Friday, November 27, 2009

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

A couple of weeks ago it was pumpkins, now it's turkeys.

All over the US turkeys have been hiding, hopelessly, in corners..... it's Thanksgiving!

This is a very nice American tradition, since here is a festival that doesn't involve huge (well, not much anyway) commercial hype and the accumulation of lots of loot. Rather, the idea is to get together with friends and family and enjoy a meal together in thankfulness. But what a meal!

Once again we found ourselves at the house of John, Jo's boss, where he and Joanne generously threw their house open and invited a crowd of friends and colleagues. We were there before midday so that Jac could get a large turkey in the oven, make stuffing etc. As well as the turkey there was a chicken on the rotisserie barbecue, a ham and a raft of vegetables including a green bean casserole (thanks, Lorena), then various pies and pavlovas for dessert.

Jac and Jean doing desperate things to the turkey.

Ready for the oven.
(Sorry, I missed the shot of it coming out!)

Preparing the delicious stuffing.

Chestnuts, bacon, celery, bread etc etc

Big kitchen, communal effort.
But Jac is chef.

Having watched the Macey's parade and the Philadelphia dog show on TV (traditional entertainment at Thanksgiving), and been out for a walk, we sat down to eat at around 4.00 pm, sixteen in all, not counting Roo, who was only an interested (but a very interested) spectator. We were still eating, off and on, and trying to understand American football after 7.00. Young Marty Roo did very well, having a couple of short sleeps and being passed around most females in the room. He enjoys a social occasion.

Watching the Macey's Parade

Lorena's Mum, Linda, brought Roo his very own turkey.
He knew exactly what to do with it.

Table set for sixteeen.

All ready to serve.

On your marks.....
Just after the Thanksgiving Toast.

And where was Josie?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Walk in the Park

For the last few weeks we been able to drive Jo and Jac's car (Petey), since they have had the use of another one (thanks, Matt). This has allowed us to extend our range just a little, to places where we can walk with Rooey and not be assailed by passing traffic.

Salado Creek Greenway
The path is 3-4 km each way.

The easiest local spot in the Salado Creek Greenway, one of a network of paths that San Antonio is developing along waterways to encourage walking and cycling through their vast city. The Salado Creek path runs along one of the ephemeral gullies that run everywhere through this limestone country and occasionally carry huge floods when there is heavy rainfall.

Limestone cliffs and dry creek bed
The litter stuck in the trees shows how high the water comes.

The path is all paved and virtually flat, so very popular with walkers, cyclists and joggers. And easy to negotiate for grandparents with a small boy in the Baby Bjorn front pack. It would be perfect, except that part of it lies under electricity pylons, and all of it lies under the landing flight path to San Antonio airport; but it's still a huge improvement on the shopping malls.

The pylons make good roosting spots for vultures
And you have to imagine a 737 every ten minutes or so.

Salado Creek path
Regularly washed and leaf-blown by park staff.

Marty likes the front-facing position. The baseball cap is very cute.

America seems to deliver a huge amount of information to its citizens, mostly of a warning nature. There are quite lot of things that you mustn't do in the park, but the warnings about flash flooding and water crossing are real.

Just DON'T!

Does that seem wrong to anyone else? Don't leave the water?

We found this one mildly confusing too.

But there is a real risk
This section was under water the first time we came.

At the far end of the path we can actually get off the concrete and walk through oak woodlands that could be somewhere in the English West Country (if you ignore the aloes and occasional cactus). There and back takes us between one and two hours, depending on the dawdling. Rooey tends to sleep for at least half that time, and we usually sustain him with a bottle of milk at some stage. We see lots of squirrels, often deer (the bucks more interested in does than people at this time of year), many birds (always vultures overhead) and more flowers than I expected in autumn.

Oak woodland.
They don't lose all their leaves in the fall.

Autumn rains have rejuvenated the vegetation.

These are called Turks Caps

Salado Creek squirrel
This is the uncommon black form of the ubiquitous red-brown fox squirrel

With the very pleasant weather we have been enjoying (low to mids 20s and a gentle breeze) it makes an ideal morning excursion and we can get there and back without having to tackle any seriously busy roads.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dead End of the Week?

The weather here has been just right for sitting out and enjoying a beer after work, and that was what we did this Friday, at La Tuna, a great little bar on the edge of downtown San Antonio. Its buildings are made of corrugated iron and the outside area is mulched with bottlecaps (literally), but the atmosphere is fine.

La Tuna!

But we weren't there just to drink beer (who me?) and eat jalapeno poppers. The First Friday of each month sees an art exhibition at the art cooperative just down the street, and since this was the week after the Dias de los Muertos, it was a special event for the Day of the Dead.

OK, so you thought the Day of the Dead was creepy, superstitious nonsense? Well, so did I, but on closer inspection it has a couple of great strengths: it provides a memorial for loved ones who have died, and it is a very clear-eyed statement about the inevitability of death, something that western society needs reminding about, IMHO. But it's a lot of fun as well.

Many of the memorials are personal
This accordion player left us in 1963

More general art work

Remember Granpa and his stick?

Several personal memorials of this type
Video and audio material about the departed

In the gallery there were displays of work by young, and very talented, artists, while outside there was a stage for dancing and singing, again involving youngsters. And then came the parade. But this was not the typical American razzmatazz parade, this was the Dias de los Muertos procession with white painted faces, muffled drums and a piper.

The Day of the Dead Procession
Several pics follow: well, it was a procession!

All this on a balmy evening with the buildings silhouetted against the sunset and the grackles streaming in to roost on the wires.

What's that you say? Marty Roo? Oh he enjoyed it greatly; he loves An Event, and dressed in his skeleton suit he was the centre of attention.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All Hallows Eve

I'd heard about Halloween in America, but now I've seen it for myself and I'm still boggling a bit. It's a big deal here, to the the extent that a special Halloween shop opened in our local mall and many local businesses sprouted a cover of cobwebs. House (and apartment) decorations are common, some hugely elaborate.

Apartment doorway in our complex
Enter if you dare!

The finest were in the up-market estate that Jac's boss John lives in, but I'm afraid we didn't get pictures of them. Think skeletons emerging from graves on the front lawn and giant rats crawling along the front fence. And pumpkins everywhere.

We went to to John and Joanne's for the evening. They supplied some dressing up material so that we could go out with our Jo, Marty Roo and a little Indian girl, daughter of one of the foundation's researchers.

Roo's first costume: a chilli
But he had a costume malfunction: every time he kicked his legs it burst open!

Glowbug: eventual costume for the night

Any costume will do
Kids in the street immediately identified me as....The Burger King!

Prof McGonigle
And her birthday flowers from John and Joanne

Most houses had their porch lights on, and when we knocked on the door the owners appeared, all smiles, and doled out candy in large quantities. Joanne had prepared 100 bags to give away to the trick-or-treaters coming to their house and most of those went during the evening.

Bags of candy for the Trick or Treaters

And here they come!

A modest haul of Halloween loot
Our little Indian friend is new to the US and more familiar with the Diwali festival

Most of the visitors were little tots with non-gruesome costumes, and parents not too far away, but there were gory adults too, and one party going on down the street with recorded groans and screams being broadcast to passers by.

It was something of a contrast the following day (Sunday) to go to church for a Day of the Dead service (Dia de Los Muertos). The congregation was encouraged to bring photos or cards of loved ones who had died, and they were all placed on a table at the front as an act of remembrance.

Remembrance cards at the Spirit of Peace Dia de Los Muertos service

More Dia de Los Muertos later this week when we go to a festival in town. Watch this space.