and especially attempting to dip them in the sauce is a bit awkward. And, they give you more than a single person should eat and feel safe to be in public. If you go to Smashburger, just share an order of fries, it is enough for two people.
When we were finishing up, we had five happy faces and my wife repeatedly performing here little happy dance and discussing coming back to try the Smashdogs. Hungry for something really good? Smashburger is a Tasty Treat!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Thanksgiving Report...

The moon bounce was a hit. We did end up having at least two chillin's under the age of 21 join in, but yes, it was mostly adults taking three minute jump-a-thons, then tiring out and heading to the kitchen for some vittles or perhaps a beer.
We did watch football on and off and my favorite quote of the day came from my neighbor Ruby who stopped by to say hello. Upon hearing that the Cowboys game was on, she looked above her glasses and in all seriousness told me, "I'd rather watch the dog go poop than see the Cowboys play." I know, it was wrong that Jerry Jones got rid of Tom Landry, but surely we can forgive someday? Maybe next year.

By the way, I once stood in line behind Tom Landry in a McDonald's at Dallas Love Field. No suit and no hat. Just a nice man wanting some coffee and as I recall, a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit.
Here are a few pictures from today. I hope you and your family had a great day like we did.

It's Thanksgiving...

It's Thanksgiving and the adult-aged kids are home on leave from the military. What else would you do to celebrate the holiday?
Moon Bounce, of course.

We hope you have a jumping good time with your family today and this weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

El Mercado and Broadway 5050...

My office shut down around noon'ish today so it was a perfect opportunity for the whole family to get out and do some errands - you know, buy some replacement underwear for my son at WalMart and stuff like that.

We found ourselves downtown San Antonio and in the Mercado, the little shopping area that is open year round, but really only busy during Fiesta and Cinco de Mayo and such. Oh sure, there is a steady stream of tourists all the time, but how the shops there make it during the off times is beyond me. But what do I know.
The good thing is, since NAFTA, there is no real reason to go to Mexico (unless you just have a hankerin' to get kidnapped or shot, or both), because you can get all of your authentic Hecho in Chino Mexican items for about the same price. Just a thought: Once you have a dozen blankets, ponchos, a tortilla flattener, and that little rock bowl you display to make people think you grind up your own spicy salsa fixin's, what else could you need? Oh yes, large over priced beers and a few t-shirts.
But it is fun and I never get tired of watching the grandfathers and fathers stand outside the stores as their wives look at the same traditional Mexican dress in different colors that they will surely wear once they get back to Wisconsin or Minnesota, just to impress friends. Even my son gets in on the act, practicing I suppose.
This caught my eye. At first, I only saw the top part of the sign, and I though for a minute we had moved into an R-rated section of the place.

And of course, you know it is almost time for a festive Christmas in San Antonio when El Mercado busts out the pink Christmas tree display.

We were all pretty excited about taking the kids to Augie's Barbed Wire BBQ for a late lunch. We pulled into the lot and I thought to myself that this was perfect timing. We had missed the lunch crowd and there were only a few other people in the lot that would be ahead of us in line.

We all got out and started to walk in when I noticed the people parked a few feet from us were getting back in their truck. Then, I noticed a few folks standing in the entry way of Augie's, drinking a cool mug of beer. A lady said, "We're closed." And the guy hoisted his beer and said, "It's beer time." I chuckled and said to myself, "Okay, I'll play your little game." We continued to walk toward the entrance. "No, seriously, we closed at 3 today" the guy said, and we all just turned, totally dejected, just like the people parked a few feet away from us, and left.
Since we were there, my wife said she had wanted to take the kids to Broadway 5050. I've told you about our last lunch there. We liked it, though I know several other readers were not impressed.
Today, my wife and I both ordered the Memphis style pork sandwich with the slaw on. It was good but just not the same as the pulled-pork I planned on getting at Augie's. And I have to put my foot down here and now. People of the food industry: Quit serving those stupid little hay stick/shoestring french-fries. They just do not work for me.
My daughter had the brisket sandwich which she absolutely loved. It is good and for what is really just a bar, they do serve a good brisket. She did not care for the potato salad and upon inspection, I did not either. I'm pretty sure it was better the first time we went.
My son got the same fish & chips platter I got on our first visit and we was pleased with his, just as I was back then.

In the end, it was all good. We had solid service, the price was very reasonable, good food and I still just like the feel of the place inside. Give it a shot if you are in the area.

So Long Chris Marrou...

If you live in San Antonio, you may be worn out by all the clips and fanfare surrounding the retirement of KENS-5 anchorman, Chris Marrou. My wife and I are huge fans, and genuinely hate to see him leave the airwaves, but honestly, enough with the clips of Chris and the late Dan Cook doing the weather. Of course he is to be celebrated, but enough, already.

For those of you not in SA and for those of you who never tuned in to KENS-5 (by the way, we say Kens like a name as opposed to K-E-N-S. You can always tell when a celebrity or politician is just reading from a cue card and they say K-E-N-S that they have never actually watched), Chris Marrou was the star for 36 years (minus a brief stint in Boston). As far as I know, his newscasts were always the top rated in our market.

A lot of folks are happy that he is hanging it up. They totally despised his running commentary as he read the news stories, something I for one loved and will miss. Don’t get me wrong, Chris wasn’t running some sort of Glenn Beck hour – his comments weren’t political in nature. But he simply could not control the need to point out how stupid criminals were or raise an eyebrow when a bureaucrat was giving an excuse. A smile can say so very much.

We may have to purchase a case of Ambien, as I just don’t know how my wife is going to get to sleep without watching Chris Marrou’s Newsreel feature. Every night he would put together clips from the news in order to make a short, usually funny (but not that funny) two minute reel to close out the news. With Chris retiring, so goes the Newsreel feature.

We do know that his 10PM co-anchor, Sarah Lucero who has grown quite capable under the tutelage of Marrou, will go at it solo until Jan 4 when the younger version of Marrou, a guy named Jeff Vaughn will come to KENS from a station in Kansas City. Big shoes to fill. Really big shoes.

As much as we hate to see him go, we wish Chris the best for his new career – unknown at this point, but I suspect politics – and an enjoyable retirement.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wooden Nickel Report...

My daughter had this cool idea last year for me to have some wooden nickels made as sort of a calling card for the blog. She went online and came up with the design you see here.
When I saw that the Wooden Nickel place was not only home to the world's largest wooden nickel, but also a museum of wooden nickels, right here in San Antonio, we just had to go!

Sadly, when we showed up, the world's largest wooden nickel had in fact been vandalized by little hood rats, and to be honest, I just didn't feel like writing about it. Really, it is sickening stuff to be honest. We went inside to order the special Silver Creek 78250 nickels and also learned that the museum was being renovated. We got the order a few weeks later and were pleased as punch with the product (and the price).

Anyway, my wife and I (okay, mostly me) handed them out to anyone interested, left them at restaurants we ate at and even left more than a few strategically hidden in various stores,we shop. And then they were gone.
Just recently, I ordered some more and today I stopped by to pick them up (so check those shelves at HEB - you might just find one). When I pulled into the place, it looked like a total construction site. And there was a guy on a ladder painting the big wooden nickel. Turns out, they are redoing the entire place and of course, refurbishing the world's largest wooden nickel.
I collected my batch of wooden nickels and then had a nice chat with Alex, the manager or owner of the place, I guess, and we talked about all the work being done. Inside, the place is being really remodeled - there were new walls going up and stuff was all moved around. Outside, of course the work on the wooden nickel, and Alex told me that they were adding some coating that would allow them to easily clean off the vandalism brought forth by the next set of taggers.

Alex also told me about the expansion into other printing services and gave me a few awesome T-Shirts to take home to the wife and kids. Just a thought here, but if you blog and ever want to hand out a business card with the name and link to your blog, why not do it with wooden nickels? I'm sure Alex can hook you up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My HEB Plus Trip: Chaps, Rage, Pillows, Love...

I've had a fairly dry-spell when it comes to pictures of goofy things. It isn't that I haven't seen goofy things and it isn't that I haven't whipped out my camera for pictures, but I have to tell you that my wife recently purchased me a new Canon Powershot A2000 IS, and I am having some issues with the power-up, aim and shoot that I was so comfortable with on my previous Canon. In the end, I've taken some pictures that I just didn't feel like posting.
Okay - here is an example of my issue. On Thursday, I was coming up Bandera Road getting ready to turn onto Grissom to head into 78250, when I see this awesome display of coolness walking up the street. How can you not appreciate a rodeo cowboy wearing shorts and chaps? I know. With my old camera, this would have been a shot suitable for People of WalMart (though he was not in WalMart). Anyway, I'll get it together and offer you better quality photos as warranted.

In fact, today, we had lunch with my mother-in-law then decided to hit the HEB Plus on Potranco at 1604 for an abbreviated version of our normal Sunday shopping. As we were heading north/east on 1604 before Potranco, this guy in a Silverado came up fast behind the van in the left lane. I know how I hate to be boxed in by do-gooders her want to go exactly the speed limit, so I can understand how the guy in the truck would be pissed having to go from about 80mph down to 60 or whatever the speed is. But I don't honk my horn and try to be a jerk about it.
This guy, a young kid from what I could see, got up on the mini-van and just blasted his horn. I know exactly what the guy in the mini-van was saying to his wife: I'm doing the speed limit and I can be in any lane I choose (or something equally obnoxious). Even so, the guy in the white truck was a jerk and we laughed when we turned off and saw that he was stuck at the light at Potranco. Slow drivers in the left lane suck, but people who tailgate and honk are just as bad.
We cut through the Kohls parking lot (I know, you can get a ticket for that) and I saw this little gem. Have you noticed people get more and more casual as the temperature gets cooler? For those of you up north, it was a biting cold 62 degrees here in SA. Anyway, the fact that this lady is in her pajamas doesn't bother me. What concerns me is, she seems to be returning pillows to Kohls. Is that even legal? Oh sure, those legal tags are still on there, but now I am concerned that if I were to someday go and purchase new pillows, am I going to be sleeping on something that somebody else returned? I mean, can you return underwear? I just can't imagine walking in to the returns line and saying, "Uh, yea, I got this here pillow that doesn't work. Yea, that's my drool, is that a problem?"
And finally, parked in the lot at the HEB Plus, this fancy paint job. You know, just yesterday I was watching Overhaulin on HD Network and I saw that Foose guy do a makeover on an old VW van. It was pretty awesome. I wonder if Foose had anything to do with this effort?

Preparing for Eat Week...

There is no doubt in my mind that this coming Thanksgiving week will produce increased girth on my waist. If I could only limit stuffing myself with turkey and potatoes and, well, stuffing, perhaps it wouldn't be an issue. I'm one of those who doesn't really pig out plate after plate on Thanksgiving. The problem is, all the ancillary eating we'll be doing now through next weekend.

It started Saturday when we had to run multiple errands in Alamo Ranch. I needed some items from Penny's (love those $10 off coupons they send) and then we had to run into Best Buy (am I the only person who purchases a new printer based strictly on the type of ink cartridges I have at home?) and we also had to run into Home Depot to grab something. By the time all that was over, my wife and I both realized that we had not even had breakfast, and it was already opening time at Logan's Roadhouse.
My wife had some sort of appetizer combo with cheese sticks, chicken tenders and potato skins. I think most of it is sitting in a Styrofoam container in our refrigerator as I type this, but she liked the parts she ate.
I had the catfish, onion petals and a skewer of veggies. That veggie skewer really does taste as though they cooked it on a grill as opposed to popping it in the microwave. My preference though would be to have it cooked for like another ten minutes. I know, not as healthy that way, but I like it. You can read more about Logan's Roadhouse here.
We went to HEB and saw a dog in the back of a pick-up truck that looked a lot like Gracie, just bigger and less like la chupacabras.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the airport to pick up our daughter and her little dogie, Panda. Okay, "little" might be an understatement. The dog is a porker at 20 pounds. If you don't remember Panda, read about her here.
By the way, while we were waiting at the airport, I had to hit the men's room. San Antonio is quickly modernizing things. In fact, check out the new space-age urinal they have. You are completely dry before you ever zip up your pants, though the floor seemed to be wet..

Anyway, I have always wondered if dogs have really long memories, you know, like an elephant or something. I don't know if it had anything to do with memory or not, but Panda seemed to know us right away. And my daughter also knew us! It has been two years since Panda moved to New Jersey and I was really worried about how Gracie might react to seeing her.
When we first walked in the door, Panda seemed happy to see Gracie - either that or she just likes to sniff dogs butts a lot. Gracie on the other hand, was very timid. If we could understand her language, I'm sure she was saying, "Who is this portly little dog who keeps sniffing my butt?"

After a little while, we let them hang out together and we took my daughter to get her fix. How many of you leave San Antonio for a while and come back knowing that the crap people try to pass off as authentic Mexican or worse, Tex-Mex, can only be corrected by going to your favorite San Antonio establishment. My daughter tells me that she went to a place in New Jersey that was supposed to be good and apparently, they felt good was worth $67.00 for two people. The equivalent quantity of tacos, rice and beans and a few lemonades would cost you $12-$15 at any place like Tink-a-Tako or such. And of course, it would taste much better.
We went to ChaCho's over on Bandera and got a half-order of fajita nachos. There is just something about that gooey, gov'ment cheese, melted all over the crispy chips and the chopped up beef fajita meat that says, Welcome Home.
And when we had all stuffed ourselves, there was only one hunk of nacho and one hunk of avocado left - and of course we let Roxanne have the honors.

Our son will arrive this afternoon, and for the first time in a while, we'll have both kids, both dogs and all of us eager to hit some of the regular dining locales. Well, the dogs might be eager, but they won't be coming with. Regardless, if you happen to be out and about this week, you just may see us; we'll be the family with our eatin' pants on.

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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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